Top Drift Round 1 Details:
- Season opener held on Willow Spring Raceway's Balcony
- Eclectic mix of cars included BMW, AE86 and FC-RX-7
- Alex Heilbrunn qualified no. 1, won the event and earned the insane entry award
- Heilbrunn beat last two competitors with a broken transmission
Drifting is in the air this week if you happen to live in the greater Los Angeles area. The upcoming weekend will see the start of the American pro drift season with the customary kickoff for Formula Drift on the streets of Long Beach, and in the run up liveries have been revealed and anticipation continues to mount. Social media watchers know teams are out getting any last bit of testing and prep they can fit in, and in general it's a good time of to be a fan of the sideways sport.
Just Drift set the tone for the week with the season opener of its Top Drift pro-am championship out at Willow Springs Raceway on Sunday, March 30th. Round one was held on the motorsports park's Balcony autocross and skid pad, attracting some five dozen or so grassroots competitors. The event also pulled in a good showing of enthusiasts, and since we had minions out covering all the other drift news transpiring in Southern California we decided to make the trek out to Willow to watch Top Drift.
Formula Drift pros Justin Pawlak and Taka Aono were among the judges to put Alex Heilbrunn in his S13 atop qualifying early Sunday afternoon. He ran among an eclectic mix of cars to take to the track, mostly 240SX but also FC RX-7 and sweet one offs like Daniel Giraldo's AE86 Corolla, Tyler Page Howell's BMW 328i, Donovan Brockway's E30 and Drew Ostrowski's Lexus SC.
The day belonged to Heilbrunn, though. The Falken driver survived a marathon semifinal battle against Giraldo's hachi that went several One More Times, picked up the award for Insane Entry, and finally beat the winner of last year's round 4 - Chen in his ragged, monstrous supercharged V8 S13 - to win the event. Incredibly, he beat both Chen and Giraldo, round 1's second and third-place finishers, with a broken third gear rattling around in his gearbox.
We had a fun time and hope to be back for Top Drift's round 2, which will be May 24 and 25 on Willow Springs' Horse Thief Mile. Check out the gallery to see highlights we captured at round 1.