Two Formula DRIFT (FD) pro-am series recently convened at one location to hold a grand finale to their respective 2016 seasons — Midwest Drift Union (MDU) and U.S. Drift teamed up to host each of their fourth and final rounds of the year at the brand new Dominion Raceway in Thornburg, Virginia. In the end, six drivers walked away with coveted FD Pro 2 licenses for the 2017 season.
The format was simple: the two groups would run practices together, then separate qualifying brackets. With only eight MDU drivers able to compete, U.S. Drift ran their Top-16 bracket, and then alternated with their Midwest compadres during Top 8 so that both sides competed only with each other and there were no cross-organization battles in the interest of maintaining points integrity.
As Dominion is a new facility that's still partially under construction, no driver had an advantage going in. According to one track official, the top surface coat of the track was $2.5 million alone, and drivers were strongly encouraged not to ruin it.
On the MDU side of things, Alec Robbins, who sat tied for first in points, saw his Hardbody pickup truck get an automatic bye run into the Final 4 when Shane Whalley's GTO developed engine problems, rendering him unable to compete.
The other half of that first-place tie, Mike Feiock, took his RX-8 to top four with a win over Drew Meyer's S13 coupe.
Riley Sexsmith, who has made several appearances at past MDU events, made a late-season debut where he drew Hooman Rahimi in top eight. Sexsmith's Subaru knocked out Rahimi, who sat third in points going into the final round.
To round out the top eight, Geoff Donati defeated Tom Snyder, the latter of who was also driving with the series for the first time this year.
This set up Robbins and Donati, both Rookie-of-the-Year contenders, for battle in the Final 4, where the truck edged out the S14 to head to the finals.
In those finals Robbins would meet Sexsmith, who defeated Feiock after his intercooler coupler disconnected, causing the Mazda to make it back to the line with only seconds to spare after calling a competition five-minute timeout.
Feiock would make it back to battle Donati for third, but the rotary overshot the sweeper, allowing Donati to take home third place and fourth on the overall season.
The final matchup between Robbins and Sexsmith was hard fought, but in the end it was Sexsmith who took the win in his 2016 MDU debut. Sexsmith, who also has experience with Hardbodies, said he had been wanting to battle with Robbins since he saw the truck debut this year.
"It was the first time we met and I was so excited," Sexsmith said. "When I found out he was doing MDU, I said, 'I really want to have a battle with him some day.' It just brings back all the memories when I used to drive my truck, and it was so cool to go up against him. He was joking and asked if I wanted to trade cars for this and I was like, 'Yes, 100 percent I do! Please let's trade, I want to drive that truck so bad!"
Kenric Meyer defeated Xabier Arietta in a pairing of BMWs old and new to kick off the U.S. Drift side of things, with Dustin Miles knocking out Nathan Werking in the next pairing.
Bill Peron and Ben Williams went OMT in their battle, with the Viper-powered MkIV Supra of Peron getting the nod to top eight. Chris Cotrupi, who led the standings going into round four, got his day cut short after his defeat by Matt Pollock.
Austin Meeks sent Justin Hoitsma home to start the second half of the Top-16 bracket, followed by the defeat of John Windham by Dylan Hughes. Kyle Wood knocked out Mike Perez, who was making his first U.S. Drift appearance this year, with Thomas Palmerino in the only Miata getting the go ahead to top eight and rounding out top 16 by taking out Brian Riccio.
Meyer and Miles went One More Time (OMT) in the first round of top eight, with Meyer ultimately moving on. This was followed by another OMT between Peron and Pollock, with the latter advancing to the final four. Meeks' defeat of Hughes secured his spot in the next round, with Palmerino joining him after a win over Wood.
The first bout of the final four saw Meyer's E36 get the nod over Pollock's S14, where he would draw Meeks with his defeat of Wood. This set up the third place battle between Pollock and Wood, where the Zenna Tires S14 would claim bronze.
An impressive battle raged between Meyer and Meeks during the finals, requiring a OMT. In the end, Meyer would fall to Meeks as Meeks took the top honors in his only round of U.S. Drift this year.
As part of a promotion by the Smartmouth Brewing Company out of Norfolk, the winners of each the MDU and U.S. Drift brackets would square off, where the winner would take home their weight in beer. Meeks and Sexsmith laid down very impressive runs, but Meeks ultimately took the (liquid) gold.
Between the two organizations, six Pro 2 licenses were awarded. On the MDU side, it was Alec Robbins clinching the championship in the only truck to have ever competed in MDU, followed closely by Mike Feiock in second and Hooman Rahimi in third. On the U.S. Drift side, Dylan Hughes took top honors, followed by Chris Cotrupi and Matt Pollock.
Nick Swann from MDU and Brian Eggert from U.S. Drift both said this was the first of what will be a yearly combining of the two series, alternating regions each year.
"On behalf of the Midwest, I think it was awesome to lay some ground work for what we'll continue to do in the future, not necessarily to bridge the gap, but expand the pro-am community and bring it together," Swann said.
Eggert echoed those sentiments.
"It's always awesome to be at a new track," he said. "I think this is the 13th new track we've got to do drifting at before anybody else so that's always great, and having these guys do it with was an awesome experience."