If we had to summarize the opening round of Top Drift competition for 2017 in one word, it would be, "Wow" — top competitors back and better than ever in newly tuned and/or re-finished drift machines, with more experience under their belts, and driving that complemented those changes perfectly. Maybe even more impressive were the new challengers on the grid, also in equally impressive, highly finished machines, and each with their own unique range of skills and style. If we didn't know better, we might've thought we'd stumbled onto a Formula DRIFT Pro 2 grid instead of the same series where ratty, turbo-four drift missiles and slow-speed/low-smoke runs were the standard just several short years ago.
Top Drift's first competition round of the year is an interesting and exciting beast. On the fun side, the two-day event brings in a ton of drifters and fans eager to bust the rust from the long and boring winter with some drifting and camping debauchery. And on the business/fun side, drifters from NorCal's Golden Gate Drift region, Southwest Drift, and abroad travel here to hedge their bets on a successful pro-am series by competing—if they finish strong in Top Drift, they may decide to run the rest of the series; if not, they might just try their luck closer to home.
Round 1 also brings a lot of local competitors out of the woodwork, but with only four rounds in the Top Drift season—and over 40 competitors vying for a spot in Top 16 competition—many who get off to a rough start won't be back for subsequent rounds, despite a points scale that heavily values qualifying performance as well as tandem competition. In short: There are many cars and drivers you'll only get to see at Round 1, which makes the event that much more significant.
But there are plenty of competitors we expect to see back for the remainder of the season. Topping that list is Sean Adriano, who qualified first and took the event win from behind the wheel of his Rival Auto Works / Design Craft S13 Nissan 240SX. A few key battles kept Sean from winning last season, and it's clear he's looking to improve upon his third-place finish last year with a win this time.
Fifteen-year-old Dom Martinez might be a newcomer to Top Drift competition, but having given Sean a run for his money in the final-round battle here, and taking second place in the event from behind the wheel of his aptly numbered no. 15 V8-powered kouki S14, he's another one we'll be hoping to see more this year.
Claiming third and also looking strong in this first round was Kyle Cameron and his no. 224 zenki S14. But not far behind him, in the "looked-strong-but-caught-tough-luck" department, was Luke Pakula and his no. 714 red 240SX, Rome Charpentier and his no. 17 green E36 BMW, Shaun Doom and his no. 213 white S13, Alex Grimm and his "Evel Knievel" 240Z, Aaron Parker and his no. 300 FD3S Mazda RX-7, Jeff "Rad Jeff" Le in the RAD Industries blue JZA80 Toyota Supra, and plenty more.
With three Formula D Pro 2 competition licenses up for grabs to the top three finishers of the season, Top Drift reasserts itself as the place to catch drifting's up-and-coming talent. If this first competition round has taught us anything, it's that the future of professional drifting—and pro-am drifting—is looking brighter than ever.