When Formula DRIFT's Pro 2 feeder series visited Road Atlanta last year for Round 1 of its 2016 championship, the event ended in sort of a letdown. Marc Landreville in his Perry Performance S14 and RAD Dan Burkett in his JZA80 Supra were unable to close out their semifinal match because Landreville's car was damaged beyond repair after contact with Burkett. And since Burkett was faulted with causing said damage, Landreville advanced to the event Final, but without a running car would have to settle for second place. The night ended with overall winner Jeff Jones in his DOC S14 taking a solo run.
Lightning struck again at the 2017 edition of Pro 2 at Road Atlanta in Braselton, Ga. This time the event was Round 2 of the season, and most of the players from last year have since moved on to other things - but again the contest concluded with just one car in the Final healthy enough to fishtail around the circuit.
The event began with Thursday qualifying, when past FD pro and current cannabis dispensary shill Danny George put down an 87-point pass in the Shango E36, narrowly eclipsing Dirk Stratton's 86 in the Lingenfelter Performance Achilles Radial Stratton Racing Corvette. Aussie and Round 1 bronze medalist Josh Robinson scored an 84 in the Magnuson Superchargers Ute for third, while Austin Meeks in the Committed S14 and Brody Goble in his S15-aping widebody S14 rounded out the top five in qualifying.
Top 16 tandem eliminations went down Friday night and FD nearly didn't squeeze the whole thing in before Road Atlanta's midnight hard cutoff - it was close. In perhaps a testament to Pro 2's level playing field, for the second event in a row the number 16 qualifier took out the number one, this time George falling to Alec Robbins in the KoruWorks 350Z. Higher seeds predictably knocked off lower ones, save for the final three pairs of Top 16: Szilyveszter Gyorgy in the Szilveszter Drift S13 got an incomplete chasing Randall Waters in the IAS Performance 240SX, allowing Waters to advance; Hooman Rahimi in his 350Z took advantage of a broken Robinson to move on; and Round 1 runner-up Travis Reeder in the Nameless Performance 240 (of driving-with-no-left-rear-tire fame) knocked off Andy Hateley in his E30. Lastly, Goble and Ola Jaeger in 2015 FD champ Fredric Aasbo's old Japan Auto Mk4 Supra made Top 16 headlines with a One More Time (OMT) after some cringe-worthy initial laps; the bonus laps were only marginally better, with Goble earning the victory after a better lead filling out the course's clipping zones.
Great 8 began with Matt Vankirk in his 2JZ S13 dispatching Robbins with better proximity and greater commitment. In a rematch from Orlando, Meeks and Goble met again, with Goble again emerging victorious after Meeks probably pushed a little too hard on his chase. Stratton and Waters' battle began with both drivers on their leads ending up in the kitty litter past initiation, and in the OMT Waters had the better lead while Stratton dropped two and spun out just shy of the finish line. In the quarterfinal's last duo, Rahimi struggled with proximity in the chase, allowing Reeder to advance to the Final 4.
Goble and Vankirk set the semis in motion, with Vankirk closing the gap from behind and putting down a near-perfect orbit in the lead, netting him the win. On the other side of the bracket, Waters seemed to struggle mightily against Reeder, ultimately running into his opponent and going off, letting Reeder move on to the finale. Because Goble qualified fifth and Waters 10th, Brody picked up third place for the event.
And then came the non-final we mentioned in the opening, the one where Vankirk's Nissan was too busted to put down any more laps. Reeder took his victory lap, essentially for outlasting everyone, while Vankirk joined him on the podium in second place and Goble in third.
The Formula DRIFT Pro 2 2017 season is now at its midpoint, with Reeder leading the points at 185 followed by Goble with 107 and Vankirk with 105. Pro 2 enters a two and a half month hiatus before returning to action August 4th and 5th for Round 3, joining FD Pro at Evergreen Speedway in Monroe, Wash. As always, if you can't make it out in person, you can always catch eliminations as they happen at FormulaD.com/live.