At the end of 2017's Formula DRIFT championship, we mused that it seemed entirely possible the Worthouse Drift Team's Irish star, James Deane, could return to the series in 2018 and be just as dominant. He did, after all, run away with last year's driver's title, amassing six podium finishes over the season, four of those victories, and finishing the year 113 points ahead of the guy second in the points table, the largest margin in the standings we could recall in nearly a decade and a half of covering this stuff. But after one round of eight, and a pair of competition demos during the Grand Prix of Long Beach weekend, it now seems Deane's Worthouse teammate, Pole Piotr Wiecek, might be the one to watch.
Wiecek in his 2JZ-GTE-powered Nissan S15 Silvia ended 2017 with a victory at the season finale in Irwindale, then opened up 2018 with a Round 1 top qualifier and a podium finish (third place). He stayed in Long Beach to take part in the Motegi Racing Super Drift Challenge six days later (not to be confused with Super D the same weekend) and simply put on a clinic. Sure, Super Drift is nothing like a full-fledged FD weekend - but the drivers are still leaving it all out on the track in hopes of nabbing their share of the prize purse put up by Motegi. And Wiecek definitely got his, claiming victory not once but both times, a first in the competition's history.
The format of Super Drift is constantly in flux, with last year's affair introducing randomly selected pairings instead of running a qualifying session to determine who would face whom. This year organizers tweaked it a little more, opting for just a Great 8 each night, and the gamble paid off. The crowd - we're assuming probably tired from a full day of absorbing other motorsport at the GP - stuck around for the entire eliminations (the bleachers were packed throughout), which in past years seemed tough to do.
Pro drivers for Super Drift 2018 consisted of:
Alex Heilbrunn, IMR BMW E46
Alec Hohnadell, Permatex Nissan S14 240SX
Kyle Mohan, American Ethanol MazdaTrix Mazda MX-5
Justin Pawlak, Falken Tire Roush Performance Ford Mustang
Forrest Wang, Get Nuts Lab Vapetasia Nissan S14 240SX
Piotr Wiecek, Worthouse Drift Team Nissan S15 Silvia
Trent Beechum, Ford Mustang
Dylan Hughes, Nissan S13 240SX
George Kiriakopoulos, Link Engine Management Nissan 370Z
Night one was marked early by George Kiriakopoulos attempting to master the Link Z34 and putting it into the tires outside of Turn 9 at first, then during competition incurring still more damage when the car slid hard into the Outer Zone 2 wall. The incidents ended his weekend but opened the door for Super Drift alternate and Formula D Pro 2 hot shoe Dylan Hughes and his LS3 S13 to come in on night two and make his mark.
Not surprisingly, the guys who had just run the Long Beach circuit a week earlier (with the exception of Kyle Mohan, who still seems to be sorting out his MX-5) appeared very comfortable out there, even under the lights of Super Drift, but it was pro-am Trent Beechum who had a breakthrough on night one, taking home the third-place trophy. On night two, fellow Mustang pilot Justin Pawlak put on a show in his Falken-liveried pony car and took home second-place hardware.
Somewhat lost in the shadow of Wiecek's weekend domination is the other guy who ended up on the Super Drift podium both nights: Forrest Wang. Driving his backup Vapetasia S14, Forrest continued to look super solid, clinching silver on the first night and bronze the second. We've said it before and we'll say it again - the Worthouse boys may be the odds-on favorites in 2018, but don't sleep on Forrest Wang. Enjoy our photo haul from the 2018 edition of the Super Drift Challenge - the only drifting event we know of on city streets AND under the lights.