The first event after the halfway point in its four-round competition season, Top Drift round three is nearly all business. If you've got a chance at landing in the top three finishing positions for the season, and in doing so earning yourself a coveted Formula D Pro 2 license, you stay in it and give it all you've got. If you're focused on a top-three pro-am finish but don't have the points in Top Drift, you'll probably want to bow out of Top Drift and double-down on competition in another SoCal or neighboring pro-am series—it's just good business. But regardless of whether or not you have a chance, if you're local, down for a hell of a good time, and have some rubber to burn, there's no place like home!
This year's Round 3 competition of Top Drift saw a little of all that, with high finishers from the first two rounds mixing it up with diehard enthusiasts, locals and newcomers. Dom Martinez and Rome Charpentier have been swapping places and getting in each other's way all season, and both were back this time, looking for the top spot. Alex Grimm had a poor showing at Round 1, working through some issues in his all-new Camaro, but won Round 2 and looked right to repeat that here. Brian Page-Howell and Amir Falahi are two new names to Top Drift Winners' circles and both returned for Round 3, as did newcomers TJ Hunt, Don Boline, Raz Naor, and Israel Silva (to name a few), along with a handful of talented regulars who could at any minute upset the emerging order of championship success.
When qualifying for Top 16 competition bracket was over, Round 1 winner and Round 2 Third Place finisher Dominic Martinez had emerged as the top qualifier, and was joined on the bracket by all of the aforementioned names, including 52-year-old rookie Don Boline, who (after battling some mechanical issues of his own) looked and sounded extremely solid in his first qualifying performance.
We were really looking forward to a repeat Dom-v-Grimm battle in Top 8 (who battled in Top 4 of Round 2, with Grimm coming out on top), but when Grimm uncharacteristically took himself out against Raz Naor in Top 16, and when Brandon Contreras knocked out Brian Page-Howell and then narrowly lost some truly awesome battles against Shaun Doom in Top 8, the battle of that side of the bracket became Dom-v-Doom in Top 4.
As strong as Don Boline looked on the other side, he wasn't able to topple Zach MacGillivray ... but Rome Charpentier was, and met Amir Falahi in Top 4 after Amir's making quick work of Noah Nelson and Daryl Priyono.
We should pause here and give some much-deserved recognition to Shaun Doom. Doom's been in the Top Drift game for a while now, and has always been a strong, above-average driver. But he was absolutely on fire this time, driving his home-brewed turbo KA24-powered S13 fastback like it was a much more expensive car with a much bigger engine underhood, despite having some sort of oil-burning issue pop up after Top 8. He made no stupid mistakes the entire event, rather drove calm and calculated, and was only beaten very narrowly in his final battle.
Rome Charpentier likewise killed it on the other side of the bracket, besting Page-Howell in Top 8 but falling in Top 4, which put him against Doom in the battle for Third. Charpentier and Doom battled in Top 8 at Round 2 with Rome coming out on top, and I think both were hungry for a rematch. But after two very close rounds, it seems Doom just couldn't overcome his mechanical issue and Rome ran as clean as Rome usually does, and the decision was made in Rome's favor.
And now for that final battle. Amir Falahi has been looking better and better this year, especially after having knocked out Rome in Top 4 and sending him to the battle for third place. If he'd been matched up against anyone other than Dom Martinez, there's a damn good chance he would have earned his first win faster than anyone we can remember. But alas, he did face Dom, and Dom did pull through with the win just as the safe money said he would.
With one round to go, six drivers could hypothetically steal the championship win, and a full 12 drivers could finish within the top three and earn their Formula D Pro 2 licenses. Topping that list: Dominic Martinez (290 points), Rome Charpentier (271), and Shaun Doom (242).
Check out our gallery below for more from Top Drift Round 3, and stay with us to meet your future FD drivers in what promises to be a dramatic season conclusion.