Heading west from its inaugural round at ZMax Dragway in North Carolina, the East10 Formula DRIFT pro-am series returned its home state of Tennessee for a two-day doubleheader event in the east parking lot of Bristol Motor Speedway. This recap focuses on Round 2; Round 3's breakdown will be posted shortly.
Each round of the series uses a parking lot laid out in a style that mimics a Formula D course. This time, the Texas round gave inspiration to the course design, with a drag race to a shallow front clip, followed immediately by a second before sending drivers into a very long, undulating sweeper.
Those just tuning in to the series should be reminded it doesn't follow the traditional qualifying format, instead relying on seeding drivers based on their performance during runs in a certain time frame. Tyler Garlatz, in his S13 hatch, earned himself the top spot.
As 19 drivers in total qualified for competition, three battles occurred in "Top 32" to fill in the three remaining spots in the Top 16 bracket. Ethan Parnell, Abe Heath, and Tyler Foley all won their respective battles to earn their way in.
Foley's day would end short as Garlatz took the win in the first T16 bout against him. Scotch McDonald's black S14 defeated the Mustang of Stephen Johnstone in the next pairing, while Dmitriy Brutskiy, piloting Michael Essa's ex-Formula DRIFT Z4 and the top qualifying seed at round one, took the win over Jake Elliot in the next set of battles.
Warren Allen, who finished fourth overall in last years Southeast Drift Union pro-am series, fell to Kyle Wood's S13, a car that closely resembles Miro Ovcharik's FD car in 2013. Round one winner Stephen White and points leader going into round two with his green S14 moved on to Top 8 with a victory over Parnell, as Justin Bauer, who took home second at round one, inched closer to the podium again when he defeated Michael Wallis' gold and purple S14.
Rounding out the final two Top 16 battles was Eric Brunet, who came down from Canada, taking his R34 to a win over Heath's S13, as Cory Talaska's red E36 knocked out Bryan Broberg's teal S13 hatch to conclude the T16 pairings.
In the Great 8, Garlatz soldiered into the semifinals with a win over McDonald, as Brutskiy took the win over Wood. White's chance for a repeat victory was cut short as he fell to Bauer, while Brunet eliminated half of the remaining BMWs as he knocked out Talaska.
Things started to heat up in the semifinals, as two previous podium finishers were trying to improve their positions against two drivers who wanted their spots. Though a valiant effort by Brutskiy, he would ultimately find himself in the battle for third against Brunet, who took the loss against Bauer. In that battle for bronze, Brutskiy would take third and find himself on the podium.
This brought the final pairing down to the S13s of Garlatz and Bauer. Bauer repeated his silver performance, while Garlatz earned the win.
"This is just absolutely insane," Garlatz said. "If I could put it into words, it's just amazing, as cliche as that sounds."
Both Garlatz and Bauer said the course layout was challenging, even frustrating at times.
"You go out and kick it sideways what you think is aggressively, then you fall short of the rear zone," Garlatz said of the first two clips. "By the end of the day, my foot didn't leave the floor for probably the first three-quarters of the course. Once you get used to it, it's the type of course that helps you progress as a driver."
For Bauer, the second place came as not only a victory over other drivers, but of battles with his own car. After an impact with Johnstone's Mustang earlier in practice, his steering began binding up.
"Me and the car had battles hardcore throughout the day," he said. "I couldn't go full lock because it binds up horribly."
If Garlatz was stoked after his third place finish at round one, he was beyond ecstatic at his victory at round two.
"It's so nice to finally have gotten to this point," Garlatz said of his victory. "We have no problem saying this, but it's a long road to get here with plenty of sleepless nights. I think we blew five engines in nine months trying to get to this point."
Now in a reliable car with consistent performance, it's safe to say he's upped his own ante. "I'm always hungry out here," he said. "But I'm starving now."