If you were to take a look at the results from Top Drift's Round 1 competition at Willow Springs' Balcony track just four short months ago, the names you'd see at the top of the leaderboard, and the drivers and cars you might pick to pose the biggest competition threats are likely very different from who has emerged atop the 2018 season.
Top Drift vets Zach "Zach Mac" Macgillivray in his Z33 Nissan 350Z, S13 Nissan 240SX ace Pablo Cabrera, and Kenneth Vuong in a clean S14 turned heads first, leading the qualifying order coming into Round 1 at Willow Springs' Balcony track, looking very comfortable in their respective battle machines. But when previous Round 1 top-qualifier Dom Martinez came through with the win in his no. 16 V8 S14, with Brian "Drift Slayer" Nimmo and his Toyota Tacoma claiming Second, and Rome Charpentier in the no. 17 E36 BMW nabbing Third, it was clear that this would be a season with many championship contenders.
Alex Grimm, former pilot of the "Captain America" V8-swapped Datsun 240Z now behind the wheel of a Pro 2-spec Camaro, added his name to that list by defeating Zac Mac, Cabrera, Dom, and Brian Page-Howell (another strong contender) to take the win in Round 2 at Horse Thief Mile, followed by Page-Howell in Second.
And then Round 3 happened, at the banked Walt James Stadium. Dom Martinez earned his second event win of the season, NorCal transplant Amir Falahi and his no. 110 V8-swapped E30 BMW knocked out Rome Charpentier to take Second (with Rome claiming Third), Shaun Doom in the no. 213 KA24-powered S13 claimed his second fourth-place finish, and several new names crept higher and higher in the point standings.
As of the start of Top Drift's fourth and final competition round for 2018, five drifters were within striking distance of the championship title (with Dom Martinez holding a commanding lead), and a total of 12 were technically able to finish within the top three for the season and earn themselves a Formula DRIFT Pro 2 competition license.
Breaking from the traditional format of practicing Saturday and competing Sunday, this final round was held on a Friday and Saturday, and the resultant turnout was low at the Willow Speedway. Only 14 competitors made it out for what should've been Top 16, and leading that field was Alex Grimm, with Brian Nimmo right behind.
Both advanced onto Top 8 with bye runs, and other notable battles included Rome Charpentier besting Amir Falahi, newcomer and 12-seed qualifier Vadim Todorov in the no. 9 E36 taking out Zach Mac, and newcomer and 10th-seed qualifier Aaron "AJ" Muss in the no. 6 E46 BMW making quick work of Abe Cruz in his clean AE86 Toyota Corolla.
The uncertainty and drama elevated in Top 8 when Alex Grimm took himself out against Rome Charpentier, Vadim Todorov toppled Dom Martinez, Aaron Muss stayed alive against Brian Nimmo, and Shaun Doom moved back into the Top 4 for the third time this year by beating Eric Hille.
The Top 4 saw Rome put an end to Todorov's antics, and Muss narrowly knockout Doom.
That led to two points of excitement in our minds: Would Shaun Doom and his badass, turbo KA24-powered S13 finally get on the podium after three trips to the Top 4? Would newcomer Muss win his very first Top Drift event —one that has no bearing on his Pro 2 eligibility?
After two very close battles between Doom and Todorov, and another two even closer battles between Muss and Charpentier, the podium was set: Muss, Charpentier, and Doom; 1, 2 and 3.
THE BOTTOM LINE
With the points tallied in the wake of 2018's tumultuous fourth and final event, that left a bit of an upset in the championship order. Rome Charpentier finished ahead of the seemingly unstoppable Dom Martinez (with Dom settling in Second), and Shaun Doom grabbed another one of those elusive third-place finishes —this time the one that counts most!
There's no final word as to which of the three will advance onto Pro 2 competition in 2019 or 2020, but no matter if/when they choose to go, they're sure to make a fast, loud, smokey mark on the competition.
Next up for Top Drift is the annual All Star Bash after Formula D's finals at Irwindale, with a rumored return to the day/night drifting format. Look forward to seeing more from all our favorite Top Drifters and FD pros very soon, and for more from Top Drift's 2018 season finale, see below.