Barely 12 hours after the conclusion of East10 Drift's second round of Formula DRIFT pro-am competition, the drivers and crews were right back at the east lot of Bristol Motor Speedway to kickoff the third round of competition.
The course underwent a drastic change, going the reverse direction and adding more clipping points for a layout that now didn't favor the higher horsepower cars as heavily. Drivers who would normally have weeks if not months to get their cars back in order now only had hours, and they and their crews scrambled to fix issues with suspension, perform parking lot alignments, sort out engine issues and the like. Those who didn't experience any real trouble spent a good portion of the practice session giving rides to friends and spectators.
19 drivers made the qualifying cut, as Jake Elliot and Abe Heath in their S13s, as well as Stephen Johnstone's Mustang, won their "Top 32" battles to round out the Top 16 grid.
Elliot's S13 would meet Michael Wallis' gold and purple S14 in the first Top 16 bout, and Wallis, who was knocked out in the same round the day before, would now advance to the Top 8. In the next bout between Cory Talaska's red E36 and Ethan Parnell's S14, Talaska received the nod, once again sending him into the Top 8.
Round-one winner Stephen White and his bright green S14 would take the win over Kyle Wood's gray S13 hatch on his way to attempt another spot on the podium, while Eric Brunet's R34 fell to the previous day's winner, Tyler Garlatz, in the next battle.
Heath was knocked out by Dmitriy Brutskiy's Z4 in the next pairing, as Bryan Broberg and his teal S13 would get the nod over Tyler Foley's orange E36. With a second place finish at both previous rounds this year, Justin Bauer took his S14 to a win over Johnstone's Mustang on another rise toward the podium.
Besting David Campo's RX-7, Ricky Adams took his blue and gray E46 to the next round, redeeming himself from his "Top 32" knockout the day prior.
Wallis would best Talaska's E36 in the first pairing of the Great 8, while White's shot at a second first-place finish this year was cut short by a loss to Tyler Garlatz as he attempted the same. Brutskiy would end Broberg's day with the win in their battle, as Adams defeated Bauer to put a second BMW in the Final 4.
Garlatz continued his path to the finals by defeating Wallis in their match, sending the latter to a battle for third. Wallis had that battle against Ricky Adams, who fell to Brustkiy, with the former ultimately earning a third-place spot on the podium.
"Honestly, I can't believe it with how much we went through this weekend," Wallis said, having wrecked the car the day before, then breaking a coilover before breaking an axle during the post-driver introductions burnout. "The guys from Team No Grip Life, Tyler Foley and Christian Nelson and everyone just jumped in to help and I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for all of my friends."
Wallis said the back-to-back event helped him stay focused on the task at hand.
"I like the two-day event because I have fresh in my head where I was lacking the first day, and I can improve it on the second," he said. "I can't thank ISC Suspension for their awesome coilovers, Rick at Race Tech Services for the dogbox that takes as much pounding as I could throw at it."
In perhaps one of the best battles in the young series so far, Garlatz and Brutskiy threw down hard in the finals, with Garlatz securing his second win of the weekend and catapulting him to a points lead.
"I can't believe we just one-two'd it. This is absolutely insane," he said. "I went into today thinking 'I don't care how today goes.' I may have gotten into that mindset a little too much and was having too much fun today, because I realized as soon as I got on track that these guys were not playing games. Yesterday was more than I could ask for and this is just beyond words."
For Brutskiy, the second-place finish was an improvement on his third place the day before. "I knew I had to shoot for the top," he said. "It didn't quite happen all the way, but I'm taking baby steps and I'm happy with it."
For those wondering, his Z4 was pro driver Michael Essa's that was used in Formula DRIFT from 2011 to 2012. Brutskiy was looking at building his own when he found out Essa's was for sale, albeit it had been converted for use as a road race car at the time.
"I e-mailed him and asked if the chassis was good for competition and if it was worth spending money on," he said. "He (Essa) said yes, that the car was fun and fast, and 'by the way, mine's for sale.'" It was converted back to drift spec, Brustkiy purchased it, and Essa has been helping him out ever since.
Garlatz now has a commanding lead in points—42 to Bauer's 27 and White's 23, but there's still a lot that happen at the final round to shake up the standings. The series will conclude on September 29 at Lanier Raceplex in Georgia, where the 2018 champion will be crowned and three drivers will walk away with their Pro 2 licenses for 2019.