For the second event in a row, Formula DRIFT's traveling Pro 2 feeder series was unable to finish its competition in the scheduled timeframe due to weather. At Round 2 from Gateway Motorsports Park in Madison, Ill., gale-force winds and sideways rain pushed Top 16 to the next day to join FD Pro's program. At Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas, for Round 3 of 4, again rain put the kibosh on eliminations, allowing for most but not all of the tandem bracket to be run.
The layout in the TMS infield road course was changed slightly from what was used last year, with the first Rear Clipping Zone that used to start the driving line just past initiation eliminated. Drivers were still finding the dreaded tire wall on the outside of Zone 2, though, sucking up cars that were off line and spitting/spinning them back onto the track with less parts than they started with. Just ask George Kiriakopoulos; in qualifying, he slid the Link Engine Management 370Z into the barrier so hard it brought back bundles of tires from the wall onto the circuit, tires that everyone quickly learned were full of water from the stormy weather that lingered throughout the weekend. It took crews some time to dry up the H2O as well as reset the K-rail that lined the back of the tire wall.
The first lap of Thursday qualifying saw its share of breakages and incomplete runs, but also Brody Goble in his S14.5 leaping into the 90s with a score of 91, a pretty huge achievement for a Pro 2 driver. Goble's score ended up third best, though, as Round 1 and 2 runner-up Dylan Hughes laid down a 93 to take the number-one spot, while Round 2 winner Travis Reeder in his S13 landed P2. Garrett Denton in the Koruworks S14 was fourth best with a 90 on his second lap, and notably Goble was the only Pro 2 driver of Round 3 to get a 90 or higher on both runs (his second orbit was a 90).
Hughes got past Kenric Meyer's E36 to start off Friday tandem eliminations, which gave way to the event's first One More Time in the following matchup between Sean Adriano in the GReddy S13 and Kelsey Rowlings in the Kotek S14. Both drivers got incompletes in the chase spot, and in the rerun Rowlings in the lead had to pull angle out early, and then completely missed Clipping Zone 2, which gave Adriano the advantage to advance.
Denton had the better lead lap against Josh Robinson in his Holden Commodore Ute to move to Great 8, and Jonathan Hurst in the Dynosty G37 bettered Geoff Donati in his S14 after Donati momentarily opposite drifted in the course's "power alley" (the section of the track in between Inner Clip 1 and Clip 2). Reeder had a bye lap due to Crick Filippi's S13 having mechanical issues, while Round 1 winner Ola Jaeger had a better lead (his opponent sacrificed proximity to many of the circuit's Clips) against Riley Sexsmith in his NV Auto BRZ.
Goble was flying against Troy Manners's S14, Manners struggling to mimic the lead car, and their duel went to Goble. Top 16 ended with Alec Robbins in his Koruworks 350Z sliding into a leading Sebastien Gauthier's SSG Motorsport S14 in a deceleration area just in front of Zone 2, Robbins probably a little too aggressive as he trailed. Judges faulted Robbins for the collision and Gauthier moved on.
In Great 8, Adriano in the lead had some pretty big understeer around the sweeper, so his foe Hughes advanced. Denton beat Hurst after Hurst couldn't complete his lead lap, while Reeder dispatched Jaeger with a better lead run of his own. The quarterfinals ended dramatically when Goble chasing Gauthier got on the wrong line heading into Zone 2 and went extremely hard into the tire wall, similar to what Kiriakopoulos did a day earlier. While Goble came out of the wreck in good shape, his car was finished for the night—both literally and figuratively, as Gauthier took the Great 8 triumph.
It was a race against time at this point, as crews had to clean up a major incident on the track in order for eliminations to complete, but it was already late in the evening and to make matters worse, more bad weather was on its way. Everyone was hurrying to get the course usable again in enough time to wrap this thing up.
After about a half hour delay, Final 4 commenced with the battle between Hughes and Denton; they turned in two sterling lead runs, but Denton had the superior chase, as Hughes had consistently less angle and uneven proximity. Still, he locked up third place for qualifying number one. On the other half of the bracket, Reeder put in a far better chase job than Gauthier, cementing his move to the last dance.
As Denton and Reeder readied for the concluding tandems of the night, event organizers decided to postpone the finale until Saturday. Rain was falling again, and even with track lighting it was dark out there, so to turn in the best closer possible FD decided to push the last match to the next day to begin Pro's Top 32 eliminations.
The next day, under sunny skies and not a raindrop in sight, Denton and Reeder squared off. Both had really solid lead laps, but Reeder had better proximity in the chase, and that was all it took. Travis Reeder was crowned winner, Garrett Denton finished with an impressive second place.
Like the Formula D big leagues, it all boils down to the Irwindale finale for Pro 2. Reeder's lead in the points table was just 1 after Round 2, but after Round 3 he has a slightly bigger cushion of 40 over Dylan Hughes (273 versus 233), his only real threat to take the season championship. And we can't forget the Pro licenses that go to the top eight finishers in points at season's end—right now those eight are Reeder, Hughes, Ola Jaeger, Sebastien Gauthier, Brody Goble, Garrett Denton Riley Sexsmith, and Alec Robbins. We will have all the blow-by-blow action after Round 4, set for October 11th and 12th at Irwindale Speedway in Southern California.