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Formula D Long Beach ’16 Qualifying Results & Report

Session a rainout, setting up an unusual eliminations roster for Saturday in series’ 4th wet event of last 6 rounds

Apr 8, 2016
Photographer: Mike Sabounchi

What are the odds? If before today you would have told us that qualifying for Round 1 of the Formula Drift 2016 championship, held in the series’ traditional environs of Turns 9 through 11 of the Grand Prix of Long Beach street course in sunny Southern California, would be a rainout, we totally would’ve told you to lay off the peyote. And yet we’re here today to say, that’s exactly what happened.

Fielddrift Photo 5/68   |   Fielddrift

It began raining – not heavily, but it was constant – before the weekend’s first practice session at 9 am and didn’t stop until midday, but by then FD officials had already halted practice before 11 because water was beginning to pool on track. After the rain had ceased and a sweeper truck descended on the circuit to speed it drying up, we heard through the grapevine practice would resume at 12:45 pm, and qualifying, originally scheduled for 1 pm, pushed to 1:45. But then over the PA system it was announced qualifying was cancelled outright, and the series would instead hold practice until 3 pm – which again was cut short, this time due to Shengjun Zhang giving some wall love to the outside of Turn 10 in the Get Nuts Lab Sport JDM S14 (for a second time Friday).

S14 Photo 12/68   |   S14

In fact, Zhang was just one of several to fall victim to Long Beach’s grip-less conditions, the list including 2009 and 2014 champ Chris Forsberg in the NOS Energy 370Z (on live TV no less! Ouch!), Justin Pawlak in the Roush Performance Mustang, Jeff Jones in the Doc X 240SX, and others, with most returning. But at least one driver wasn’t happy with the cancellation of qualifying, Latvian Kristaps Bluss, pilot of the HGK Racing E46, who let it be known in the most obvious of ways – yelling an obscenity (it’s spelled like “fussy,” but in plural) in the drivers meeting when the session was called. Shots fired, to say the least.

Gushitaillights Photo 19/68   |   Gushitaillights

In lieu of holding qualifying, the order will be predicated by how a competitor finished 2015 in the point standings, which means last year’s champion, Fredric Aasbo in the Rockstar Energy tC, will face the hapless Shengjun in Top 32 eliminations come Saturday. The list includes a handful of Pro 2 graduates, who were unfortunately relegated to the bottom of the order, a roster that includes Zhang, Alex Heilbrunn in the IMR M3, Cameron Moore in the Nameless Performance SC, and Faruk Kugay in the MFR Enterprises S14. (Thanks to our buddies at Wrecked Mag for staying on top of results.)

Qualifying Order
1. Fredric Aasbo
2. Ken Gushi
3. Chris Forsberg
4. Ryan Tuerck
5. Odi Backhis
6. Justin Pawlak
7. Forrest Wang
8. Matt Field
9. Alec Hohnadell
10. Kenneth Moen
11. Vaughn Gittin Jr.
12. Dean Kearney
13. Tyler McQuarrie
14. Chelsea DeNofa
15. Pat Goodin
16. Pat Mordaunt
17. Mad Mike Whiddett
18. Charles Ng
19. Geoff Stoneback
20. Dai Yoshihara
21. Jhonnattan Castro
22. Robbie Nishida
23. Michael Essa
24. Kristaps Bluss
25. Kyle Mohan
26. Matt Coffman
27. Jeff Jones
28. Alex Heilbrunn
29. Juha Rintanen
30. Cameron Moore
31. Faruk Kugay
32. Shengjun Zhang

Top-32 Bracket:

(Left)
1.Freric Aasbo
32. Shangjun Zhang
16. Pat Mordaunt
17. Mad Mike Whiddett

8. Matt Field
25. Kyle Mohan
9. Alec Hohnadell
24. Kristaps Bluss

4. Ryan Tuerck
29. Juha Rintanen
13. Tyler McQuarrie
20. Dai Yoshihara

5. Odi Backhis
28. Alex Heilbrunn
12. Dean Kearney
21. Jhonnattan Castro

(Right)
2. Ken Gushi
31. Faruk Kugay
15. Pat Goodin
18. Charles Ng

7. Forrest Wang
26. Robbie Nishida
10. Kenneth Moen
23. Michael Essa

3. Chris Forsberg
30. Cameron Moore
14. Chelsea DeNofa
19. Geoff Stoneback

6. Justin Pawlak
27. Jeff Jones
11. Vaughn Gittin, Jr.
22.Robbie Nishida

Formula D issued the following statement about cancelling Friday qualifying in Long Beach:
Formula DRIFT was forced to enact a never been used before provision of the Sporting Regulations that allows Formula DRIFT to forgo Qualifying in the face of inclement weather or the inability to start or finish Qualifying.

Formula DRIFT is not unfamiliar with rainy conditions as six of seven rounds were completed in such conditions in 2015. However, given the volume of rain, the variable surface conditions of the street course, combined with being a public street, made for treacherous conditions in general. Adding that walls surround the course added another level of risk, in which the Series did not want to take in light of making sure that all 32 drivers were ready for competition tomorrow, whatever the conditions may be. The decision was made shortly after Top 32 Practice started when as many as seven consecutive drivers wrecked into the walls of outside zone two. This rare occurrence caused Formula DRIFT to go on Rain Delay and call a drivers meeting with teams to discuss the options that would best suite the drivers and fans.

“We spoke to the teams and the large majority felt it was better to have a full field of 32 drivers tomorrow than risk wrecks that would not be fixable due to the damage cause by the walls or have drivers with double zero’s that would disallow them to be placed in the bracket”, says Kevin Wells, Competition Director of Formula DRIFT. “Being that we had exactly 32 cars in competition, no one would be left out and so that seemed to be the prudent thing to do. We want the drivers to have a voice. The majority spoke and we answered.”

Daijiroincar Photo 26/68   |   Daijiroincar

In case you’re keeping track, this is Formula D’s fourth event in the rain out of the last six, dating back to Round 3: Orlando in June 2015. And it looks like even more precipitation is on tap for Saturday as well. Goodbye tire smoke, hello rainwater rooster tails.

If you can't be in Long Beach for the action there's always the Formula DRIFT Livestream. Eliminations begin Saturday at 11 am PDT.

Bob Hernandez
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