The roar of 1,000HP drift cars echoing off a concrete jungle’s walls is music to our ears. No joke, there is nothing else like it – sound waves concussive enough to set off car alarms from blocks away, to seriously spook household pets in that same blast radius. In Long Beach, Calif., this morning, those roars could only signal one thing: the beginning of another Formula DRIFT season.
Its 14th, to be precise. Again the championship returned to turns 9, 10, and 11 of the Grand Prix of Long Beach street course, and unlike last year (and what is usually par for the course, actually) no rain mucked things up, making for a picture perfect setting. Earlier in the week we ran down a partial list of returning drivers, and were a little surprised to find out at the event that just 30 drivers signed up to compete, and of those only 27 actually qualified – which means we’ll have a few bye runs in the Top 32 round of eliminations on Saturday.
No big deal; the talent pool in Formula D is so full these days every battle has the simmering potential to be epic. Vaughn Gittin in the Monster Energy Ford Mustang qualified atop the order, sorta picking up where he left off last year (he qualified number one four out of eight rounds in 2016), and the top five qualifiers – Gittin, James Deane in the Worthouse Nissan Silvia (in his first comp on U.S. soil in years), Ryan Tuerck in the Gumout Toyota 86, Fredric Aasbo in the Rockstar Energy Corolla iM, and Alex Heilbrunn in the IMR BMW E46 – will cruise into Top 16, but there is still plenty to look forward to in tandems. Like rookie Piotr Wiecek in the second 2jZ-powered Worthouse S15 going against last season’s Long Beach winner Chelsea DeNofa in his new RTR Motorsports BC Racing Mustang. Or the battle of past champs in Mike Essa and his Essa Autosport E46 against Dai Yoshihara in the Turn 14 Subaru BRZ.
It’s shaping up to be a doozy of Saturday. We’ll be trackside, capturing all the action for our coverage – including the AutoCon show going on at the event – but if you want to watch Round 1 live you can on the Formula D live stream.