For the first time since 2005, Formula D added a new round to its Pro championship schedule, expanding to eight events what had been seven for over a decade. While it was new to the FD Pro calendar, though, Autodrome Saint-Eustache in the suburbs of Montreal, Que., isn’t exactly new to several teams and the series itself, serving as a round on the World championship in years past and one of the stops for Formula D Canada. The facility has tarmac layouts for drag, oval, and road racing, with drift contests employing a little from each to set up a course with two sweeping rear clipping zones and three inner clipping points.
Having the event in Canada proved to be an insurmountable hurdle for a handful of teams, due to cost for some or logistical issues for others. As a result, only 28 showed up to qualify for Top 32, with the likes of Kristaps Bluss, Alex Heilbrunn, Jeff Jones, Kenny Moen, and Pat Mordaunt choosing to forgo Round 5. Making matters not better, Tyler McQuarrie had a hard wreck in the Mobil 1 Chevy Camaro in practice ahead of Friday qualifying and was unable to make either of his laps, eliminating him from competition and leaving just 27 entries.
Fresh out of “retirement”, Forrest Wang in the Get Nuts Lab Nissan S15 Silvia did what he does best and aced qualifying, earning the number-one spot on Friday. Because only 27 drivers put in qualifying laps, the top five qualifiers – Wang, Ryan Tuerck in the Gumout Toyota 86, Justin Pawlak in the Roush Performance Ford Mustang, Chelsea DeNofa in the BC Racing BMW E46, and 2015 Formula D champion Fredrick Aasbo in the Rockstar Energy Scion tC – all received first-round byes in Top 32 tandem eliminations, which meant Wang got a freebie into Top 16. From there he faced and defeated good friend Geoff Stoneback in the CFR 370Z, and then went up against Odi Bakchis in the ARK Performance Hyundai Genesis Coupe for Great 8. After some sloppy chase laps, the pair went One More Time (OMT) where Wang exploded spectacularly the rear wing on his S15 at the end of the first rear zone on his lead lap, but more importantly completely ran over the first inner clip on his chase lap, which gave the judgment to Bakchis.
Before facing Wang in the round of eight, Bakchis had to go up against Mad Mike Whiddett in Top 32, a pairing that probably seemed more daunting than it actually was. Whiddett, in his typical overzealous fashion, threw the ass-end of the Red Bull Mazda MX-5 too close to the zone 1 wall in both his chase and lead laps, making contact both times and screwing up his line, enough on his lead lap that Odi had to make the pass in order to continue safely – advantage Odi. After Whiddett, Bakchis took on Cameron Moore and his Lexus SC300 in Top 16, a match Odi won when Moore in the lead was unable to shift into third gear, slowed significantly, and created contact, causing Bakchis to spinout.
Bakchis’s semifinal opponent was Aasbo, who as mentioned previously went unchallenged in Top 32. In Top 16 he crossed paths with Pat Goodin in the Penzoil S13, Goodin putting up a valiant fight but was no match for the 2015 champ. Aasbo also made quick work of Matt Coffman and the Coffman Racing S13 before lining up against Bakchis in the Final 4. In the Bakchis-Aasbo battle, it was Aasbo’s fantastic chase that sealed the deal, sending Fredric to the finale and Odi to third place for out-qualifying the loser of the other Final 4 match.
On the other side of the bracket, semifinalist and twice champ Chris Forsberg in the NOS Energy Drink 370Z kicked off his tandem run against Jhonnattan Castro, driver of the Gerdau Meltadom 86. Forsberg dispatched Castro almost without breaking a sweat to face in Top 16 the always-threatening Alec Hohnadell in the Enjuku Racing S14; that fight went to OMT after a pair of incredible laps, and the bonus orbits also were super close, but Hohnadell’s driving was not as snappy the second time chasing, thus Forsberg emerged the victor. In Great 8, Forsberg faced his Drift Alliance bro Tuerck and the duo had what looked like flawless runs, but the judges saw something we didn’t because they handed the hard-fought win to Forsberg.
The last driver to make it into the semis was 2010 series champion, Vaughn Gittin, Jr., and his Monster Energy Ford Mustang RTR. He took a path through 2013 champ Mike Essa in Top 32, a match that saw Essa sustain event-ending damage after a collision with the wall along zone 1; Pawlak in Top 16, who had a crazy chase lap that saw the field’s other Mustang run into JR’s; and 2011 champion Dai Yoshihara in his Turn 14 Distribution Subaru BRZ for Great 8, which was something of a battle of who made the fewest/least severe errors. Gittin got that one, and gets our award in Canada for toughest road to the Final 4.
Drift Alliance brethren Forsberg and Gittin paired off in the semifinals and had a great lap with Chris in the lead. With Vaughn leading, however, JR got a little too close to the wall at the end of rear zone 1, contact that upset the car enough that Gittin had to do some major correcting, which was all the judges needed to see in order to give Forsberg the “W”. The final came down to the two most consistent drivers of the weekend, Aasbo and Forsberg, and when they hit the circuit it was Aasbo who drove to the event win by keeping mistakes to an absolute minimum.
Aasbo’s triumph is his second of the 2016 season and he edges closer to points leader Gittin in the standings, 362 to 365 respectively. Behind Aasbo, Forsberg sits in third with 335, and then there’s a precipitous drop-off to fourth, Bakchis with 259. Not surprisingly the drivers with the most podiums are starting to pull away from the rest of the pack, but with three rounds yet to go it is still too early to call this race. By many accounts the event at Saint-Eustache was a great one (great crowd, great competition, etc.) and it’s now up to the Pacific Northwest’s fans to show everyone what’s up – Formula D heads there next for Round 6 at Evergreen Speedway in Monroe, Wash. on August 5th and 6th. And as always, if you can’t make it to Washington there’s always the Formula D Live Stream – don’t miss any of the action!