In the wake of what some have now come to regard as one of the best Formula DRIFT rounds in a while, we’re gonna veer for a moment from recapping Round 4 of the Formula D 2016 Championship, staged at Wall Speedway in New Jersey, to join the chorus of drivers, media, fans, and others asking driver Forrest Wang’s supporters to lay off of fellow pilot Chris Forsberg. The anger being directed at the twice champion stems from a heavy-contact incident during the event’s Top 16 tandem elimination round, wherein Forsberg on the chase in his NOS Energy Nissan 370Z ran into Wang’s Get Nuts Lab S15 Silvia as the pair flew by the course’s first inner clipping point. It seems like a lot of people were surprised when the judges gave the match to Forsberg (including us, admittedly), but upon further review and explanation we now understand why Wang lost the round.
Clearly the logic behind the decision did not fly with a small minority of Wang’s fans, though, who proceeded to take to the Interwebs to not only bash Forsberg, but also make threats on his life. You read that right – people got so riled up over the judgment they decided to attack Forsberg, in addition to Formula D and its judging panel. It didn’t help that Wang after the event announced he was quitting the series, and honestly we get the bad feelings toward FD – but to target Forsberg is simply wrong.
The argument by the fanboy lunatic fringe seems to be that Forsberg looked like he meant to run into Wang, and that the collision could’ve been avoided. But the evidence to the contrary is pretty overwhelming; for one, the zone where the contact occurred was an “on-throttle” stretch of the course, per the judges, and if anything it looked like Wang slowed significantly in the area. Furthermore, video has come out (below) showing just how blind Forsberg was trailing Wang, driving in tire smoke so thick that when he emerged from the fog and saw Wang’s Silvia virtually parked right in front of his Z, Forsberg basically had nowhere else to go but into Wang’s car. (For a more thorough reckoning of events, check out the blog post over at Wrecked magazine.)
The weekend started calmly enough, with FD announcing it would be returning to the old configuration of the track inside the Wall oval – that is, two rear clipping zones, one on the bank, the other on the opposite end of the infield infield, and four inner clips, the first in between the two rear zones and the last three after the second rear zone. Only 30 cars were healthy enough to qualify, and 2011 champ Dai Yoshihara in the Turn 14 Subaru BRZ earned the number-one qualifier position on Friday, actually tying with Odi Bakchis in the ARK Performance Hyundai Genesis Coupe but getting the top spot based on a better Style score.
Saturday eliminations were hard fought, to say the least. Apart from the drama that came out of his match against Forsberg, Wang had a knock down-drag out Top-32 encounter with Tyler McQuarrie in the Mobil 1 Chevy Camaro, a bout that went to two One-More-Time extra battles. Wang ultimately won, but even then you could tell a driver as skilled as McQuarrie was having a tough time following such a slow car.
Among the other high points of the event was 2010 champion Vaughn Gittin, Jr.’s impressive road to victory in the Monster Energy Ford Mustang RTR. JR first dispatched Cameron Moore’s Nameless Performance Lexus SC300 in the opening round and it only got harder from there. In Top 16, Gittin faced off against and surpassed Kristaps Bluss and his HGK Motorsports BMW E46 M3, fresh from a podium finish at the previous round in Orlando; he then went up against and beat reigning series champion Fredric Aasbo in the Rockstar Energy Scion tC, who was number one in points going into the Wall Speedway event.
Semifinals action saw Gittin go toe to toe with 2015 FD Pro 2 champ and Nitto teammate Alex Heilbrunn in the IMR E46, a meeting that went to One More Time. JR won on the merits of a much better line, earning a matchup against his Drift Alliance brother Forsberg, a battle that would not only decide the Round 4 victor but also give that winner the shared record for most event wins in FD. Both Forsberg and Gittin went into the finale with eight wins apiece, but only one would emerge with nine, tying the high mark established by ex-FD driver Sam Hubinette many years earlier. It was a barnburner, for sure, but Forsberg on his chase ended up going wide past the third inner clip – about the only mistake either made, but enough to give JR the win.
Heilbrunn also had a great Round 4, landing third to become the first rookie of the season to get on the podium, getting past Geoff Stoneback in the CFR 370Z, Robbie Nishida in the Tilavo Infiniti G37 (which went to One More Time), and Dean Kearney in the Oracle Lighting Dodge Viper before falling to Gittin. Heilbrunn received third place for qualifying higher than the other Final 4 loser, Ken Gushi in the Greddy Performance Toyota 86, and put another BMW on the podium, the third this season along with Chelsea Denofa’s BC Racing E46 in Long Beach and Bluss’s M3 in Orlando.
We’re bummed the Forsberg-Wang kerfuffle has overshadowed what should be recognized as one of the better examples of a good Formula D round in New Jersey, but believe – as we always have – all of this posturing and pseudo-anger will eventually blow over. In the meantime, we are halfway through the eight-event 2016 season and Gittin takes the lead on the points table with 298, followed by Aasbo at 258 and Forsberg at 252. Formula D heads north for its first Pro series round in Canada, Round 5 at Autodrome St. Eustache in Quebec, Montreal on July 15 and 16. If you can’t be there, make sure to check out every last bit of action on the Formula D Live Stream.
One last thing – as this story goes to press, it appears Formula DRIFT in conjunction with Forrest Wang have released a joint press release announcing essentially two things: (1) Wang has decided he’s not leaving the series after all, and (2) judge Ryan Lanteigne will now be part of the announcer team in order to “alleviate some of the communication gaps that exist and lend additional transparency in the judging process.” You can read the entire press release on the Formula D blog.