Round 2: Atlanta, GA
The second chapter finds our six drifters at Road Atlanta, home of the very first Formula D event back in 2006, and the first of the three Tires.com Triple Crown event. With four of our six drivers in freshly-built cars for the season (Dai, Rhys, Tanner, Tyler), the season has started off rough for some, and has been a blessing for others. And whether in new or old, only Formula D Diaries has the drifters tell you, in their words, every metal-crushing crash, tech regulation drama, heart-wrenching spin, and eventual loss or podium-topping win. Spoiler alert: we have a winner.
This month's guest is "The Voice of Formula D". To whom are we referring and what the hell does that mean? If you've been to a Formula D event--shame on you if you haven't--"J-rod" DeAnda is the announcer in the judging tower, booming his live commentary over the P.A.Think Wizard of Oz and the man behind the curtain, only less levers and buttons and a whole lot more talking.
Drift fans, thank you for being you! You're consistently enthusiastic, eager and hungry for more. Most of you have seen the spectacle of drifting from the pages of this very magazine, TV, countless websites, Tweets, blogs (maybe even mine: www.fatlace.com/stayfresh/jarod), and the progression of the sport has grown by leaps and bounds since its introduction by Formula D in 2004.
I can recall, vividly, the first ever Formula D Round 1 back in 2004 at Road Atlanta. It was my first event announcing, and we were all young and getting our feet wet. Now, fast forward to Round 2 of the 2009 season at what I like to call the "Womb of Formula D" or the "Birthplace of FD". This year, it was packed when the gates opened at 10 a.m. until I announced the winners at 9 p.m. The atmosphere was amazing. The crowd's participation and drivers' anticipation left everyone sitting at the edge of their seat. After the final battle between Chris Forsberg and D Mac, I had the privilege of sharing with the crowd their official new title as the "Best Crowd Ever in FD History", and I meant it. What made this crowd the best? They expressed their knowledge, passion for their driver, unity for the sport, and raw emotion. Between the drivers, teams, sponsors, judges and Formula D staff, who worked hard to put on a great show, and the level of dedication from the fans, it was one of the best drift events of all time!
I always get asked questions after a Formula D event about MC'ing, and since they tend to be the same ones, I thought I'd share some of them with our Diaries readers:
Do you lose your voice after the events?
Sometimes I get a little raw after the event, but after a couple of beers, I'm back to myself. So, post-event, if you see me, toss me a cold one and let's celebrate another successful FD!
How do have so much to say during race weekend?
I've learned the natural flow of the event, and since I really enjoy what I do, it's fun to speak to the drivers and judges, and interact with the crowd. But please, don't heckle or shoot the messenger--I'm not the judge, nor do I have the power to decide who wins. Also, I will mess up announcing here and there--I'm not perfect.
Are you reading off info of all the drivers?
Other than the sponsors, no. It's all in my head. Have you seen the size of my head? It's big!
As a fan, how do I get involved in the automotive industry?
I wish I had all the answers for getting into the drift/tuner industry, but I don't. All I can say is, if it is a passion of yours, follow your heart and you can make it happen. If you want to be a pro drifter, practice. And by practice, I mean on a track, not the streets!
Can I have your job?
Nope, sorry. I love being the "Voice of Formula D" and I'd like to thank Ryan Sage and Jim Liaw of Formula D for entrusting me with the opportunity of MC'ing. I like to think that I've made them proud. From their feedback and those of the drivers, judges and fans, I hope to continue to grow this year, as I have in years past.
Some final words of advice on becoming a courteous and engaging drift fan:
Come to events ready to have fun. Your driver might lose and be knocked out of the competition, so be a good sport. Participate! Cheer, boo, clap, stomp your feet, do the wave and especially, yell "Send it!"--it'll make your experience a whole lot better. Lastly, don't forget to toss me a cold one after the even--it'll help me prep my voice for the next event.
So far, the new season and new car--a Lexus IS350--haven't been kind to this Second Place finisher of the Red Bull World Championship. A consistent Top 16 drifter, drivability issues knocked Dai Yoshihara out during Top 32 tandems in Round 1. Spirit and skills more than willing, was there enough time between rounds to work out the kinks?
Road Atlanta is one of my favorite tracks and I love the people there. They are really nice and friendly--I always have a good time competing in Atlanta. After Round 1, we had testing sessions with the IS350 that made it better, but we couldn't solve one major issue: steering setup. The IS doesn't have much self steering, so it's very hard to control, especially when transitioning to the next corner.
I spun many times at the practice session, which is what I expected, but it was not as bad as in Long Beach. By the end of practice, I was able to do pretty well without spinning, although I wasn't consistent. After Qualifying, I ended up Second! Woo hoo!! My run during Qualifying was my best, all day. I was so happy that I could deliver in desperate times!
In the Top 32 round, I went against Pat Mordaunt. Even though I was able to qualify in Second Place, the IS350 is very hard to control during tandem. My strategy was to focus during my lead run and create a gap, and take it easier than usual when I was following. Not ideal, but it's better than being out of control and spinning. I think my strategy worked and I had solid runs. But I guess Pat did really good too, so the Judges called One More Time . . . WTF! I tried to do the same thing, but I messed up this time. When I was leading, I almost spun at the horseshoe and my rear tires went off into the dirt at the last corner. When I was following, the main switch turned off when I shifted to Second gear at the straightaway . . . WTF! I switched it back to "on" immediately, but there was a huge gap to Pat by then. I chased him, but I couldn't catch him till the last corner. I lost the battle.
I can't believe that I didn't make Top 16 two rounds in a row. We have to work on the car as soon as possible to get ready for Round 3 in New Jersey. I don't want to be the underdog anymore...
It's amazing what the reigning Red Bull World and 2005 Formula D champ's been able to accomplish in a car--let alone a manufacturer--completely new to the drift scene. With the chassis sorted out, the last piece of the Hyundai Genesis Coupe puzzle is its 3.8L V-6 engine.
Now that we had enough information and parts to support the Hyundai 3.8L Lambda V-6, it was a crazy two weeks swapping over the engine in our Genesis Coupe. In that short time, we had custom-fabricated a bell housing from scratch, machined an Exedy Clutch and flywheel to adapt to the Hyundai crank, welded up a turbo kit, and "spoke" to the Lambda V-6 via the AEM EMS in the pursuit of two goals: to produce enough power for drifting, and to do better than the last event!
Skip forward one week to Qualifying. Having achieved our first goal, laying down 510 hp and 570 lb-ft of torque at only 9.5 psi of boost, we were amazed at the power potential of the Lambda V-6--we had just produced the world's highest numbers for a Genesis Coupe! With Qualifying over, I placed Sixth after two solid runs--not too shabby, considering all the cars in front of me, barring one, were 600-700 hp monsters. I'm impressed more and more by this car, every time I drive it.
Race day Saturday would see us advancing from the first round, but then, a political mess started. It involved the technical steward that I care not to mention, so I will end my story here. Drink Red Bull; it keeps you alert and focused. Buy a Genesis Coupe; you will be impressed, and it will leave extra cash in your pocket to modify it.
The X Games gold medalist and defending Formula D champion managed to podium his brand new Scion tC drift car at Long Beach. Not bad for his first time out to bat. Can Tanner Foust continue the momentum and win his third back-to-back championship in a row?
Against better judgment, I'm writing this on the plane ride home . . . after a long night . . . with very little sleep. So, bear with me if the grogginess makes it onto the page.
I haven't done well in Atlanta for the last few years and 2009 stuck with that trend. We did a great job of getting this car set up for the track--I could run full throttle for almost the second half of the course. The sound of our TRD NASCAR V-8 at 9,000 rpm was awesome and I could hear the crowd screaming after a big burn. It was a blast! This roaring number got us the number one qualifying spot, but my eagerness to attack during tandems got us knocked out early.
The first tandem battle was against Calvin Wan. He had been fighting his car all day, but put together great runs. I came a bit too close at one point and made a sizable correction, but still moved on. The next run was against Ken Gushi in the other Scion tC. I took a small advantage leading, and following I unfortunately still attacked. Coming into the first corner was cool, with two Scion drift cars mirroring eachother sideways. I was enjoying the view, but Ken went into an apex a bit early. It forced him to hold the hand brake a bit longer than he had in previous practice runs, and I realized my mistake: I was closing in too fast. "Go, Ken, go!" I yelled in my helmet. But he couldn't. Ken would have hit the jagged curves of the Road Atlanta course . . . so I hit him. I didn't hit him hard, just enough to rotate me into a slow spin. Obviously, it wasn't his fault that I was leaving no room for error, and our weekend was over.
The Atlanta fans were awesome, J-rod was in rare form on the Mic and even Shawn Hillier, my tech, signed some boobs! The only downer was Pat's DQ for soft tires. I won't get into it because there are many who know more about this subject than I, but some of the testing procedures for illegal tires are much more suspect than the tires themselves. The current regulatory system is not doing its job of protecting the teams who are running legal off-the-shelf tires from those that may be modifying stock tires to improve their performance. I'll leave it at that. Hopefully, Pat, your bogus situation will be a catalyst and get Formula D to rethink the tire regulatory methods.
A crash and an issue with power at Round 1 left Ken Gushi and his Scion tC out of Top 32. Take that event, and add it to last season's mechanical woes, stemming from being the first tC ever converted to RWD, and Ken's had a rough year and some change. Ranked 33rd, if the RS-R team could boot the gremlins, we can only imagine how well Ken would perform.
Round 2 was the best event for our team, yet. For the first time, we had minimal mechanical issues and were able to get past the Top 16. In fact, the tC ran really strong all weekend. Just one thing went wrong: power steering. My steering rack blew out its seals after we added more angle. The same thing happened during a test session a few weeks back at Horse Thief Mile at Willow Springs Raceway, but we thought it was because of the crash at Long Beach.
Drifting can be quite hard (sometimes impossible) without steering assist, so thank God I had some practice without power steering. I was ready! During practice on Thursday, I drove the car without power steering and found it to be much harder than I remembered at Horse Thief. Why? Because the drift course at Road Atlanta is a hand-brake entry, while at Horse Thief, it's a clutch-kick entry. Eventually I got it down and was able to drive the tC as if it had power steering. Ranked 33, the last thing I needed was not qualifying again.
On my first Qualifying pass, I thought it best to take it a bit conservative and get a decent score, and push harder on my second run. Going into Turn 1, I had a lot of angle, smoke and impact, but at the second inner clipping point, I spun out and got a zero. Terrible! Now my second run had all the pressure.
With my original plan scratched, I took it extremely conservative for the second Qualifying run. I did not want to make the same stupid mistake. I got a 72 and qualified 17th. Not bad, but worse than expected--at least we were in the Top 32.
Compared to Qualifying, the heavier turn-in from the lack of power steering made tandems much harder. So when practice began for the Top 32, I only waited in the follow line. Tandem practice went well and I finished off the day with a practice run with my first competition, Takatori Michihiro.
Top 32 started and I was excited. My first match against Takatori was close, but I managed to beat him after a One More Time. Top 16 was against Tanner and his Scion tC. On the first run, I was on the follow lap and I nearly stalled behind him on entry. When I lead, I could not stop the car fast enough and Tanner hit my rear wheel and spun. I took the advantage and moved on. In the Great 8, I was up against Ryan Tuerck. Again, on the follow lap, I made a mistake and slightly straightened out which gave the advantage to Ryan. He ended up moving on and I was eliminated.
Overall, I am happy with the RS-R Scion tC and the way it is progressing. Before Round 3, we will be testing different spring rates and other alignment set-ups.
After a suspect stall by Sam Hubinette in Round 1, Tyler McQuarrie and the Falken Nissan 350Z were nudged out of the competition in the Top 16. By other drivers' standards, it would've left them steaming. But for Tyler--and a 2008 season filled with more issues than an episode of How to Catch a Predator--the sheer fact that the car had no breakage is cause for celebration.
It's been two years since I've run at Road Atlanta--last year, my motor blew and I was unable to compete. We showed up to practice on Thursday with many changes to the car, which in pre-event testing, proved to be the right direction for us to go. During practice, we made a few minor changes to dial-in the grip level that Road Atlanta provides. The Falken Tire 350Z ran flawlessly and I was feeling very comfortable in the car for Friday's Qualifying.
We had an hour of practice before Qualifying, but my car had something else in mind. It wouldn't start. The ASD guys found that we had a bad cam sensor. With the spare sensor back at the shop in Charlotte, NC, and none to be found locally, practice was over and Qualifying was about to begin. My event might be over before it even started, and I was having bad flashbacks of last year. Not good. As I watched Qualifying with a blank look on my face, I heard the PA announce for me to head back to the Falken pit.
Darren McNamara had just put down a strong run, putting him first and in the event. And since Darren and I both run the same motor, Falken went to Darren and asked if he would be willing to give up his second run, allowing us to use his cam sensor on my car to make it into Qualifying. He said yes, which says a lot about Darren as a driver and a teammate. The ASD guys thrashed to swap out the sensor, and finished with only a few cars to go before my turn. I lined up for Qualifying and realized that this was my first run of the day since we missed all of practice and my first Qualifying run. This one pass was my only shot--no pressure! Trying to avoid any mistakes, I laid down a conservative run that put me 13th. Not bad for my one and only run!
My cam sensor made the delivery Saturday, and my car was good to go. I was matched up with Michael Essa for Top 32. He did a very god job, but I was able to move on to the Top 16. Next up was Ryuji Miki. I followed him closely on the first pass, but made a small correction in the horseshoe, so I felt he had an advantage. When I led, I drove as hard as possible. Miki dropped a wheel in the horseshoe and I moved to the Top 8.
Next, would be the battle of the convertible Zs. Talking to Chris Forsberg before the match, we agreed to use the pass cone, which would put on a better show. When I followed, I tried to close in on him, but could only get as close as a car length--we had a clean run. On my turn to lead, I left the line and stalled. Much to my surprise, Chris stopped to wait! That was awesome of him because he could have taken off, ending it for me. We had another clean run but he was closer to me, and moved on. After the battle, I ran over to Chris to thank him for waiting at the line. He said that it happened to him once, but the other driver didn't wait, and he told himself that he would never do that to anyone. Pretty badass of him!
All in all, it was a good event. I learned a lot about the Z, and we made a lot of progress, but there is still room for improvement. We also got a good amount of points by making it to the Top 8. Most importantly, I learned how awesome people are in drifting. Big thanks to Darren for helping me make it into the competition, and to Chris for putting the show first. Actions like these make drifting so unique and different to other motorsports--I'm proud to be part of it!
Despite a Top 16 knockout in Long Beach, Chris Forsberg qualified First in his Nissan 350Z, leaving him Sixth overall for the season. One of the most talented drifters in Formula D, when Chris is on his A-game there's no telling what he can do. But beyond skills, Chris has something not every driver has or can ever learn: class.
Where do I begin? Atlanta is such an up and down track for us! At the inaugural Formula D in 2004, we earned Second Place. In 2005, we had insane drivetrain issues where we broke everything behind the tranny . . . twice, leaving us with a Top 16 finish. 2006 saw the debut of the Titan-powered 350Z, and it did not go well--we made it through the course without spinning maybe three times, resulting in a Top 16 finish as well. In 2007, we came back with a First place, followed by a Top 16 knockout in 2008. Which leaves us with 2009 and another First Place finish!
The weekend started out great. We got into town early and headed up to Charlotte, NC for Kyle Busch's birthday party with NOS. From there, we headed back to the track to get ready for the weekend. A lot of new faces showed up, like D.A. aces Wilkerson and Wagner, and the other guys who couldn't make it out to Long Beach.
Friday's practice session for qualifying started off smooth for the most part. Going into practice however, the judges started to push the starting line back to see how fast we could go into the first turn. They moved the start line back four times with only a few minutes left in practice, and now, my gearing was too short for the straightaway! Without changing the rear end, I had to think fast since I had one pass left before Qualifying. I jumped back in line and changed up my entry style allowing me to enter earlier. It worked out, and I made it through Qualifying tied for 11th. Not bad.
Saturday started late, so we got to cruise into the track around 11 a.m. My spotter Blair and I worked on how to watch the other drivers, and our communication was great throughout the entire ladder. My first matchup was against Chris Kregorian. Chris was getting through the course, but his lines were not very consistent, so I had to be cautious while chasing him. Good thing too, because when I chased him into the first corner, he overshot the clip and went off-track. I had to grab the handbrake and try to maintain drift as he jumped back on course in front of me! I finished the run clean and was awarded the win!
Moving to the Top 16, I saw that Samuel Hubinette was next--I wasn't very excited to have to run Sam so early in the competition. The new Top 32 format really tests the drivers earlier on! I had to chase on the first pass, so I knew I had to get on the gas quick to keep up with him down the hill. He still pulled three car lengths on me, but I was able to catch up in the horseshoe. On my lead lap, Sam was very close to me throughout the run, so the judges gave us a One More Time. We paired off again, and this time, I jumped on the throttle a little sooner since Sam was hardly giving me the pace cone. He still pulled two car lengths before the first corner, and once again, I had to fight through the course to get door-to-door with him in the horseshoe. On the lead lap, Sam, once again, is all over me and the judges call for another OMT! This time, on my chase run, I launched down the hill like it was Qualifying. He still had no trouble driving 800 hp of Viper faster than me down the hill. We entered the course, and this time through the horseshoe, I was so close to him that I got a little choked up at the top clipping point. I was told that Sam slowed from his average of 38 mph, to a crawling 30 mph exiting the horseshoe. The judges counted it against Sam. On my lead lap, I drove down the hill as hard as I could, threw the car in, and as I got on the throttle . . . boom! Sam hit the side of my car! My head hit the roll cage and my car spun to a stop. Despite the crash, the Z seemed OK, since he missed the wheel/suspension. I was good to go.
Top 8 was another interesting matchup: Tyler McQuarrie in the Falken convertible 350Z. I lead first and threw down a nice clean run. On my chase lap, the lights dropped and I hit the gas. I immediately noticed that Tyler was not moving, so I jumped on the brakes about two car lengths ahead. I looked over my shoulder and saw the car shake and lunge forward. I got back on the throttle and we tore through the course for another tight chase . . . I had the win! After the round, Tyler and his crew chief came over and thanked me for my sportsmanship. I gladly replied that it wasn't a problem. The same thing happened to me in the past, and I promised myself that I would never do that to anyone else. I don't want a win by default.
We were now in the Top 4--two chances for podium! Fellow D.A. members Ryan Tuerck and Joon Maeng were there with me! I first went against Tuerck, who just came off his Long Beach win. We both knew it was going to be a fair match, so we just drove as hard as we could. In the end, I was awarded the win, and headed for the finals! Darren McNamara defeated Joon in the semis and it had just become a 2007 rematch! In my first chase lap, I tried to stay super close and the run seemed even. On my lead lap, I made a huge mistake and mis-shifted the car in the horseshoe! I thought it was over, but Darren followed that with a spin in the last corner . . . he was so close to taking the win! Next lap, I chased again and didn't hold back--I was door-to-door all the way around the horseshoe and down the hill. During my lead, I just tried to lay down a clean lap. I punched the Z into Third so hard, I thought the tranny was going to fall out. I didn't miss this time. Afterwards, the officials told us to go to the horseshoe where they would announce the winner. When they called my name it was one of the best feelings I've had in a very long time.
Next stop is Wall, NJ--hometown for me and many of my friends. Can't wait!
Nos Energy Drink
Rd 2. Results
1. Chris Forsberg
2. Darren McNamara
3. Ryan Tuerck