Evergreen Speedway in Monroe, WA, was the setting for this season's fourth installment of oversteer overkill. Good weather, a packed house, a fast, banked track, and plenty of rubber going up in smoke. Oh, and if you ever see Taka Aono and want to wish him luck, don't use that famous theatrical saying, "Break a leg." He really won't thank you for it, as Charles Ng explains to the right.
One of this year's privateer newbies is Charles "Kaki" Ng. This 25-year-old comes from Hong Kong and his Formula D machine is a '91 Mazda RX-7. But needing more torque than a factory rotary engine can provide, there's a 420hp Corvette LS6 V-8 engine under the hood. So far, it's been working pretty well for him.
Coming from pure street racing in Hong Kong and Asian Touring Cars, moving to California and winning the Skip Barber USA MX-5 Cup and some time-attack stuff, I made a big transition last year into competing at the Formula D Pro-Am. I won the regional event at Irwindale and got my license at the Nationals. This year, I have signed on for a full season of Formula D professional competition, and I'm currently leading the Rookie of the Year points table. Although few people have seen the hard work and determination behind those times, things seem to be working out . . . fingers crossed.
Round Four of Formula D in Seattle is a high-speed, banked oval circuit mixed with some technical turns in the infield. As a rookie, I had not driven or even seen the course before. My team and I arrived on Tuesday, unloaded the trailer, walked the track, took some notes, and got a rough taste of what the driving part would be like. However, we couldn't practice until Thursday, so we spent time cruising around the city on Wednesday and doing some prep work.
Thursday practice went well. Entry to the bank is taken in Fourth gear, and since it was the first time I was driving on 275/35-18 Nitto NT05s, I didn't know how the tires would react to a banked oval. To be on the safe side, we increased tire pressures just to make sure the car would break loose at the long bank, and gradually lowered them to find the right level where we could do the whole bank in style, with speed, and get enough grip for the infield at the same time.
In Friday's qualifying session, I was pretty confident about riding close to the wall. I ran close In my first pass, made a good transition into the infield, reduced speed a little to take the wide line, and clipped the late apex at the second-to-last corner. However, I overshot it with a little too much speed and angle, causing me to lift at the last hairpin, which meant a big deduction in points. On my second pass, I took a gangster line at the bank, rode the wall and made a quick and smooth transition into the infield and rode the outer wall closer than ever. Suddenly, the rear lost traction and I spun. I heard later that there was oil on the track and a couple of other drivers also ended up falling victim to it. All in all, it was enough to qualify for the main show on Saturday.
In Top 32, I was up against Taka Aono, a well respected FD veteran in his turbo AE86. He led first. Coming off the bank, I went a little wide and created too much of a gap. Taka made a mistake in the next corner, giving me an opportunity to catch up through the last corners. When I was leading, I ran a high line at the bank, right against the wall. I felt great and was smooth throughout the whole course, but when I finished and looked back, I didn't see Taka. He had tapped the wall in the bank, badly. He not only damaged his car but also broke his leg. He says he will try his best to make the next round in Vegas. Get well soon, Taka-san!
After driver introduction, I was matched with Seattle's local drift star Nikolay Konstantinov. He is a great driver and had a lot of supporters. And his car was probably the only one in the Top 16 whose speed I could match. I followed on the first run, on his door the whole way at the bank. We were still close coming off the bank, but we both made some small corrections during the last few transitions. After my lead run, the judges gave us a One More Time. Again, we both drove our A-game and Konstantinov made a mistake at the hairpin on his lead run, so that handed me the move. We both gave each other a thumbs-up in the end. That's sportsmanship.
Great Eight. My first in a professional drift competition! I couldn't believe it-I never expected to move up so far so fast. I went head-to-head with Ryan Tuerck, and I knew it wasn't going to be easy. There's a big power difference between our cars. I tried to stay close and both our runs were decent, making a great show for the crowd, so the judges called a One More Time. We both changed our tires and went at it. I lost. Tuerck kept a smaller gap when he was following. No complaints. I respected the call and congratulate Tuerck for making it all the way to the Final.
I'd like to give a big thanks to those who have believed in me, all my fans and supporters, and to those who continue to support grassroots racing. Formula D is the best drifting series in the world and it has the greatest mix of people and drivers. Last, but not least, thanks to all my sponsors-I couldn't make it without you.
Rising Star Motor
Charles Ng Racing
He travels around the world so much that he probably forgets what country he's in, let alone which town. But who wouldn't want Tanner Foust's life? Driving for films, TV, and taking part in all sorts of cool racing. Then he goes and wins in Washington. Some guys . . .
That was a kick-ass weekend! A great finish to a long 10 days for me. It started in Knoxville with my family, where I water-skied and got pummeled in an inner tube. Then I headed to Sweden for five days of insomnia at the European Rallycross weekend. I finished Third, but was ultimately given Sixth after bumping my teammate over the jump. Either way, 30,000 people camping in a land that never gets dark in the summer makes for an interesting time. Then it was on to Montreal to shoot a Supercars Exposed episode for Speed. I had the pleasure of ripping the new Ferrari 458 Italia around the famed Mont Tremblant track for that show, which was cool. And finally I landed in Seattle at 11 in the morning, one hour before the practice session in Monroe.
We changed the gearing and some suspension settings in the Rockstar/AEM Scion tC to handle the greater torque of this year's TRD V-8. But in hindsight, we really didn't change much from our Wall, NJ, setup. I had a close call in Qualifying when I nearly spun on the first round. As I waited for the chance to run again, we found out my current score wouldn't put me in the Top 32. The pressure was on.
The second run felt pretty good-nothing too crazy-and landed us in Fifth. By this point, the team had already gone through some bumps in the road, trying to come to terms with the fact that I might mess it all up in Qualifying. We were relieved just to be in the show.
The round of 32 is always tricky. I ended up battling Forrest Wang three times and had a hard time matching his lines and speeds. He was quick in some sections and slow in others, but it would change a bit each run. We ended up getting a decision after my crew kept saying on the radio: "Just keep doing what you're doing." It worked and we moved on.
Samuel Hubinette's beast was fast, but our brand-new Hankooks gave me the grip to pull him in a bit and take the win in the round of 16. What came next was one of the most epic battles I've ever had.
Darren McNamara was pretty much the guy to beat, with the highest speeds and most consistent driving. We had three of the hardest, most committed tandem runs I can remember. Neither of us was willing to give an inch. I went 100 percent, as I'm sure he did. It was awesome, the crowds were on their feet screaming. Moving on from that was simply incredible. McNamara and I talked about it afterward over a beer and agreed it was the most fun either of us had had all year.
The final fight was against another little screamer and extremely talented driver, Ryan Tuerck. He led first and I underestimated his entry speed. He ran away a bit, but I caught him by the second turn and had a strong finish. On the lead lap I took the last set of Hankooks we had in the trailer and just trashed them. Everything was working so well, I didn't even need to brake coming off the oval. I just cranked the angle and left the engine screaming at over 9,000 rpm. It was so much fun. Tuerck said he was playing catch-up and overcooked it into the wall.
Thanks to my incredible team, all the companies plastered across my car for giving us what we need to go out there and win, and to all my fans for their undying support. See you all in Vegas!
Round 4 Results
1. Tanner Foust
2. Ryan Tuerck
3. Darren McNamara