The 2010 Formula D season is coming to a close, with the penultimate event held September 10-11 at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, CA. It's the heart of wine country-sleepy, quiet, laid back, but for these lords of lateral labor, it was anything but. The battle for First is still very much alive, and who will stand on those three podium steps is anyone's guess.
It's not looking like last year's champ will be repeating this year. But that's not going to stop Chris Forsberg from fighting tooth and nail for every single match-up. And that's why everybody loves him-he's passionate to the end. That, and the fact that he's a super cool dude; a real class act. He's the nicest guy who'll ever kick your ass drifting.
Sonoma was a short weekend in comparison to all our other events, being that it is just a short drive up to San Fran, and Thursday practice wasn't available at this track like at the others. That being said, I'm glad we debuted our new Nissan Motorsports engine at the previous round in Vegas because we would not have had the time to make adjustments with the few runs we had on Friday before Qualifying.
Our first lap of Qualifying is always pretty straightforward-push hard, get a clean run in, and go nuts on the second lap. However, our first pass put us in Second place, and held all the way through the second round! I still pushed hard on the second run, trying for a backwards entry, but went slightly off course and threw off the run, along with our hopes for claiming the top qualifying spot.
But landing in the second spot put us in a great position for tandem, because we would pretty much be leading first in all our runs. Our first match-up was with Matt Field, who is a rookie to Formula Drift this year. He was driving the course very well for his first time out, but made a few mistakes on his lead run, which gave us the win to move onto Top 16. Our next pairing was against my Drift Alliance brother Joon Maeng. His new ride with Bergenholtz Racing has proven helpful to his recent success. He has adapted to the new car rather well and has been much higher in the rankings since he parked his Nissan S13. Our first run was smooth and simple. I lead and stuck to my line. I knew Joon's driving style was similar to mine, so on the chase run I pushed to drive close and not let his car get away from ours. We stuck together through the course and took the win. Our third match-up was with James Deane. He was driving very well and had a high entry speed. We both ran a good lead run and close chase runs, so the judges ruled a One More Time. Our next lead run was solid and James stayed close behind, so to get an advantage, I would have to get even closer. On my chase run, I entered into the first corner with only a few feet between our cars. I was able to slowly pull in closer to his car through the braking zone, and with only inches between our fenders, we both jumped to the throttle and cleared the rest of the course. The judges gave me the win! We were now in the Final Four.
After we cooled the car down and got back to the start line, I was told we'd be facing Vaughn Gittin Jr. in the Semi-Finals. After I had a moment to think, I realized that the two of us weren't the only Drift Alliance members still remaining; Ryan Tuerck had also reached the Semis. Holy crap, it could be a podium sweep! The only thing standing between us and our longtime dream of having the three of us up there together was Tanner Foust. It would be no easy task, being that he would have to lose twice. Tuerck ran through the course and won his round, putting Tanner in the consolation spot, which meant it would be either JR or myself who would have to face Tanner for that last step on the podium. I led against JR with a solid, clean run. On the follow, I wanted to keep the gaps close to insure my win. As we entered into the course and started to slow down, I realized that we were both on the brakes pretty hard. At this point, I tried to follow JR as best as I could. He dropped into the dirt on the outer clipping point, and I did the same. But my car spun to a stop, which gave Vaughn the win. Now it was up to me to defeat Tanner.
Tanner's car is fast, so I tried to beat him with angle; my first pass I threw the car as hard as I could and went past the lock, sliding into the first corner with all four tires screaming. I was able to pull the car out and continued through the course! This was about as hard as I could run the Sonoma course, but on the follow run, Tanner pulled a couple car lengths on me as we entered into the first corner. I was unable to catch up and remained about three car lengths behind for the entire run. The judges rightly gave Tanner the win and I took Fourth-an awesome finish that I would be super happy with in any other circumstance, but I have to admit, I was sad to see us get so close to sweeping the podium only to miss it. We'll get 'em next time!
Nos Energy Drink
Vaughn Gittin, Jr.
Vaughn Gittin Jr. is killing it this year. He holds the points lead going into the final event, and with Dai only a few points behind, he has no intention of conceding anything. Falken's poster child, JR, along with his beast of a Mustang, came to Sonoma ready to give it his all. Can he bring his "A" game? Is he in it to win it? Can he leave it all on the track? Is there truth to the rumors that his hat size has increased alongside it all? These and other hackneyed sports questions are answered below.
What a crazy weekend-where do I even start? Heading into Sonoma still leading the Formula Drift series in points felt incredible. However, this event was very important in the chase, with Dai nipping at my heals and Tanner still within reach. I knew I had to bring my "A" game and not let them gain any points on me. During practice my team and I got the Mustang dialed in. My first battle was with Ken Gushi, which was kind of ironic because he used to drive a Mustang as well. It was a good battle, but in the end I came out victorious.
In the Top 16 I was paired up against Dean Kearney; this was the first time I had ever battled him. On the first run he spun behind me, and on the second run he parked it at the first clipping point for some unknown reason, forcing me to hit him. The judges reviewed the tape and unanimously agreed it was his fault for slowing down too much. I moved on to the Great Eight to battle Frederic Aasbo.
Aasbo is a killer. We battled twice this year and my record against him is one win and one loss. I wasn't letting him have it this time! I stuck to his door like glue when following and was able to pull a large gap when leading. At the final clip, I knew I had won and the judges confirmed!
I was moving onto the Final Four to battle my Drift Alliance brother and 2009 Champion Chris Forsberg. We hadn't had a good, clean, heads-up battle. I knew I had to do something serious to advance from this battle. I entered inches from his door and he carried a great, aggressive, fast line for the entire course. I was able to stay right with him. When I led I entered hard and fast; Chris followed me in a bit faster. I dropped two tires and he went a bit deeper than me, causing him to spin and allowing me to advance into the Finals to face another Drift Alliance brother-Ryan Tuerck.
Tuerck was on fire all weekend. He even knocked out Dai early, which made me extremely happy. Hey, if I can't do it myself, I'm glad one of my bros can show me up and do it! I knew I had a serious battle on my hands. I have battled and beat Tuerck three times this year and I was determined not to let it change this round. I chased him in so close I thought we were going to hit multiple times, but because he is such a clean, "go hard" kind of driver, it all worked out. When I led, I was able to pull a slight gap on him.
I knew it was going to be a close call but when we were brought up in front of the audience and my name was announced, I literally fell to the ground and started screaming. This season has simply been unbelievable. ASD has done an amazing job on the 2011 Monster Energy/Falken Tire Ford Mustang and our communication and process for attacking events is incredible. We are still leading the Championship and I do not want to wake up from this dream I have been living since April! See you in Irwindale!"
Vaughn Gittin Jr.