Think of Formula D’s second round at Georgia’s Road Atlanta like that first semester in college—kick-back and nowhere near as stressful as the second one, when you have to bust ass and pick up your grades. After a busy season opener in Long Beach each year, Round 2 in “Hotlanta” is easily one of the more relaxed, easygoing events, making the track a favorite among drivers, photographers, and spectators alike. Its downhill drag-race entry breeds triple-digit speeds, drifters battle to kick up the signature orange clay lining the track without going off, and celebrate creatively as they wait for a tow out of the “kitty litter” that guards the cars from walls when they do. This year was just a little bit different.
Most notably were the new faces and cars. Fans who missed Ryan Tuerck and his tried-and-true Solstice at the Round 1: Long Beach event got to see both in Atlanta: Ryan in his new Chevy-sponsored Camaro, having handed down the roadster to Eric O’Sullivan. Norwegian champ Kenneth Moen’s story is similar: The past repeat-champ AEM 350Z he bought from Tanner Foust got held up in customs for LBC (probably at the port of Long Beach to add insult to injury), but made its debut in Atlanta, joining fellow countryman Fredric Aasbo who traded his Supra for what might very well have been Foust’s new tC.
Of interesting note is the qualifying order. While qualifying high earns points, winning an event earns more, and one of the often-stated difficulties with qualifying high is that you’re paired with a low qualifier come Top 32 competition, whose speeds and lines are often unpredictable and hard to match. A look at the middle of the qualifying grid in Atlanta reveals a lot of the big names we’ve come to associate with winning—coincidence?
Top 32 began with number-one qualifier Conrad Grunewald (Camaro) handing 32-seated underdog John Russakoff (Hachi) the advance (see?), and continued with Eric O’Sullivan smashing into Kyle Mohan’s RX-8 (a result of Mohan blowing a rad hose . . . and his chances of success), Michael Essa’s Z4 sliding into Pat Mordaunt, Taka Aono blowing his 2AZ motor during a burnout, and assorted other carnage.
Top 16 continued with Russakoff lucking out again, this time when Waldin lost momentum at the top of the course in his Helix 350Z, allowing his 32-seated challenger to advance to Top 8. More crashing occurred in Top 16 when Matt Powers plowed his Need for Speed S14 into Darren McNamara hard enough to dislodge his Sky’s door for the remainder of a very stylish run. Still, the WTF moment of the event occurred during Gushi versus Mordaunt, when Gushi’s tC broke at the line, giving a bye run advance to Mordaunt—a run during which Mordaunt blew his 350Z’s motor and went del fuego, earning the advance, but leaving him unable to continue to Top 8, allowing Toshiki Yoshioka and his Retaks (or “Skater” on the flip side) S13 to take his place.
Top 8: Russakoff versus Chris Forsberg. Russakoff advanced yet again when Forsberg uncharacteristically spun his 370Z during his follow run. Russakoff would go on to spin in his final-round run against Dai Yoshihara. You might have noticed that we’ve been quiet about Dai this whole time. There’s a reason: He drove the Discount Tire/Falken S13 flawlessly throughout the entire event. After his Russakoff win, he moved on take down D-Mac, earning his second Atlanta win and fifth overall in his career. Now only a few points from the top, something tells us Dai won’t be slacking off next semester.
Formula D Round 2:
1st: Daijiro Yoshihara
2nd: Darren McNamara