The Formula Drift championship once again returned to “The Gauntlet”, otherwise known as Wall Speedway, located in Wall Township, NJ. During Friday practice, the track was blindsided by a monsoon that destroyed tents, damaged cars, and wreaked enough havoc to cancel Top 32 practice. With the weather cleared up for Saturday’s event, the drivers went to work slowly chipping the competitors down to the Great 8, which included Ryan Tuerck, Matt Powers, Conrad Grunewald, Tyler McQuarrie, JR Vaughn Gittin, Justin Pawlak, Dai Yoshihara, and Chris Forsberg.
The Great 8 showcased last year’s Wall winner, Dai Yoshihara, in his V-8 powered Discount Tire Falken 240SX squaring off against Chris Forsberg. Both fans and judges immediately noticed that the often-consistent Forsberg had serious problems with his NOS 370Z as the Nissan lost control and smashed into the embankment wall. A quick 5-minute rule allowed the team to tow the 370Z back into the pits in an attempt to repair the mangled mess. To the surprise of everyone, the team was able to return to the starting grid, but unattended suspension damage proved to be too much for Forsberg to overcome and Yoshihara moved on to the Final Four.
The Final Four matched Grunewald versus Tuerck and Yoshihara versus Pawlak. Grunewald and Tuerck faced off in an all-Chevy showdown with Tuerck in the Gardella Racing/Mobil 1/Red Bull Camaro falling victim to the same wall that took out Forsberg in the previous round. With severe damage to the Camaro, Tuerck eventually conceded the round, giving Grunewald the automatic win and placing him in his first finals of the year.
After a disappointing Round 3 elimination in Palm Beach, FL, Yoshihara returned to the Final Four to face Pawlak in the Falken-sponsored Mustang. With Pawlak currently sitting in First Place in the points standings and Yoshihara a close Third‚ with only 37 points separating the two, this matchup proved critical for both competitors. Showcasing their exceptional drift skills, the drivers mirrored each other’s movement to perfection after the first of two rounds, but it was Yoshihara who was caught sleeping on his second run, giving the advantage and eventual win to Pawlak. Because of Pawlak’s previous vehicle damage in the Final Four, Yoshihara was awarded a Third Place podium finish.
The final round consisted of a classic Chevy versus Ford battle as Grunewald in his Hankook/Chevy Camaro and Pawlak jousted in a back-and-forth battle. Grunewald wasted no time in striking first, taking the first round. The second round was too close to call as the fans roared in favor of Pawlak, but the split decision call was awarded to Grunewald in his first career Formula D win and second podium in the series.
Formula D travels to Monroe, WA, for Round 5 at Evergreen Speedway with only three events left to crown this year’s champion.