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2012 Formula Drift Round 2: Road to the Championship

Road Atlanta

Scott Tsuneishi
Oct 22, 2012
Photographer: Henry Z. DeKuyper
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Formula Drift Round 2 “Road to the Championship” was jam-packed with near sold-out crowds, thrilling drifting, and top driver upsets we’ve become accustomed to at the start of the new 2012 season. Prior to the event, the drifting community was blindsided with news that the city of ATL had approved an ordinance to ban drifting from stadiums and venues within 1,200 feet from residential areas. Luckily, round two of Formula D continued without incident due to its off-city location, but that didn’t stop the crowds of fans to show strong support for saving drifting and protesting the deliberate targeting of their favorite sport within the city of ATL.

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Formula Drift at Road Atlanta for 2012 brought a few new changes to the course, including the layout of the famed Turn 10 complex layout. Instead of going through the “horseshoe” in a counterclockwise direction, the FD staff reversed the configuration. The new 2012 layout required going up and around the horseshoe instead of turning in first. The change in configuration wasn’t a problem for the larger horsepower cars, but seemed to cause problems for the smaller displacement engines, which struggled to keep momentum and speed to climb the hill. Another addition to the course was vehicle proximity sensors, which flash to let both judges and fans know if a competitor comes within distance to trigger the sensors.

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Top 32 Qualifying

The Top 32 was full of upsets including a surprise victory by Toshiki Yoshioka in the RS-R Silvia, who won by default due to NOS Energy Drink/Hankook 370Z driver and former FD champion Chris Forsberg breaking a right front suspension arm upon entry on the rumble strips. Forsberg’s team called a 5-minute session but couldn’t get it repaired in time to take his second run. Another stellar upset included Joon Maeng in the Nitto/Lucas Oil Mazda RX-8 taking out the Mobil 1 Camaro of Tyler McQuarrie, but the biggest upset was Ryan Tuerck in his Team Retaks Nissan 240SX defeating reigning champion Dai Yoshihara. Yoshihara in the Discount/Falken Tires S13 showed the crowd why he was the 2011 champion as he pitched his car around the course with textbook drifting in the first of two tandem battles. Tuerck laid it all on the line on the second run and shot out off the line like a cannon as Yoshihara was forced to play catch-up. The judges were obviously impressed and gave Tuerck the overall win. The early round elimination was a surprise blow for Yoshihara and his team, which sent him packing along with dropping his ranking in the championship points contention.

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Great Eight

Michael Essa vs. Justin Pawlak
Michael Essa in the GSR Autosport/Nitto BMW ZR4 took the lead in the first of two battles. He looked strong coming out of the first clipping point, but Justin Pawlak maintained his composure in his Falken Tire Ford Mustang; he kept within a door’s distance of Essa throughout the entire course. It was Pawlak’s turn to take the lead for the second run with Essa giving chase as the Mustang pulled a significant gap between the two competitors. Essa pedaled his car in an attempt to catch up, but in doing so laid down a shallow line approaching the final clip, giving Pawlak the win.

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Joon Maeng vs. Walker Wilkerson
Joon Maeng’s nerves seemed to get the best of him. His super-aggressive lead lap caused the Nitto/Lucas Oil Mazda RX-8 to lose control as he spun into the dirt, narrowly missing the V-LED proximity sensor coming out of the first turn. During the second round it was obvious that the RX-8 car had suffered damage from the previous run; it drifted wildly through the course, eventually coming into contact with Walker Wilkerson’s Falken Tire/Fatlace S13 240SX driver-side door. The hit was an automatic disqualification, and Wilkerson moved on to the Final Four.

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Daigo Saito vs. Aurimas “Odi” Bakchis
Into the second run, Bakchis in his Team M7/ Bakchis Motorsports Nissan S14 overcooked a turn and went wide as the S14 dropped two tires into the dirt. Bakchis quickly recovered as he attempted to navigate through a thick plume of smoke created by Daigo Saito’s Achilles Tire/Bridges Racing Lexus SC430. Saito bobbled near the end of the run, but had enough points for a two-to-one judges decision and moved into the Final Four.

Fredric Aasbo vs. Rhys Millen
Up next was Fredric Aasbo in the Need for Speed/Papadakis Racing Scion tC versus Rhys Millen and his Hankook/Rhys Millen Racing Hyundai Genesis coupe, a battle of Norway versus New Zealand. The winner would automatically move on to battle Saito for a podium finish. Aasbo kept his foot firmly planted on the pedal; he poured on the smoke and more drift angle than Millen. The second tandem run had Millen leading with Aasbo playing chase. The Scion tC shadowed the Hyundai Genesis’ every move. Millen was ultimately docked points from the judges when he displayed a shallow run, giving Aasbo the win.

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Final Four

Walker Wilkerson vs. Justin Pawlak
Top contenders Wilkerson and Pawlak kicked off the Final Four with JTP leading in the first of two battles. JTP’s Falken Tire/Ford Mustang is a horsepower beast as it pulls away from Wilkerson’s hybrid-powered Falken Tire/Fatlace S13 240SX V-8 machine. Wilkerson was the first to flinch; he bobbles with a correction coming out of the second clipping point—advantage JTP. Wilkerson’s manages an amazing second run as he perfectly hits every clipping point, but it wasn’t enough to overcome his previous mistakes as JTP moves on with a unanimous win from the judges. Although Wilkerson was eliminated, he still had a chance to take a podium win as he moves into the Third Place consolation round to face Saito, this season’s most feared competitor.

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Fredric Aasbo vs. Daigo Saito
Aasbo displayed a strong run, but Saito wouldn’t give up; he kept close distance to the Norwegian’s door. Saito seemed to have problems all day; he once again overcooks a clipping point and slightly bobbles, causing him to separate from Aasbo for a split second. Both judges and spectators lost sight of both cars on the second run as smoke from both cars blanketed the track. The judges, to the dismay of the fans, gave the victory decision to Aasbo, as he moved into the finals with Saito battling Wilkerson for Third Place contention.

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Daigo Saito vs. Walker Wilkerson
Saito exhibits a textbook run in his 2JZ-powered SC430 as Wilkerson’s S13—even with a V-8 underhood— looked underpowered. The second run, Wilkerson leading and Saito giving chase, looked to be an easy win for Saito, the Asian Series Formula Drift champion, but once again a major correction causes a six to seven car-length gap between the two as the crowd immediately gasps in surprise. With Saito’s costly mistake, the judges determined a one-more-time was necessary. Determined not to make another mistake, Saito smoked his Achilles tires in the elimination round and drifted to another impressive podium and back-to-back Third Place finish.

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Justin Pawlak vs. Fredric Aasbo
Aasbo displayed some monster angle as the lead car over JTP; he easily took an advantage in the first of two tandem battles. JTP was determined to claim another nail-biting victory, but Aasbo had other plans as he mirrored every move the Mustang made. The crowd patiently awaited the results while the judges carefully scrutinized the replay. After an excruciating wait for both fans and drivers, the judges declared JTP the winner as he takes First Place for the second time in two FD events.

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Formula DRIFT Professional Championship 2012 Points standing after two rounds

1 Justin Pawlak 209 points
2 Daigo Saito 157.5 points
3 Fredric Aasbo 152 points
4 Rhys Millen 127 points
5 Matt Powers 126.5 points
6 Ryan Tuerck 120.5 points
7 Dai Yoshihara 118 points
8 Odi Bakchis 117.25 points
9 Ryan Kado 114 points
10 Kyle Mohan 109.5 points
11 Toshiki Yoshioka 108.5 points
12 Michael Essa 97.5 points
13 Vaughn Gittin Jr. 96 points
14 Chris Forsberg 93 points
15 Tyler McQuarrie 88.5 points
16 Kenneth Moen 87.5 points
17 Ken Gushi 86.25 points
17 Joon Maeng 86.25 points
19 Conrad Grunewald 85 points
20 Matt Field 79.25 points
21 Tony Angelo 78.75 points
22 Walker Wilkerson 69.50 points
23 Darren McNamara 50.25 points
24 George Marstanovic 49.25 points
24 Dennis Mertzanis 49.25 points

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By Scott Tsuneishi
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