If we hadn’t been in Long Beach, Calif., on Turns 9, 10, and 11 of the Grand Prix street course this past weekend and seen it with our own eyes we would’ve never believed it – we’re talking about the improbable run of five-time Irish Drift Champion and five-time European Drift champ James Deane behind the wheel of the 2JZ-powered Worthouse Nissan S15 Silvia. In one Saturday afternoon, the Irishman managed to dispatch two Formula DRIFT champions – one who’s got three FD titles to his credit – as well as last season’s Rookie of the Year on his way to winning the first round of the 2017 championship, having not seen any FD action since 2010. Like Wrecked magazine put it ever so plainly: James Deane is here.
He did it by first taking out 2013 champ Mike Essa in the Essa Autosport BMW E46 in Top 16 after receiving a bye for Top 32 for qualifying second a day earlier. In Top 8, current champ and thrice titlist Chris Forsberg in the NOS Energy Drink 370Z fell to Deane, as did Tuerck in the Gumout Toyota 86 in the semifinals. The final against 2016 ROTY Alex Heilbrunn in his IMR E46 was a close one, but after contact in the last hairpin with Heilbrunn on the chase and at fault, Deane earned his first FD win convincingly.
As we outlined in our Falken Tire announcement previously, Deane is part of a Worthouse duo that includes a three-time Polish Champion Piotr Wieck, no slouch in his own right. Wieck, an a matching Worthouse S15, qualified ninth in his FD debut and took out 2016 Long Beach winner Chelsea DeNofa in his new RTR Motorsports BC Racing Ford Mustang in Top 32 before falling in Top 16 to Falken teammate Odi Bakchis in his S14.
If you were a past Formula D champ you had a rough Saturday, none advancing beyond Top 8. Besides Essa’s and Forsberg’s early exits, 2011 champ Dai Yoshihara and the Turn 14 Subaru BRZ got knocked off in Top 32, 2010 champ and Long Beach’s number one qualifier Vaughn Gittin, Jr. in the Monster Energy Mustang was eliminated in Top 16, and 2015 titlist Fredric Aasbo in the Corolla iM got no deeper than the quarterfinals.
Enjoy the photographic documentation of Deane’s path to victory, and for more coverage we’ve got our qualifying day gallery, plus more – including a look at the AutoCon show going on at Formula D Long Beach – in the next few days.