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KMC Super Drift Challenge 2015 Photo Gallery

Night drifting at the Long Beach GP; Conrad Grunewald takes win, Forrest Wang redeemed with podium finish

Apr 21, 2015

For a third year, Formula D (FD) put on the Super Drift Challenge on turns 9, 10 and 11 of the Grand Prix of Long Beach street circuit during the GP weekend, this time with KMC Wheels as the event's title sponsor (in previous iterations Motegi Racing has backed the event). Again the competition featured a $25,000 prize purse and took place just a week after FD held round one of its pro championship, although Super Drift is strictly speaking a one-off and has nothing to do with the series' title fight. It has provided a new level of thrills for teams and fans, as the high-powered, sliding competitors have to traverse the course at night, under lights brought in just for the affair.

Formula D Long Beach 2015 Mega Photo Gallery

Introductions 2 Photo 2/58   |   Introductions 2

Only 13 entries signed up for Top 16 qualifying on Friday, which wasn't optimal but Formula Drift made the situation work as best it could. Things got slightly worse before they got better, with Alec Hohnadell in the supercharged LS3 Get Nuts Lab S14 and Joon Maeng in the 2JZ-GTE Lucas Oil Z4 failing to record a score due to vehicle issues. Dean Kearney in the Oracle Lighting Viper also scored a zero, unable to make a pull due to a blown motor.

Viper Photo 6/58   |   Viper

Luckily all three got a second chance. While technically failing to qualify, FD allowed the trio to advance to tandem eliminations; notably, Kearney's team remarkably dropped in a new motor overnight. Of those who did make a pass, Forrest Wang in his backup car, the turbo 2JZ-motivated Get Nuts Lab S14, landed atop the order with a high score of 94, the second week in a row he managed to out-qualify the field.

2015 KMC Super Drift Challenge
Top 16 Qualifying Order
1. Forrest Wang - 94
2. Justin Pawlak - 89
3. Odi Backhis - 84
4. Conrad Grunewald - 81
5. Charles Ng - 79
6. Robbie Nishida - 75
7. Michael Essa - 70
8. Kyle Mohan - 68
9. Jeff Jones - 66
10. Brandon Wicknick - 65
11. Dean Kearney - 0
12. Alec Hohnadell - 0
13. Joon Maeng - 0

S14 SC300 Photo 10/58   |   S14 SC300

On Saturday, the three top qualifiers - Wang, Justin Pawlak in the Roush Performance Mustang and Odi Bakchis in the Feal Suspension ARK Performance Genesis Coupe - were given first-round byes. The rest of the pack matched up thusly:

2015 KMC Super Drift Challenge
Tandem Battles
Forrest Wang vs. BYE
Kyle Mohan vs. Jeff Jones
Conrad Grunewald vs. Joon Maeng
Charles Ng vs. Alec Hohnadell
Justin Pawlak vs. BYE
Michael Essa vs. Brandon Wicknick
Odi Bakchis vs. BYE
Robbie Nishida vs. Dean Kearney

SC300 rear damage Photo 14/58   |   SC300 Rear Damage

While in some respects the Super Drift Challenge is an exhibition, it didn't stop any of the drivers from letting it all hang out on the track. The competition was fierce; at one point during the round of eight, Bakchis chasing Robbie Nishida's Achilles Radial SC300 came in way too hot and made contact, sending both cars careening backwards into the outside tire barrier just past the entry to turn 10. The damage to Nishida's Lexus looked far worse than it probably was, but it definitely wasn't what the driver needed heading into the next two rounds of eliminations.

G37 Maxxis Photo 18/58   |   G37 Maxxis

In fact, with his banged up SC Nishida managed to first eliminate Pawlak and then limp into the event final. However, he was no match for Conrad Grunewald in the AE Performance / Replay Camera Camaro, who muscled his way to victory. A round earlier Wang tried to take out Grunewald but had to retire with car issues before their One More Time tiebreaker; still, with the top qualifying spot, Wang was able to secure third place for the second year straight, perhaps making up for his way-early exit a week prior in round one.

Wang Grunewald Nishida champagne Photo 22/58   |   Wang Grunewald Nishida Champagne

Amazingly, this was Grunewald's first FD win since 2011. He and the rest of the Formula D circus now sets sites on round two of the pro championship, on tap for May 8 and 9 at Road Atlanta in Braselton, Georgia.

Camaro side Photo 26/58   |   Camaro Side
S13 Photo 42/58   |   S13
Camaro SC300 Photo 58/58   |   Camaro SC300
Bob Hernandez
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