The Formula D machine rolled into Wall New Jersey for the second last event of the ’06 season with all guns blazing. The weather was perfect – hovering in the high 70s all weekend and the massive East coast crowd was hungry for smokin’ sideways action. And you know Formula D never disappoints.
Most drivers were hitting the first corner in third gear carrying wicked speed throughout. While it was all smiles for the fans, there was a big serving of heartache in store for more than a few teams. Team Falken’s Taka Aono went wide on the high speed bank on the first corner in qualifying and bit hard into the wall. Taka was unhurt, and the Falken boys got the car back together, but unfortunately he failed to qualify. Stephan Papadakis stuffed the AEM S2K into the wall and also failed to qualify. Team Enjuku was back in full force wearing Cooper Tires and Rob Fleming piloted the red S13 to a solid 13th spot in qualifying. The big surprise came from Bill Sherman in the 240 TA (S13 with Trans Am front end) who was on fire, tearing up the track with big smoke and sick angles to grab the 12th spot. Tanner Faust was out for blood and snatched up the pole position. The rest of the field was filled out by Hubinette, Millen, McQuarrie, Gittin, Yoshihara, Gushi, Canul, Forsberg, Yamanaka, Okubo, Sumida, Yamamoto and Nishida.
Into the top 16, Faust walked the AEM 350Z all over Robbie Nishida and moved on. Forsberg was back in the 350Z8 convertible and moved on past Casper Canul. A momentus battle followed between Fleming and McQuarrie. After the judges were forced to call a One More Time, McQuarrie squeaked out a win in the RS*R S2000. Bill Sherman had to square off against JR and unfortunately for him, he just couldn’t match the big guy’s speed and smoke and had to call it a day. Yamamoto, behind the wheel of the Falken FD, spun against Hubinette and handed over the win. In a controversial bout between Gushi and Yamanaka, the judges called for a One More Time after what seemed to be a clear victory for the JIC-Magic S15. Yamanaka persevered and put the Toyo Mustang on the trailer and headed on to the Top 8. In the shock of all shocks, Millen blew the diff on the Red Bull GTO and put his 2006 championship run essentially out of reach. Hiro Sumida cruised on uncontested. Dai Yoshihara dropped out of the power band in his run against Yokinobu Okubo in the Signal S13 and had to watch the rest of the event from the sidelines.
In the first match up of the Top 8, Forsberg’s 350Z8 suffered some sort of mechanical failure and Faust coasted by with the win. Tyler McQuarrie spun trying to outpace the Falken Mustang and JR couldn’t avoid a collision. The damage seemed mostly cosmetic and both cars were back after the five minutes allotted to make repairs. McQuarrie just could not survive the JR onslaught and was eliminated. After an amazing first battle, Yamanaka drove off course, allowing Hubinette to pass him up and move on. Hiro’s battered Chaser squared off against the Signal S13, but the 1JZ engine was not running well. Hiro opted to head to the pits and make some quick adjustments. His efforts paid off as Okubo’s car seemed to come apart trying to keep up with the now-faster Chaser sedan.
In the first battle of the semi final round Faust and JR had a coming together of sorts – the expensive kind! Faust moved on with some incredible driving to secure a spot in the finals. Hiro vs. Hubinette was a lopsided battle and Sam marched on to meet Faust. In the concession round, JR looked poised to take the third spot on the podium, but after a great first round, he spun in the second – giving the trophy and points to Hiro. Faust was on top of his game, mastering the 350Z and matching Hubinette move for move and drift for drift. The Mopar Viper was just too much for Faust and he had to settle for a very well-deserved second place. All in all you couldn’t have asked for a better event – there were thrills, chills and definitely plenty of spills! It’s all shaping up for an intense final round in Irwindale. Be there!