Formula D's sixth season of competition kicked off on the famed Streets of Long Beach course with sunny weather and intense door-to-door sliding action. Although the course is familiar to many, the slew of new cars and new drivers to the series meant the first round was as wide open as ever. Six of the top 16 drivers sat in new chassis, with another six cars debuting at Long Beach by other drivers. Also new was the top 32 tandem format, which led to plenty of exciting tandem battles on one of the season's tightest courses.
Qualifying was highlighted by a new judging system which emphasizes style and excitement as well as a new face atop the judges' stand. Tony Angelo turned in his driver's suit for 2009 and will be sporting a clipboard atop the judging tower alongside returning judges Ernie Fixmer and Andy Yen. The new system led to lower scores across the board, with Chris Forsberg claiming the top qualifying spot and the only score above 90 (at 93.1 points). Darren McNamara, Tanner Foust, Kazu Hayashida and Justin Pawlak rounded out the top 5 positions. Justin Pawlak started off his '09 season driving for Bergenholtz racing, but was in his familiar FC RX-7 that he drove to the podium at the final event of 2008 at Irwindale-the team's new triple-rotor RX-8 wasn't quite ready for competition.
Perhaps the most hyped debut was Rhys Millen's Hyundai Genesis (which graced our January cover), which qualified 17th but was knocked out in Formula D's inaugural top 32 round by Frenchman Stephan Verdier. Verdier would go on to knock out defending Long Beach champ and top qualifier Chris Forsberg. Verdier's run was cut short by Robbie Nishida in the round of 8, the same round that eliminated Vaughn Gittin Jr.'s inaugural run in his '10 Mustang and Taka Aono's run in his first year as a privateer in his AE86 Corolla.
Other big debuts came from defending champion Tanner Foust's NASCAR V-8-powered Scion tC, Tyler McQuarrie's V-8-powered 350Z convertible, Kyle Mohan's 13B-powered RX-8, and Ross Petty's BOSO Garage S15. The rookie class of 2009 looks to be as strong as ever, as international champions Katsuhiro Ueo and Eric O'Sullivan made their debuts in Long Beach, with ProAm graduates Jeff Jones, Matt Powers, Michael Essa, Matt Waldin, Jodin Lejeune and Carl Ryquist all starting off their professional careers in Long Beach. Ueo and Jones both finished in the top 16 at their inaugural event, with Powers, Waldin, Ryquist, Waldin and O'Sullivan all making the top 32 cut.
As the competition narrowed to the final 4, some familiar names rose to the top. Robbie Nishida's spin late in the course guaranteed Samuel Hübinette's first final round of the season while Ryan Tuerck's newly built Gardella Racing Solstice took two one-more-time rounds with Tanner Foust's new Rockstar Scion tC before finally moving into the final round. Before the title could be decided, Foust and Nishida faced off in another matchup that went through two sudden-death rounds before Foust claimed the lowest spot on the podium. In the final match-up, Tuerck was able to defeat Hübinette for his first career event win and only his second career podium to lead the championship race, which heads to Atlanta for the second round.
|1||Ryan Tuerck||Gardella Racing / Mobil 1 Solstice||102|
|2||Sam Hübinette||NuFormz Racing / Mopar Dodge Viper||90|
|3||Tanner Foust||Rockstar / Hankook / Scion Racing tC||84|
|4||Robbie Nishida||Hankook Tires / Dynamic Autosport 350Z||72|
|5||Taka Aono||Technosquare Toyota AE86 Corolla||65|
|T6||Tony Brakohiapa||Cooper Tires Team X Ford Mustang||62|
|T6||Chris Forsberg||NOS Energy Drink Maxxis Tires 350Z||62|
|T6||Vaughn Gittin Jr.||Falken Tires Ford Racing '10 Mustang||62|
|T6||Stephan Verdier||Cooper Tires / Crawford Performance STi||62|
|10||Darren McNamara||Falken Tires Sears Saturn Sky||61|
|11||Justin Pawlak||Bergenholtz Racing Cooper Tires Mazda RX-7||58|
|12||Conrad Grunewald||Tanaka Racing Chevy Corvette||57|
|13||Quoc Ly||Driftspeed Nissan S14||56|
|14||Katsuhiro Ueo||Driftspeed Nissan S15||55|
|15||Jeff Jones||Comp Turbo / K&N Filters Nissan S13||54.50|
|16||Yasu Kondo||Kaaaz USA Toyota AE86 Corolla||54.25|