The 2019 Formula DRIFT pro drifting championship roared to life over the weekend, the sweet song of 2JZ, LS V-8, and other wound up power plant platforms echoing off the surrounding downtown high rises, the fog of burnt up tires billowing up from the Long Beach Convention Center parking lot. Southern California offered up perfect weather for the season opener, and after Friday narrowed 36 drivers down to 32, Saturday’s head-to-head tandem battles unspooled in front of a packed house, where Aurimas “Odi” Bakchis muscled his Falken Tire Nissan S14 240SX past the competition to claim round one of the season championship.
Bakchis qualified in fifth and drew Federico Sceriffo in his Ferrari 599 GTB for their Top 32 tandem battle, who many will recall caught on fire last year at this very event. No such dramatics this year, as Odi triumphed and next faced in Top 16 2013 Formula D drivers champ Mike Essa in his Essa Autosport BMW E46, and then came Bakchis’s arguably toughest challenger, Falken teammate Justin Pawlak in the Roush Performance Ford Mustang. That Great 8 match went to a One-More-Time tiebreaker, with Odi ultimately emerging on top to next go against yet another FD heavy hitter in the Final 4, its only three-time champion Chris Forsberg in the now VR38-powered NOS Energy Drink Nissan 370Z. Bakchis last drew style king and fan-favorite Forrest Wang in the Get Nuts Lab 2JZ S15 Silvia, an amazing fight but Odi was the clear winner in a unanimous decision.
This is Odi’s second Long Beach podium – he finished second here in 2015 in the ARK Performance Hyundai Genesis Coupe – since joining FD in 2011. The Lithuanian driver who currently resides in Wrightwood, Calif. is always right in contention and can never be counted out, and hopefully this early win will be a sign of things to come this year. His final with Forrest Wang also represents a win for the little guy, in a manner of speaking – smaller teams with much tighter budgets; both Bakchis and Wang came up through local SoCal grassroots and pro-am drifting, so to see them battle it out seemed to really appeal to the fans in the venue. Odi’s Falken Tire team also had a great weekend, with Matt Field putting the teal-and-blue C6 Corvette in the top qualifying position a day earlier.
We’ve got a lot more coverage of Formula D Long Beach 2019 on the way, but for now enjoy this quick gallery of Odi Bachis’s road to success at Round 1.