In this year’s Formula Drift series, every track has been familiar to teams and drivers, however round three was a different story. A month after the dust settled in Road Atlanta, competitors travelled 600 miles south to Jupiter, FL, home of Palm Beach International Raceway.
Surrounded by palm trees, swamps and gators, the facility boasts a world-class road course that’s seen the likes of Indy Car and Grand Am. But on this fine weekend in June, Palm Beach welcomed the world’s top drifters.
With a track layout new to drivers, it felt like rush hour traffic as cars lined up for practice runs all weekend to learn the fast and technical course. There were also Pro/AM competitions taking place giving spectators a full weekend of second-hand tire smoke.
The drivers who mastered the track first were Chris Forsberg, Darren McNamara and Justin Pawlak—all finishing in the top three from Friday’s qualifying round.
On Saturday, the top 32 matchups were a doozy with many veterans and rookies in the mix. One of the more exciting drivers to watch was Samuel Hubinette and his Dodge Challenger. It was Sam’s first appearance of the year after missing Long Beach and Atlanta.
After the first round of eliminations, a couple results shocked us. Current point’s leader Dai Yoshihara made an unexpected mistake, allowing Kyle Mohan to continue to the next round. Also, two rookies rose to the occasion including 19 year-old Ryan Kado and South African Otto Graven—both reached the Top 16.
But as competition transpired into the final two battles, the top four drivers were familiar faces. The battle for number one came between Pawlak and defending champ Vaughn Gittin Jr, while the match for third came between Chris Forsberg and McNamara. A little too much American muscle for our tastes but the level of drifting these guys put on was unmatched.
As the two Mustangs drifted into the night, Pawlak took a unanimous win from the judges. This was Pawlak’s second win of the season after a first place finish in Long Beach.
Pawlak regained the point’s lead while McNamara who finished third moved up to second overall. Round after round, we continue to see our favorite cars rise and fall. With three rounds left, drivers will have to be on point or they might as well pack their bags for the season. You can read about round four at New Jersey elsewhere in this issue.