2009 Formula DRIFT Champion Chris Forsberg is not a new face in the scene but a popular one that has grown with the American professional drift series as it has increased in popularity. He is the current series points leader and a consistent threat within the Formula D Championship year after year.
Just recently Forsberg took a 2013 Round 5: Monroe, WA first place. With only two rounds left in this season, “The Force” is headed towards what could be another championship season. We hit him up to find out where his passion for drift began, the current state of Formula D and what it takes to stay competitive.
While learning how to drift I would also go street racing on the highways and I had built a reputation of being the “fast guy” ...
Growing up in Pennsylvania, what was the drift scene like back in the day?
CF: “The scene in Pennsylvania hardly existed back in 1999. Yeah there were a few car guys here and there but it was relatively small and underground. I would read magazines and get all pumped up to build my first car but I did not even know what I wanted yet. I did know that I wanted a turbo import car - hence my oooold screen name ‘importurbo’!”
I did know that I wanted a turbo import car - hence my oooold screen name ‘importurbo’!
Describe your first “drift” car?
CF: “My first car was a 1988 Mazda RX-7 Turbo II. I bought it because I had briefly heard about drifting and it was a very unique and fast rear-wheel drive car. While learning how to drift I would also go street racing on the highways and I had built a reputation of being the “fast guy” in town.
One time we were all rolling together and making a little racket but not speeding, and a cop cut off the lead car and stopped six of us in the middle of the road. He walked up to each of us smacking his hands on the cars while yelling, “Are you done raising hell in my town,” before letting us go. I am pretty sure that was more efficient than giving us some tickets. We laid low for a little while after that.”
Our car is the most powerful naturally aspirated Nissan engine in the world and we are still less than most of the V8s...
Who did you grow up idolizing?
CF: “I did not have too many idols growing up actually. I was really into the fact that my uncles would travel around and go to drag racing events where my grandfather raced so there was some fascination with that. When I got into drifting I thought the D1 guys were amazing and would study their in-car videos to learn how to be a better driver.”
Since coming into Formula D in 2004, how has the competition evolved in America?
CF: “It is hard to comprehend how quickly the competition has grown in America. In a few short years, drivers have been pushing the limits of what is possible in drifting with speed and proximity. The cars have gone from off-the-shelf bolt-on parts to marvels of engineering, literally pulling a front tire off the ground in a turn due to the grip they can generate.
How have pro-level cars evolved since you entered the series?
CF: “The pro-level cars have evolved incredibly since I started running Formula DRIFT in 2004. Everything is bigger and better! But seriously, the horsepower game is insane. Our car is the most powerful naturally aspirated Nissan engine in the world and we are still less than most of the V8s and now there is a large amount of V6 and even four-cylinder engines making more than us. It is time for another change! But with all the horsepower comes the ability to control it through suspension engineering, adjustability, drivetrain strength, and so on.
The cars have gone from off-the-shelf bolt-on parts to marvels of engineering...
A lot of people like to say that our cars are tube frame chassis but in reality they are built to prevent further damage to the chassis during impacts. The competition is now calling on us to run closer and faster than ever, so scrapping the wall is now a standard and pushing against your opponent is normal. Quick release body panels and bash guards keep the cars on track and the sledgehammers in the pit.”
I feel that the competition could be better with more defined rules and by limiting what is allowed to be modified on a car.
What does the series need to expand?
CF: “I feel that the competition could be better with more defined rules and by limiting what is allowed to be modified on a car. It has almost become more of a battle of chassis vs. drivers. Obviously, any driver can still win but due to a mistake of the driver with the better car. It is very difficult for a lower ranked guy to win if both drivers are on point.”
From a privateer standpoint, what would you estimate it costs to run a small competitive team through series?
CF: “See, that right there is part of the problem. There is a big difference between running a small team through the series and being competitive. To run a small team in the series, it is about $30,000. That does not include building and maintaining your car, truck and trailer, or paying for crew. That is the hard cost of just showing up to all of the events with gas and tires. Most drivers will already have their own truck, trailer, car, and a few buddies willing to work for free peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and some amazing stories to tell when they are older.
To run a small team in the series, it is about $30,000...To be competitive [Top 16] you are looking at $80,000-$100,000.
To be competitive (which in my eyes is to be in the Top 16), you are looking at $80,000-$100,000. That will allow you to upgrade your car to a more adjustable, lighter, higher powered platform. It will also allow you to purchase a stronger drivetrain and some spare parts to cut down on DNF’s. Some teams can do it for less than that, but that is because they are resourceful and use time vs. money to get help from sponsors or other knowledgeable people that help prepare them for competition, and there is a value to that.”
As an accomplished Formula D driver, what does it take to get there?
CF: “It has taken years of studying the competition and understanding how to win by adjusting your car AND yourself to handle certain situations to prevent DNF’s. I have never taken a DNF and have always made it back to the line after a competition timeout. Over the years you see more and more drivers coming prepared for the worst, and that is what can potentially keep you from going home early. Each driver has their advantages and disadvantages, understanding how to defeat each opponent is a testament to the drivers’ ability to adjust and to their crew to provide them with the information they need.”
Over the years you see more and more drivers coming prepared for the worst...
What key parts keep your 370Z competitive?
CF: “That a little personal don’t you think? Hahaha. Generally speaking, having your car built to be very adjustable and knowing how and when to adjust it is what makes the top teams competitive.”
Explain your recent 5th Round win in Washington.
CF: “I had an amazing time out in Seattle. The car felt so dialed in once we hit the track and we continued to improve it the entire weekend. I am so proud of my crew who worked so hard to earn this victory. It was a hard fought ladder, which made the win very rewarding. I’d like to thank all of my sponsors for their support as we would not be able to be here if it was not for them.”
What makes Daigo Saito such a hard driver to beat?
CF: “Saito is such a difficult driver to run tandem with because his car is setup unlike anyone else’s in Formula DRIFT and he has the talent to drive it very hard. His car has much more forward grip vs. side grip due to his horsepower, suspension, and tire setup. Therefore, he can keep up with any car on track and allow himself to win with proximity, however it also causes his car to lunge when he is going in and out of the throttle making it difficult to chase closely without making contact.”
His car has much more forward grip vs. side grip due to his horsepower, suspension, and tire setup.
Across the globe where is your favorite place to drift?
CF: “My favorite place to drift is Englishtown, NJ. All of my friends are there and we have so much fun driving together at the Club Loose events. Outside of North America though, I would say that Ebisu, Japan was insane. Hot lapping the drift courses for two days is pretty unheard of in the states. I also really would like to go to Gatebil, Norway; from what I have seen, it is an amazing event.”
Outside of drifting, where do you get adrenaline-laced jollies?
CF: “I have always enjoyed mountain biking and have gotten into it a lot more recently. That gets your adrenaline pumping a little bit but I get most of my jollies out on the track, especially in my missile car.”
I would say that Ebisu, Japan was insane. Hot lapping the drift courses for two days is pretty unheard of in the states.
On a serious note, how jacked do NOS energy drinks make you while wrenching or driving?
CF: “NOS has definitely helped me get through some long nights building and prepping cars! It honestly gives me more energy and focus to meet a deadline. It is not much of a coincidence that my beard matches the drink…”