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Formula Drift 2014 - Year in Review

Everything you need to know about the 11th season of Formula D

Jacbo Leveton
Feb 17, 2015
Photographer: Super Street Staff

Many people view Formula Drift as the most prestigious drifting series in the world. 2014 marked the 11th season for Formula D, and the series visited seven locations around the United States over seven months, showcasing the sport in front of more than 100,000 fans. With sell-out crowds at every venue and millions of viewers tuning into their livestream every round, it's hard not to argue they're the best in the business! Formula D truly showcases the most competitive professional drift action around the world (You're crazy if you haven't started watching! - SD)

2014 formula D season track 02 Photo 2/39   |   Formula Drift 2014 - Year in Review

What is Drifting?

In the most basic form, a drift occurs when the rear tires of a rear-wheel-drive car break traction, causing the rear of the vehicle to slip ahead of the front of the vehicle. The amount of angle required to countersteer and keep the car in drift is one of the main judging criteria. As a motorsport, a panel of judges defines the line on the racetrack they would like to see the drivers take and will judge the line, angle, and style as each driver pilots his car through the course while smoke is blazing from the rear wheels. Although the speed of the car is taken into consideration, speed is not officially one of the judging criteria for Formula Drift.

2014 formula D season technician 03 Photo 3/39   |   Formula Drift 2014 - Year in Review

Each driver is given two non-consecutive qualifying passes, with the top 32 drivers earning a position in the single-elimination tandem bracket. In tandem, each driver is given an opportunity to lead and chase, while being judged based on his ability to meet the same qualifying criteria on the lead run, and trying to maintain proximity while utilizing the lead car as a moving clipping point in the chase position. Passing is not encouraged but can be utilized in a situation where the lead car is off the line dictated by the judges. Judges will watch both runs, then either pick a winner or choose "one more time" if they feel the runs were equal. With three judges, majority rules.

New for 2014

For longtime followers of the series, there were three notable rule changes for 2014:

Championship Points will now be allocated slightly differently than in previous years. Here's a quick look at how they were allocated from 2010 to 2013, and the new points structure for 2014:

2014 formula D season audience 04 Photo 4/39   |   Formula Drift 2014 - Year in Review

The third-place consolation round battle has been eliminated, and the driver who stands on the last step of the podium will be decided based on qualifying results. This change has been made in an attempt to speed up the length of the final four rounds, as the consolation round often resulted in either "one-more-time" runs or crashes, both of which extend the length of the show and caused some very late nights. Between the two losers in the top 4 round, whoever qualified higher will take the 3rd place podium position for photo purposes, but both drivers will receive the same amount of points.

Starting at Round 5 (Seattle, WA), Formula D introduced a "chicane" at the start line. The lead driver was required to drive around a chicane approximately 50 feet from the start line, outlined by a series of cones, while the chase driver has a straight path and is allowed to drive at full throttle as long as he enters the first corner behind the lead driver. Hitting a cone in the chicane by the lead driver results in a re-start, hitting a cone a second time results in another restart and a final warning, and hitting a cone a third time results in a loss by the lead driver.

2014 formula D season fredric aasbo 05 Photo 5/39   |   Formula Drift 2014 - Year in Review

Tandem Points in 2010-2013

1st 100 Points
2nd 88 Points
3rd 78 Points
4th 69 Points
Top 8 61 Points
Top 16 54 Points
Top 32 24 Points

Tandem Points in 2014

1st 100 Points
2nd 80 Points
3rd / 4th 64 Points
Top 8 48 Points
Top 16 32 Points
Top 32 16 Points

2014 formula D season nitto tire girls 06 Photo 6/39   |   Formula Drift 2014 - Year in Review

Qualifying Points in 2010-2013

Q1 12 points Q2 10 points
Q3 8 points
Q4 6 points
Q5-Q6 4 points
Q7-Q8 3 points
Q9-Q12 2 points
Q13-Q16 1 point
Q17-Q24 0.5 points
Q25-Q32 0.25 points

Qualifying Points in 2014

Q1 10 points
Q2 7.5 points
Q3 6 points
Q4-Q8 4.5 points
Q9-Q16 3 points
Q9-Q16 3 points
Q17-Q32 1.5 points

2014 formula D season erica nagashima 08 Photo 7/39   |   Formula Drift 2014 - Year in Review

2014 Random Stats:

3: Number of drivers who earned their first career Formula Drift podiums in 2014 (Moen, Bakchis, Kearney). In total, 36 different drivers have earned a Formula Drift podium in their career.

4: Number of Scion cars who earned at least one Top 32 finish, with three drivers contributing points toward Scion's first OEM Manufacturers championship. (Aasbo/Tuerk/Gushi contributed points, Angelo also earned a Top 32 finish).

8: Number of tire brands that sponsored the series in 2014, the most of any motorsport (Hankook, Nitto, Achilles, Falken, Maxxis, Yokahama, GT Radial, Kenda).

10: Number of unique drivers who took home the 21 carbon-fiber trophies.

10: Number of podium trophies taken home by Hankook Tire drivers on the way to their first Formula D Tire Championship.

11: Number of different OEM manufacturers represented on the grid in 2014, making Formula Drift one of the most diverse grids in motorsports.

14: Number of unique tracks Formula Drift has visited over the past 11 seasons, with Homestead Speedway in Miami being the newest track.

20: Drivers who have earned at least one Formula Drift event win, the newest being Fredric Aasbo (New Jersey, Texas).

23: Number of career podiums by driver Chris Forsberg including five in 2014, the most all-time by a single driver in FD history.

2014 formula D season formula drift umbrella 09 Photo 8/39   |   Formula Drift 2014 - Year in Review

How it all played out

Round 1—Streets of Long Beach

Video: Formula D Long Beach 2014

The 2013 season at Irwindale included a down-to-the-wire championship battle between Michael Essa and Chris Forsberg before Essa claimed the title, and both drivers were looking to make an impact at the first event of the 2014 season. Forsberg debuted an all-black carbon-fiber livery that was the talk of the paddock, and was clearly motivated to make the 2014 season his year. Essa, on the other hand, also had a new livery on his BMW E46, but the change was much more subtle. In qualifying, Essa returned to the top of the charts, taking the top qualifier position for the second consecutive event (Irwindale, 2013). Vaughn Gittin Jr.'s Nitto Tire Monster Energy Ford Mustang RTR qualified second, while Tyler McQuarrie's GoPro Chevy Camaro narrowly edged out Kenneth Moen's Achilles Radial S14 due to a tiebreaker.

2014 formula D season chris forsberg 07 Photo 9/39   |   Setting the pace in round 1, Forsberg dominates Long Beach.

Tandem battles on Saturday happened in front of a crowd of more than 20,000 fans. One of the surprises of the field were rookies Geoff Stoneback and Alec Hohnadell. Both drivers made the top 32 tandem bracket, qualifying ahead of nearly 20 other drivers in the process. While both lost their tandem battles (Stoneback to eventual finalist Kenny Moen and Hohnadell to longtime FD competitor Ryan Tuerck), both had great runs that really set the pace for the 2014 rookie class.

2014 formula D season ken gushi FR S 10 Photo 10/39   |   Piloting his 2JZ-powered FR-S, Ken Gushi finished 13th overall in the '14 season.

In the Final 4, it was down to a pair of Formula D champions and a pair of drivers looking to compete for their first championship. On the left side of the bracket, Michael Essa dominated his bracket to meet 4th-place qualifier Kenny Moen. Moen was able to hand the defending champion his first lost of the season to earn his way into the final. The other side of the bracket was dominated by Chris Forsberg, who defeated Justin Pawlak's Falken Tire Ford Mustang in the top 4. Since the consolation round was eliminated, Essa's top qualifying effort guaranteed him a podium spot as soon as he won his Top 8 battle. In the final round, Forsberg laid down a pair of solid runs, which handed him the event win, his 8th all-time in FD history, which tied him for second overall with Dai Yoshihara. For Moen, the podium was his first in his FD career.

Round 2—Road Atlanta

Video: Formula D Road Atlanta 2014

The Horseshoe at Road Atlanta was the birthplace of Formula D, and the second stop on the tour has long been one of the most memorable. Rain would play a major factor in qualifying as it began pouring just minutes before qualifying was about to start. Formula D has a "show must go on" policy that won't stop the show unless there are major implications, and a little moisture wasn't enough to heed the show. Forrest Wang piloted his Get Nuts Labs 2JZ-swapped Nissan S14 to the top qualifying position, with a blazing 86-mph entry speed in his qualifying run in the wet. McQuarrie qualified 2nd and Gittin Jr. qualified third, marking the second consecutive event where both drivers qualified among the top 3.

2014 formula D season gittin aasbo 11 Photo 11/39   |   Gittin chases Aasbo extremely close to win Atlanta!

The tandem segment on Saturday had some great battles, none greater than Vaughn Gittin Jr. versus Justin Pawlak in the Top 16. Entering the event, Gittin Jr. had lost the previous three matchups and was looking to show he's the top Ford driver in the series. Their battle would go through two one-more-time matchups before Gittin Jr. was able to squeak out the win. The final four would come down to some familiar names and some epic matchups. Aasbo and Forsberg would battle in the first semifinal, with Aasbo taking advantage of a wide line from Forsberg entering the first turn to make the rare pass in drifting and take the win. Gittin Jr. would then take out Robbie Nishida's Achilles Tire Lexus SC300 with a great follow run, laying the framework for a memorable final battle against Aasbo in a rematch of the most bizarre matchup from the 2013 event in Atlanta.

2014 formula D season podium 12 Photo 12/39   |   A precursor to who would be top 3 at the end of the season.

In 2013, some light rain came down just moments before Gittin Jr. and Aasbo were set to run, and Gittin's Mustang would drive over the fender and hood of Aasbo's Scion tC; both drivers would continue on and finish the run. In 2014, the rematch would be a great showdown that took a one-more-time to settle as both drivers had been driving the wheels off of their cars all day. In the end, Gittin's final chase run was a bit closer to Aasbo than Aasbo was on his chase, handing Gittin his sixth overall win in Formula D competition. As the lone repeat Top 4 driver, Forsberg continued to lead the championship.

2014 formula D season dai yoshihara 13 Photo 13/39   |   Dai Yoshihara and his 1,000hp BRZ showing us how wet Atlanta was. He finished 18th overall for the season.

Round 3— Miami Homestead Speedway

Homestead Speedway marked a new racetrack on the schedule, replacing Palm Beach International Raceway as the third stop on the Formula D tour. The new track had a high-speed entry just outside of the crowd view, which led to some exciting door-to-door tandem battles and even a little carnage. Friday's qualifying came down to some usual suspects from Atlanta as podium members Forsberg and Gittin Jr. took the top two spots. Moen qualified third overall, continuing his amazing season leading the charge for the Achilles Radial team.

2014 formula D seasonjustin pawlak robbie nishida 14 Photo 14/39   |   Finishing 9th and 11th overall for ’14, Justin Pawlak and Robbie Nishida look to bounce back this year.

Saturday's tandem action was quite exciting as the smoke plumes from the tires entering the first turn were some of the largest we've seen on an FD course. The craziest tandem battle came between Chelsea Denofa's BC Racing BMW E46 and Tyler McQuarrie's GoPro Hankook Chevy Camaro. Both drivers were fully committed after the first turn, and Denofa was on an incredible chase run when McQuarrie's car was slower than expected in the section in front of the crowd. Denofa collided with McQuarrie, sending Denofa's car airborne several feet in the air. Both cars were able to continue, earning McQuarrie the win due to Denofa causing contact, but it was a battle that is likely to be talked about for years to come. The same two drivers were involved in another huge crash in 2012 at Wall Speedway, but it's more of a sign of both drivers being fully committed than any ill feelings.

2014 formula D season marc landreville 15 Photo 15/39   |   Wouldn’t be Miami without some tropical weather as Canadian driver Marc Landreville demonstrates in his 800hp S14.

Only one of the four final drivers in Miami was making his first appearance of the season, as Matt Field would pilot his CX Racing S14 to the first semifinal where he faced top qualifier Forsberg. Field pushed Forsberg to a one-more-time battle, but a small mistake midway through the first turn gave Forsberg the win and his third consecutive podium finish. In the other semifinal, Gittin Jr. and Moen would both be making their second final four appearances of the season, but Gittin Jr. would end Moen's day after a one-more-time battle to earn his second consecutive final round appearance. In the final, Forsberg was unable to keep up with Gittin's Mustang, and Gittin Jr. would win back-to-back events for the first time in nearly two seasons. Forsberg continued to lead the championship, but Gittin Jr. sat just 10 points behind Forsberg.

2014 formula D season chelsea denofa BMW 16 Photo 16/39   |   A look at Chelsea Denofa’s BMW during qualifying before he went airborne against Tyler McQuarrie. Denofa finished 21st overall for the year.

Round 4—Wall Speedway

While New Jersey's Wall Speedway is the slowest and smallest course on the Formula D circuit, these elements combined with the steep 33-degree banking makes it one of the more entertaining events to watch. For the second consecutive event, Forsberg would top the qualifying charts, followed closely by Chelsea Denofa, Michael Essa, and Dai Yoshihara. Yoshihara had struggled in his V-8-powered Falken Tire Subaru BRZ, but really started looking good through practice and qualifying in Jersey.

2014 formula D season falken S14 17 Photo 17/39   |   Formula Drift 2014 - Year in Review

Forsberg would again power his way through the tandem battles on Saturday, although not without some carnage. In all four of his matches from the Top 16 on, car-to-car contact would play a role in the winner. Forsberg battled Marc Landreville in Top 16, Conrad Grunewald in the Top 8, Odi Bakchis in the Top 4, and finally Aasbo in the final. While Forsberg got the better of the first three battles, the contact with Aasbo was initiated by him, which caused Aasbo to get the event win. This was Aasbo's first career Formula D victory, one that seemed long overdue. Aasbo had a tough bracket, defeating fellow Scion driver Tony Angelo, Forrest Wang, Darren McNamara, and Charles Ng. The final podium position would go to Odi Bakchis due to his higher qualifying position over Ng, guaranteeing Bakchis his first career podium. Had Ng qualified higher, he would have earned his first podium.

2014 formula D season wall speedway 18 Photo 18/39   |   The 33-degree banking at Wall Speedway makes it one of the most exciting tracks to watch!

With the win paired with Gittin's early elimination in Jersey, Aasbo became a topic of conversation in the championship chase. Forsberg still lead the standings, but Aasbo jumped all the way to second place behind Forsberg. Gittin Jr., Moen, and Bakchis rounded out the top 5.

2014 formula D season charles ng 19 Photo 19/39   |   Charles Ng almost reached his first FD podium finish with his LS-powered G37. He finished 4th place and 22nd overall for the year.

Round 5—Evergreen Speedway

Evergreen Speedway marks the second half of the season, and the layoff between New Jersey and Washington is one that the teams look forward to as an opportunity to maintain and upgrade cars. For the Falken Tire team specifically, it was a window needed to help turn the tides of their team. Qualifying proved this as Darren McNamara piloted his twin-turbo Falken Tire S14 to the top qualifier position. Robbie Nishida and Odi Bakchis qualified second and third, respectively, which were season-high efforts for both drivers. Championship leader Chris Forsberg qualified 4th while Aasbo qualified 6th and Gittin Jr. qualified 8th, ensuring none of the three championship competitors could meet up before the top 4.

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One of the biggest changes at Evergreen was the introduction of a chicane at the start line. The lead car would now have to go around a series of cones, intended to slow the car down and allow both cars to enter the first turn much closer than in previous years. This change seemed to work as we saw tight action all weekend, and the chicane was continued for the rest of the 2014 season.

Overall, McNamara's tandem battles were looking great all weekend, and if it weren't for the unfortunate circumstance of being paired against teammate Dai Yoshihara in the Top 16, it's very likely that both could have earned a podium as both drivers brought their A-game all weekend. McNamara would face championship leader Forsberg in the first semifinal, earning the win and guaranteeing Falken their first podium since Wall 2013 (eight events). In the other semifinal, an all-European affair took place between Irishman Dean Kearney's Oracle Lighting Dodge Viper and Aasbo's Scion tC. Kearney got the better of Aasbo, guaranteeing Kearney his first career FD podium and lining up an all-Irish final with fellow countryman McNamara.

2014 formula D season darren McNamara dean kearney 21 Photo 21/39   |   Finishing 1st and 2nd in Seattle, Darren McNamara and Dean Kearney would go on to place 7th and 8th overall for the season—two stellar drivers to watch out for in 2015!

In the final, Kearney's chase run had a few small corrections, inspiring him to push hard on his lead run. Unfortunately, his line on entry would lean him into McNamara's lane where contact would occur between the two cars. Formula D's judges determined that the line was the same one he had taken earlier and was simply an unforeseeable consequence of the new chicane. Both drivers were given a chance to repair their cars, and the run was repeated. Kearney's lead run was strong, but overall, McNamara's runs were better, which earned him the win. Since both Forsberg and Aasbo finished in the final 4, both earned the same number of points, although Forsberg would earn his 5th consecutive podium of the season by virtue of qualifying higher, a record in Formula D.

2014 formula D season will parsons AE86 22 Photo 22/39   |   Will Parsons is still looking to break out in his FD career driving a very sweet F20-powered AE86.

Round 6— Texas Motor Speedway

Formula D returned to Texas Motor Speedway for the second consecutive year, and the crowd would grow to sold-out capacity for a second straight year. Forrest Wang would continue the successful year in his S14, qualifying first for the second time in 2014. Forsberg was close behind as second qualifier, with Denofa, Kearney, and Bakchis rounding out the top 5 qualifiers.

2014 formula D season jhonnatan castro ryan kado 23 Photo 23/39   |   Dominican Republic driver Jhonnatan Castro and young star Ryan Kado are two up-and-coming competitors to look out for.

In Top 32, the talk of the paddock was around Chelsea Denofa's follow run on Karl Osaki. Deemed to be the best follow run of the 2014 season, Denofa seemed to anticipate every inch of Osaki's run with precision, easily earning the win. Denofa spent several years living in Texas, has driven the track many times, and looked like the early favorite to podium at the track. Unfortunately, his next run was cut short due to the engine expiring, and he was unable to continue the event.

Wang was able to drive his car all the way to the Top 4, guaranteeing him a podium position based on his top qualifying effort. He was met there by Bakchis, who was looking for his second podium—both of the season and his career. Bakchis was able to defeat Wang and guarantee himself a podium position, but would have to await the outcome of fellow semifinalists Forsberg and Aasbo. For the third consecutive time, Aasbo defeated Forsberg, and for the second consecutive battle, it was car-to-car contact between the two that determined the winner as Forsberg came in too hot and collided with Aasbo. In the final, Bakchis would spin while chasing down Aasbo in almost the identical location as where Forsberg collided with Aasbo, handing Aasbo the event win.

2014 formula D season matt field 24 Photo 24/39   |   Matt Field and his 240SX finished 15th ovearll for ’14 and looks to improve this year.

Round 7—Irwindale Speedway

Formula D Irwindale Finale 2014 - Photo Gallery

Irwindale has become known as the "House of Drift" due to being the birthplace of professional drifting in North America, and for the 11th consecutive season, Formula D closed out its season to a capacity crowd. The talk among the paddock was around the championship chase, as Forsberg's lead would sit at 26 points, enough to cause both teams to keep their calculators handy. Friday's qualifying session would again be topped by Forrest Wang, his second consecutive top qualifying effort and third time in 2014. Sam Hubinette was the last driver to earn top qualifier three times in a season back in 2008, a worthy achievement for Wang. With Forsberg qualifying 6th and Aasbo qualifying 10th, the championship lead sat at 27.5 points. This meant Aasbo must finish at least two rounds ahead of Forsberg. Looking at the brackets, there was potential for the two drivers to meet in the Final 4. If that were to happen, Aasbo would need to win not only that battle but also the event to claim the championship.

2014 formula D season FRS drift car 25 Photo 25/39   |   2014 Formula D Season FRS Drift Car 25

As fate would have it, the stars aligned and we got the championship battle we were all hoping for! Wang versus Saito in the first semifinal seemed to be a blur as everyone anxiously awaited the bigger battle in the second semifinal, but for reporting purposes, we'll tell you that Saito won that battle. For the third time in the season, Aasbo and Forsberg would meet, but this would be the most important battle for both. Aasbo put on an amazing chase run in which he briefly rubbed the wall of the inner bank but didn't lose his drift, granting him the win and the pass to the final against Daigo Saito.

2014 formula D season daigo saito 26 Photo 26/39   |   Formula Drift 2014 - Year in Review

Aasbo had defeated Saito in Atlanta earlier in the season but would need to do it again to win both the event and the season championship. However, Saito's tandem record at Irwindale Speedway in Formula D competition was perfect, and Saito wouldn't let Aasbo be the first to ruin that record. Aasbo's championship would end as Saito conquered at Irwindale for the third consecutive season, marking not only the first time a Formula D driver has won at the same track three times but the first time a driver has won the same event in three consecutive years. Saito would raise the event winner trophy, while Forsberg would raise the overall championship trophy. For Saito, it was the second consecutive year he had eliminated a potential championship contender in tandem as his win over Forsberg in the Top 8 at Irwindale in 2013 sealed the championship for Essa.

2014 formula D season daigo saito fredric aasbo 27 Photo 27/39   |   Three years in a row, Daigo Saito wins Irwindale and takes away any chances of Aasbo becoming champion.

2014 Formula D Champion: Chris Forsberg

Entering the 2014 season, Chris Forsberg was coming off of a frustrating second-place finish in the 2013 championship behind Michael Essa, a finish where a few touch judging decisions through the season left him just 17.5 points behind Essa. With his title sponsor NOS Energy Drink taking a lesser role in his program and no sponsor taking over the title position, Forsberg's Nissan 370Z showed up in Long Beach with a raw black carbon finish, a far cry from the traditional orange liveries Forsberg had been known for over the previous seven seasons. The Chris Forsberg Racing team also expanded to include two cars for 2014, with Jhonnattan Castro taking the second seat in an updated version of Forsberg's 2012 370Z chassis. From the get go, Forsberg looked extremely motivated and focused on winning his second career championship.

2014 formula D season chris forsberg 28 Photo 28/39   |   Formula Drift 2014 - Year in Review

Forsberg started the season off at the top of the standings by winning in Long Beach, his eighth career win which ties him for second all-time with Dai Yoshihara. A loss in the Top 4 at Atlanta to Aasbo was frustrating as it was Forsberg's mistake, which allowed Aasbo to make a pass, but he still earned a podium by virtue of his qualifying efforts. In Miami, Forsberg qualified first and finished second, losing only to longtime friend Vaughn Gittin Jr., then again qualified first and placed second in New Jersey, this time due to making contact with Aasbo going around the final corner in the final battle. A third place finish in Seattle made a remarkable fifth consecutive podium, a first in Formula Drift history, while a fourth place finish in Texas due to a loss to Aasbo in the Top 4 shaped up for an interesting final round. In order to claim his second career championship, Forsberg would have to finish at least two tandem rounds higher than Aasbo.

Tensions were high at Irwindale all around. By qualifying sixth compared to Aasbo's 10th place qualifying effort, Forsberg could potentially meet Aasbo in the final 4. As luck would have it, the scenario played out almost as if it were scripted that way, and the two would meet in the Top 4 with the championship on the line. Forsberg entered the battle 0 and 3 against Aasbo, and that record would be pushed to 0 and 4, although the battle was one of the best of the season. Aasbo would then face Daigo Saito in the finals, the same driver who eliminated Forsberg from the 2013 championship. Saito won the battle and the event to claim his third consecutive win at Irwindale and sealing the championship for Forsberg. As a two-time champion, he joins Sam Hubinette (2004, 2006) and Tanner Foust (2007, 2008) as the only two-time champions in the season. His eight event wins tie him with Dai Yoshihara for second all-time behind Sam Hubinette's nine event wins, and 23 career podiums puts him first all-time ahead of Yoshihara's 22 event podiums and Foust's 20 podiums.

2014 Formula D Runner-Up: Fredric Aasbo

The 2010 Formula D Rookie of the year has quickly risen to become a major contender in the series. Entering the 2014 season, Aasbo would be returning to the seat of the same Papadakis Racing Scion tC that he had piloted the previous three seasons to finishes of 12th overall (2011), 6th overall (2012), and 4th overall (2013), plus was the highest-ranked four-cylinder powered car in both 2012 and 2013. Aasbo had earned 4 podiums in Formula D prior to the start of the season, and was still looking for his first event win.

2014 formula D season fredric aasbo 29 Photo 29/39   |   Formula Drift 2014 - Year in Review

Aasbo came out of the gate with a strong Top 8 finish in Long Beach, before earning 2nd place in Atlanta. Another Top-8 finish in Miami had Aasbo and the team feeling like they could be a championship contender, but the first career win in New Jersey was the tipping point for Aasbo, particularly since he defeated Forsberg in the final. Aasbo matched Forsberg with a Top 4 finish in Seattle (although Forsberg stood on the podium due to qualifying higher, both drivers earned the exact same amount of championship points based on the new points structure), but another event win in Texas put Aasbo in striking distance for the season finale. In the end, Aasbo defeated Forsberg in the Top 4 to ensure he had a chance at the season championship, but a loss to Daigo Saito in the final round handed Forsberg the championship by a mere 11.5 points.

With the way Aasbo has improved year-over-year, it would be hard to pick anyone but Aasbo as the early favorite for the 2015 season. The 2nd place finish overall by Aasbo ties the highest previous finish by a four-cylinder powered vehicle (Ryan Tuerck's Pontiac Solstice in 2009). Word on the street is that Aasbo and Papadakis will be back in 2015 in the same Scion tC, with a small bump in power and some other small modifications that may be what the tC needs to take the championship. Aasbo's two wins and eight overall championships in just five seasons of competition is quite remarkable.

2014 formula D season aasbo gittin forsberg 30 Photo 30/39   |   Friends and foes, Aasbo, Gittlin, and Forsberg are your 2014 Top 3 drivers.

Pro2 Class

One additional change for the 2014 season is the introduction of the Pro 2 class. Designed to be a more immediate stepping stone between the Pro Am ranks and the traditional top tier of Formula D, which will now be known as "Pro 1," this intermediate tier will be the showcase of the Friday Night schedule at four select events each season. For 2014, the Pro 2 class competed in Miami, Seattle, Dallas, and Irwindale. Moving forward, the top 32 drivers in the Pro 1 class will remain in the Pro 1 class, while drivers who finish in 33rd and lower will be relegated to Pro 2. Newly licensed ProAm drivers will now earn a license to the Pro 2 class, and the top 8 drivers from the Pro 2 class will be promoted to the Pro 1 ranks.

In 2014, a trio of East Coast rookies was consistently among the top of the Pro 2 standings. Geoff Stoneback, Dan Savage, and James Evans were consistently fighting for top honors, and the three drivers are quite familiar with each other. Evans and Savage are teammates and coworkers at Sikky Manufacturing, a company that specializes in Chevy LS swap kits for Nissan, Mazda, and Honda chassis based out of Baltimore, Maryland, while Stoneback comes from the same U.S. Drift ProAm series where both Evans and Savage earned their ProAm licenses. Stoneback won the first Pro 2 round in Miami, while Savage won the second round in Seattle. In Texas, Savage lost in the round of 16, while both Stoneback and Evans finished in the top 4. Entering the final round at Irwindale, Stoneback and Savage sat 1-2 in the championship, while Evans sat 4th. Floridian Jeremy Lowe sat in third, with a pair of top 4 finishes in Miami and Seattle keeping him within striking distance of both Stoneback and Savage. At Irwindale, Jeremy Lowe earned yet another top 4 finish, but Savage's 2nd place finish and top qualifying effort earned him the inaugural Pro 2 championship. Longtime Pro 1 competitors Jeff Jones and Brandon Wicknick also earned event wins in the Pro 2 class (Wicknick won in Dallas, Jones won at Irwindale), allowing both to retain their Pro 1 licenses through the promotion system.

For 2015, the following eight drivers earned a promotion from Pro 2 to Pro 1:

  • Dan Savage (Pro 2 Champion)
  • Geoff Stoneback
  • Jeremy Lowe
  • Jeff Jones
  • James Evans
  • Nate Hamilton
  • Matt Coffman
  • Brandon Wicknick

Formula D branches out to Japan

At the 2013 SEMA show, Formula D made an announcement that they would be expanding internationally and assembling a global championship for the 2015 season. As part of that expansion, Formula D forged a three-year partnership with the MSC drifting series in Japan, which is run by longtime drifting legends Nobuteru Taniguchi and Max Orido. Formula D has operated a licensed "FD Asia" series since 2008, with rounds occurring in Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, and even Australia, but never in Japan. The first event as part of this partnership took place earlier this July at Fuji Speedway, and was a star-studded event from all fronts.

2014 formula D season masao suenaga RX7 31 Photo 31/39   |   2014 Formula D Season Masao Suenaga RX7 31

Sixty-nine drivers took to the qualifying grid to make the top 16 battle, 14 of those competitors were regular Formula D Asia drivers. Several names from Formula D USA, both past, and present, also spotted the roster list, including three-time FD Asia champion and 2012 FD USA champion Daigo Saito, Robbie Nishida, Fredric Aasbo, and Kuniaki Takahashi. Former FD drivers who made an appearance include Emanuel Amandio, Michihiro Takatori, and Katsuhiro Ueo. All drivers were judged by FD USA judges Ryan Lanteigne and Andy Yen, who were joined by Daijiro Yoshihara, who has judged a handful of FD Asia rounds as needed.

2014 formula D season lexus SC 32 Photo 32/39   |   2014 Formula D Season Lexus SC 32

The competition used some of the higher speed turns at Fuji Speedway in a layout that emulated the way MSC has run the track in years past. Entry speeds were around 90 mph, requiring an incredible amount of precision. While Saito and Nishida have consistently performed well at FD Asia, the track layout played toward some of the Japanese drivers with more horsepower and more experience on the course. In the final, it came down town Masao Suenaga's FD3S RX7 versus Masashi Yokoi's Nissan Silvia S15. In a tight battle, Suenaga narrowly edged out his Yokohama Tire teammate for the win. Fredric Aasbo piloted the V-8-powered RS*R Japan FT86 to a 3rd place finish, claiming yet another podium trophy for his ever-growing collection.

FD will hold another exhibition round in December at Okayama circuit, where many of the same drivers are expected to show up. A full announcement of Formula Drift's 2015 Japan activities is expected at Tokyo Auto Salon.

2014 formula D season toyota supra 33 Photo 33/39   |   2014 Formula D Season Toyota Supra 33
Results from FD Japan at Fuji Speedway:
1stMasao SuenagaMazda RX7 FD3S M150 Overdrive
2ndMasashi YokoiNissan Silvia S15 D-Max
3rdFredric AasboToyota FT-86 RS-R Japan
4thEmmanual AmandioToyota JZX100 Moods Gallery / Achilles Radial
2014 formula D season nissan S13 34 Photo 34/39   |   2014 Formula D Season Nissan S13 34
2014 formula D season drift cars 35 Photo 35/39   |   2014 Formula D Season Drift Cars 35
Geoff stoneback formula drift 4 Photo 36/39   |   Geoff Stoneback Formula Drift 4

Rookie of the Year

Geoff Stoneback took Rookie of the Year honors for the 2014 season of Formula D after an impressive privateer showing both in Pro2 and the main, driving a LSX-powered Nissan S14. We caught up with him to find out what it takes to go from amateur to the big show:

Geoff stoneback formula drift 2 Photo 37/39   |   Geoff Stoneback Formula Drift 2

Where’d it all start?
GS: I started off at Club Loose out of Englishtown, NJ. I had a crappy car in 2011 and hit my first "Pro-Am" event XDC at CFRC in Orlando, FL. In my second practice run I smashed the trunk into my back seat and was sidelined the rest of the weekend. In 2012, I tried the Midwest Drift Union and ended up finishing fifth. It made me work harder to get a better program and be prepared for 2013. U.S. Drift returned that same year so I did both. Running the two series, I felt it the best way to simulate a Formula Drift season. Good friend and my FD spotter Dan Popowich and I were gone every other weekend, whether it’d be Pro-Am or grassroots events just to get seat time. It paid off because we had great success in both series, taking podiums in six out of the eight events. We took home the Championship in the Midwest Drift Union and U.S. Drift.

Biggest lessons learned in Formula D?
GS: First, the drag light start. I was used to Pro-Am, where everyone had similar hp and followed the "Gentlemen’s rule” of watching for the lead car's initial reaction. Coming into Long Beach RD 1 I knew we were under-powered (600hp) and after lining up against Moen who took off on the green like at bat out of hell and gapped me by 10 cars, I thought, “Welcome to the big leagues!”

The second thing I learned is the cars in Formula Drift are no joke. So much grip and power. Final eye-opener was the teamwork. Everyone at this level can drive, but your team is what makes or breaks you mechanically and mentally. My team literally busted their ass every time something went wrong. I've seen it with teams like Aasbo with Papadakis, swapping motors twice before qualifying with about only an hour to do it.

Geoff stoneback formula drift 1 Photo 38/39   |   Geoff Stoneback Formula Drift 1

Overall, how do you feel 2014 went?
GS: Very well considering we qualified every Pro 2 event and also six out of seven pro events. We qualified in Long Beach with a car that we had literally never driven at a track. Round 3 Miami we won the first ever Pro 2 event and also finished 8th in Pro 1. I feel that after the first two events, we finally were mentally prepared and the car was dialed in.

As a privateer it’s super hard and stressful budgeting and planning a team of six. Also being a husband and father with a 2-year-old made it a bit tougher (love them). I definitely gained some gray hairs during the season.

Photos provided by Stoneback Racing

Geoff stoneback formula drift 3 Photo 39/39   |   Geoff Stoneback Formula Drift 3
By Jacbo Leveton
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