After the Formula D Diary debacle of last month with none of our drivers landing on the podium, we're back at an all-new track, Raceway Park in Englishtown, N.J., for a fresh start. For Chapter Three, the same eight drifters are back to tell us every little detail that went down in the Northeast. From repaired mechanical problems to new ones brewing, a two-way tie for First between Chris Forsberg and Samuel Hubinette for overall points chase, and last year's champ, Tanner Foust, trailing slightly, will the third time be the charm for our drifters?
Still working out the kinks that come with competing in a completely new ride, Ken left Atlanta without any points, a burned clutch, and the added burden of proving himself and his Scion. With most of the bugs worked out, the Gush is looking to turn things around.
This weekend proved to be a turning point for the RS-R Scion tC. Not only did we keep the car in running condition for the entire event, we also survived an extra day of abuse during practice on Thursday. Englishtown is a new track for Formula Drift series, so I had to familiarize myself with the track layout. Entry speeds for most of the Top 16 drivers were between 73 and 78 mph. Our 4.6:1 final drive put us right at the edge of this, meaning I was topping out at 71 mph, without enough wheel speed to drift the car at high speeds. A 4.3 final would've raised the top speed, but we decided to stick with the 4.6, because I was already comfortable with the set up. I was also afraid that the car wouldn't have the power to spin Fourth gear with the 4.3:1 final drive. Still, I managed to qualified 13th in the Top 32 qualify session with a score of 87.13 at about 71 mph. I was a little disappointed since I thought I would qualify higher, but knew the slower speeds were what did it. After qualifying, we swapped the final drive to a 4.3:1 for the next practice session, and my techs Gary and Koji-san decided to bump up the tire pressure from 70psi to 90psi, turn up boost, and remove the rear wing to cut drag. My runs were getting better and my lines were getting further to the outside clipping point. The tC has about 380 hp, but with the changes made, it felt a hell of a lot faster.
As qualifying began on Saturday, I noticed many of the drivers initiating at much higher speeds than before. My lines were better, but my speeds were too low. I ended up qualifying 18th Place with a score of 89.75. Was I holding back? I remind myself that this is only the first year for the tC, and we are still in the process of adapting. That said, it is very disappointing to find myself out of the Top 16 seeded group, no matter what the reason. We're slowly working out all the tC's bugs, but I know we still have a little way to go. I wanted to bring home a trophy to my dad for Father's Day, but I guess I'll just have to win one for him at the next event, in Vegas.
Vaughn Gittin Jr.
Deep in Drift Alliance territory, JR's back in New Jersey to prove to his friends and family that not only can he drive fast and gitterdun, but that he is good enough to add a Formula D championship to his U.S. D1GP credentials.
Drift Alliance has been asking for years to get an event on the Englishtown Raceway course instead of Wall Speedway, and it finally happened! Ryan Tuerck and I helped to design the course that was sure to separate the men from the boys. The course consisted of a super-fast entry to a pretty technical section that for sure tested all the drivers' skills.
After a full test day and Friday's practice, the Falken Tire Ford Racing Mustang was set up and ready to rock! Every time I entered that first turn at full throttle and kicked the clutch, I had a grin from ear to ear-it was fun and fast! The most fun part of practice was that Formula D allowed us to run up to four cars deep during practice. Tony, Chris, and I took a few laps-driving with those guys is one of my favorite things to do.
I had a ton of family and friends at the event, not to mention the huge amount of love that Drift Alliance gets from New Jersey. My confidence was on cloud nine and I planned to show it with my driving.
For my first qualifying run, I went out and put down a decent run to get myself in the Top 16. For the second run, I turned it up a notch and entered a bit faster with some more angle. I qualified Ninth overall, which paired me up with my good pal Chris Forsberg in the battle of the Sweet Sixteen.
Chris and I were looking forward to battling each other on our home course-especially because the two times we were lined up with each other last year we were never able to get two full runs, due to on-track issues. Chris is one of few drivers that I know I can actually drive against super hard and not have to worry about him playing games or changing up his lines for a cheap win.
On the way back from the driver introductions, I lost all power steering. I went over to the Falken pit area where my crew thrashed to get it fixed. We were the second group to go, so we had very little time to get it fixed. We were called to go to the line and were forced to call five minutes. My crew did everything possible to fix the leak, but when I approached the line, we still had some leakage. I backed off the line and drove into the grass. I called my crew and told them to cut the power steering line and drain it, as I planned to muscle the monster without power assist.
Just as I was ready to jump back onto the track, they made Chris run by himself because my time was up and I was disqualified. The crowd was devastated when they announced my DQ-I know how bad they wanted to see that battle. They chanted "let them run, let them run," but unfortunately rules are rules! To have my team and I work so hard only to be a victim of a $3 part failing is very hard to swallow!
After two transmission failures in Atlanta, the former D1GP series champ is in deep in unseeded territory. With the season heating up, Ryuji and his Rx-7 needs to step it up in order to have a chance at a Formula D championship.
Round 3 was the race that I needed to get some points since I had dropped down to a non-seeded driver after Atlanta. During Thursday's practice, on the very first run, the transmission blew...again, and my practice time was cut short.
The next day was Qualifying and luckily, I had over two hours of practice time in the morning. The transmission, however, had new trouble. While I was driving, I had to physically hold the shifter in Fourth gear otherwise it would pop out every time I clutch kicked-meaning I had to drive the rest of the qualifying run with one hand. That was not easy. Fortunately, I got Second Place in Qualifying and managed to enter the final race.
Final day, there was another transmission problem in the morning. Now Third gear needed to be held while driving. It was very difficult, but I was able to drive clean enough that even my spotter could not tell that I was driving with one hand. On the straight away, I was having trouble shifting again and having to hold down the shifter in gear, but after the first run, I was able to post a 96.38 score which put me in the Seventh qualifying position, which qualified me in the Top 16. During the second run, I wanted to improve my score and I ran the car even harder, which lead to another transmission blow. Luckily, I was able to keep my position at Seventh in the Top 16.
So, here we are again, another blown transmission, and the team rushing the car back into the pits, only this was our last good transmission. We had to look for one to borrow from another team, and luckily enough Calvin Wan from Team Falken had another FD3S transmission that we were able to use. Our team worked fast to swap out the transmission before the Top 16 tandem rounds. The crew's hard work would also be recognized, as they were awarded the "Best Crew" award from UTI.
The first round was against Ryan Tuerck; I was the lead car and he was following. I was able to drive like I did in my qualifying runs and the score was 8 to 6, my advantage. I followed in the second run and Ryan took a shallower line than what I had been running, so I matched his line and put out a clean run. I advanced with a score of 8 to 7.
Top 8. Tanner Foust. He beat me the last two times I faced him, so I really wanted to beat him this time around. First run: I was the following car. At the straightaway, I was going too fast and did not pace behind Tanner with the speed I wanted, and I didn't have the ideal line into the first corner. The entrance was not clean, throwing off the rest of my run, ending with an 8 to 6, advantage going to Tanner. Since he had the advantage, I tried my best, but once again my entry was a bit off-I over-sped the entry, which lead me to go off the course a bit. But, I felt and believed that was my best run during the entire competition. I was hoping for the sudden death decision, as the judges were taking a while to post the score, but because my rear bumper came off coming out of a hairpin turn when I went off course the judges' final decision was a score of 7 to 7. I guess I tried too hard and I should have been patient and ran my run. Once again, this round was a battle with the transmission....I need a new transmission!
Tied with Samuel Hubinette for First, Chris is back home for Round Three of Formula D in his convertible 350Z. After losing to Takatori (August 2008 cover car) last round, he's looking to win it at his home track in front of his closest fans.
What can I say about Englishtown? It's the birthplace of drifting on the East Coast, where I met all of our Drift Alliance buddies, and the place where we refined our skills as drifters. With Tony Angelo and Matt Petty teaming up with Mike Napp, Drift Out Wednesdays at Raceway Park was the beginning of one of the first drifting organizations in the country. If it wasn't for those three, I definitely would not be where I am today.
Raceway Park had a road course, but it wasn't until this year they got the permits to run professional racing events on it. With the closing of Wall Speedway, Raceway Park was the first track to come to mind for a new Northeast venue. It had a lot more to offer than Wall Speedway: A 90mph full-throttle-entry around a triple apex left turn, up and back down a hill into a steady right hander. With all of our friends and family out for this special event, we couldn't wait to put on a show.
After the drivers' meeting on Saturday, we headed out to the track for the final practice session. My crew chief, Kevin Wells, made some drastic changes to the suspension to get the highest possible entry speed. Qualifying went well and we were in the top five of the Top 16. Alongside me were Vaughn Gittin, Ryan Tuerck, and Tony Angelo. This was the first time all four of us ever made it into the Top 16 together and we couldn't have asked for anything better. Afterwards, I learned that my first opponent was Vaughn Gittin. It was a little frustrating to know that I had to compete against a fellow Drift Alliance member in the first round, but it was also good to know that one of us was guaranteed a spot in the Great Eight. I started to warm up the tires and realized that something was wrong with our 350Z. It was not revving smooth, and there was a loss of power. Kevin rushed over and ripped the hood open, and told me that one of the injector drivers failed and we were running on seven cylinders. Kevin quickly started splicing wires and jumping signals in between cylinders. Knowing there was only a minute or two left he yelled, "Fire it up!" I started heating up the tire and the engine revved clean and sounded great.
The Formula D officials waved me up to the line, and Vaughn came around the corner and pulled up next to me, but there was a problem. FD officials saw something under the Mustang and asked JR to back up. As the car reversed, there was a puddle of fluid on the track. The officials called it and told him to pull off the course. JR got DQ'd and I had to make a pass to put a score down. It was not how I wanted to win the round, but with no other choice, I hit the track at full speed to see if our car was even going to work. It flew through the course with no misfires.
My next run in the ladder was against Daijiro; a fast and very consistent driver. I had to follow first, so my main concern was to try and keep up with him on the straightaway. We passed the pace cone and I was ahead by almost a car length. Dai stayed on the throttle and his car pulled ahead. By the time we hit the next corner, he was two car lengths ahead of me. I threw it in as fast as I could, trying to keep up with him and as we approached the first outside clip, I closed right in on him and gained within a foot or two of his car. We tore down the hill and as we wrapped around the main clip, I had my front end up to his door. I gave him just enough space to transfer back, and I jumped on the throttle and drove back in to his opposite side for the right-hander. The run felt great. As they read the score off, it was 9 to 6, advantage Daijiro. Apparently I wavered on the bank enough to lose the run.
We lined back up and the only thing I could do was hit the course as hard as I could and see if Dai would make a mistake. As I ran through the course, I was looking back for Dai and saw a decent gap between us and thought we had a chance for a One More Time. The run felt amazing and my spotter told me it was probably the best run he's seen yet. When the score came back it was an 8-to-8 tie. We lost the round. Frustrated and annoyed, I pulled around to our pit and got out of the car. There wasn't anything else for us to do but to watch the rest of the event and see how it would turn out. As the day came to an end, we were pushed from First Place to Third, with only a handful of points separating the three of us. Las Vegas and a new track layout are next; the biggest competition will be the heat. Temperatures of 110 degrees are average for this time of year and it will be interesting to see how the cars hold up to the abuse.
Nos Energy Drink
The mighty Sam mis-shifted his V-10 Viper in Atlanta, landing himself in the other half of the tie for First with Chris Forsberg. The two-time Formula D champ is back and with more resolve to add a third drift season notch to his Swedish belt.
We came into Round Three First in points, tied with Forsberg. Englishtown was an entirely new track for us and, between learning how to attack it and getting back into the drifting groove after four weeks of stunt driving for the upcoming Fast and the Furious 4 flick, we were very thankful that Formula D had Thursday open for testing. The track actually turned out to be more technical than expected. The entry was very fast and led into a long left-hander, which put us right in the middle of Third and Fourth gears. After some traction and final drive adjustments from the NuFormz crew we were on our way, but then came another problem: A decreasing corner over a hill that required slower speed and maximum angle-not the kind of corner for tall gears and lots of traction! I knew this would be the challenge for us to overcome.
On Friday, we continued to make some small changes, after listening to what the judges were looking for. I took the outside line on the first left-hander and they loved that-but the tight uphill turn was still causing us problems. Looking back, I'm thinking maybe I should have taken away some traction to get the greater angle. You always learn something new, I guess.
On race day I made it as far as the Great Eight, where I ran against Tyler in a "One More Time" run. Crap! Tyler had the fastest runs over the weekend, so I knew I would have problems keeping up with him in speed. And I did. After our final run, they gave him the win and we were done for the weekend. After flying across the country and having your team stationed for four weeks on the East Coast following the Atlanta event (due to high gas prices), I felt bad about not making it to the podium. Either way, I definitely felt the support from the fans. Thanks, all of you East Coast drift fanatics! Drift ya later.
Drifting a GTO for the '08 season, the LHD seating position has been good so far for our JDM friend. But, after losing to his new boss, Rhy Millen (Boo! Hiss!) in Chapter Two, he's in Jersey to prove he's worth his salt.
New Jersey was a new track for all of us, so we didn't know how things were going to go. Thanks to my chief mechanic TJ's hard work, we were able to find a good setup and maximize the GTO's capabilities. I was able to achieve the deepest angles and qualified First! It's been a long time since I qualified First, and I was so happy!
In the Top 16 round, I went against Darren McNamara. His Saturn Sky is the same as a Pontiac Solstice, and I lost to two Solstices in the last round at Atlanta, so I didn't want to lose again. When I was leading, he was right behind me the whole time, so he had the advantage. But, when he was leading, he went off the track and I moved on.
In the Top 8 round, I went against Chris Forsberg. He is my tandem buddy from the old days, and we used to drive together for fun. However we've only competed against each other two times so far, and he won both times. WTF! Like both times before, we had a really good battle. We both drove pretty close to each other, but I think I took a slightly better line with more angle that allowed me to move on. It was the first time I beat him!
In the Top 4 round, I went against Tyler McQuarrie. I lead first and got an advantage. I knew his Porsche was super fast, so I tried to stick with him hard, and I think I was doing a pretty good job. But, I mis-shifted in front of the main clipping point and barely kept sideways, and he was 10 cars in front of me by the time I shifted back to the right gear. I was so mad at myself for mis-shifting that I wanted to scream! Then I had the Third Place match with Rhys, again! I had to get my revenge. He is also fast, so I tried my best to keep up with him. But damn-in the end I couldn't; he beat me again.
I had the exact same result as the last round in Atlanta. I finished Fourth Place, lost twice in the same day, and got beat by my boss. WTF! On a positive note, I qualified First, and that was a big improvement for me.
Sigh. Poor Mr. McQuarrie. A veteran driver with years of experience, he's had a whole other kind of experience in his new-for-the-season Porsche GT2. Thanks to transmission and engine mount issues, Tyler's been on the Top 16 sideline collecting a whopping zero points.
The season up to this point has been a nightmare for us, but now that all the bugs were worked out of the Porsche, it was time for us to take control in Round Three. Englishtown is a new track for everyone, so we had to guess on the gearing and setup from a video we were given of JR and Ryan testing the track. But, when we got to the track on Thursday for practice, it looked much different from the video. Turn 1 is fast and the elevation change is much greater than I expected; I hadn't been in the Porsche since Atlanta, so it took a few runs for me to get back in the swing of things. Much to my surprise, I really liked this track. I like faster tracks and Turn 1 is fast. The Porsche ran well all day, but for some reason we were only boosting up to 1.1-bar. We normally run around 1.4-bar, so the crew pulled some tricks out of their bag to loosen up traction to compensate. Problem solved-for now.
Friday's practice went well, but the car felt a little different because of the higher track temperatures. Still, I felt comfortable going into unseeded qualifying, and I knew I just needed to get one solid run in to advance to the top 32. I ended up qualifying Third with the highest entry speed in the group!
We didn't practice much on Saturday, since we wanted to minimize wear and tear on the car. I qualified in Fifth Place, with a 96.75 and 82 mph entry, which was 4 mph faster than anyone else. I was in the Top 16 and thinking that buying that voodoo doll was the best money I ever spent. My only concern was Turn 1. Since the Hankook JIC Porsche has so much grip and we were unable to get full boost, my only way through Turn 1 was to be fully committed, which meant I'll either end up drifting around the corner very fast, or...I didn't even want to think about what else could happen!
I went up against Tony Angelo in Round One and our qualifying speeds were separated by 10 mph. I knew I needed to gap him, because if I caught him in Turn 1 and had to lift, the Porsche would straighten out. Tony was faster than I anticipated, so after two rounds, we were forced to run again. It was a close battle, but in the end I advanced. Next up for me was Sam in the Viper. I followed on the first run and was a little shallow in Turn 1, but I was able to suck up on his bumper in Turns 3 and 4. Sam won the run, but I made up points in the second, and was faced with another One More Time run, where I eventually moved on.
At Wall Speedway in New Jersey last year I went up against Dai in the Final Four and lost. Guess who I'm up against in the Final Four this year? Dai! I'm so determined to get on the podium at this point, losing is not an option. After some more close drifting, I beat Dai and found myself in the finals against Tanner. I followed on the first run again, and Tanner's was a little shallow in Turn 1, but I was able to close the gap and get on his bumper through the second part of the course. In my lead run, Tanner was all over me in Turns 1 and 2, but I was able to pull away in Turns 3 and 4. I knew it was close, but I had no idea how the judges would go with this one. We drove up to the podium, and they announced that Tanner was the winner of Round 3.
So close to a win, I was disappointed we didn't top the podium, but Second Place is a great result for us, considering how far we fought from the first two events. This was a very long time coming. The Porsche drift program is so far outside the box that a lot of people doubted the car and thought we were crazy. But we showed what the car can do, and I'm looking forward to smoother sailing (drifting) for the rest of the season!
The Golden Boy Foust had a great '07 season. Formula D championship? Check. X-Games Gold? Check. Next on his list is a back-to-back repeat adding a second Formula D title in his 350Z. And after going off track in Atlanta and blowing his chance for a points lead, you can bet he's in New Jersey to kick some smoky ass.
We won! What a great way to wrap up a strong two weeks. With a Second Place finish at Rally America the week before FD, our teams are on the right track for the rest of the season for rally and drift!
The Formula D win was frankly a bit of a surprise. I like learning new tracks, but this one was confusing-the long, fast entry and first turn certainly benefited the ultra-horsepower cars, but they seemed to have had a hard time maintaining toward the end. Fortunately, the AEM-prepped 350Z had no problems bridging speed and power with technicality! Samuel and Forsberg went against each other early on, where Sam eventually drew blood and looked good to win the whole thing, but he went out in the Top 8. I was paired against Stephan Verdier, then Ryuju Miki, Rhys Millen, and Tyler McQuarrie in the finals-some of the fastest drivers in the competition! Despite my skepticisms, I was able to take out Stephan's Subaru early on, stick to Ryuji 's 160dB FD, and take advantage of a small and rare error from Rhys Millen's effort.
In the finals, it was Tyler that gave us a healthy scare. In my lead run, we topped 80 mph on the entry, but he was only able to reel me in on the last turn, giving me the advantage. Following the Porsche, I focused on getting the best acceleration possible off the line so he couldn't get out of reach. It worked out, and I stayed in his draft through the entire track, but still I wasn't sure which way the judging would go. When the win was announced, I felt proud to give Rockstar our second motorsports podium in two weeks-for the second time this year-and our first win in Formula D this season!