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Formula Drift 2013 Season Finale: Essa Takes Championship (w/gallery)

10 years of sliding sideways and a privateer’s BMW E46 is crowned king

Oct 15, 2013 SHARE

Formula Drift 2013 Details:


  • Michael Essa becomes 2013 Formula Drift champion in GSR Autosport BMW M3
  • Essa blows motor leading into Top 16 after qualifying first
  • Second place Forsberg files protest against Essa’s advancement
  • Irwindale Speedway sees most spectators in its history

2013 formula drift season finale irwindale events center first eliminator top 32 Flipper Photo 2/75   |   Photo by Bob Hernandez

In its 10th year, Formula Drift, the world’s premiere drift series, concluded its 2013 season in a hail of firsts and controversy amongst a sold out crowd at Irwindale Speedway, CA. Michael Essa in the GSR Autosport / Yokohama BMW E46 M3 became 2013 Formula Drift champion after completing the inaugural season using this chassis – 2012 champion Daigo Saito took event victory in Round 7: Final Fight. The championship crown did not come as Essa would’ve preferred though.

Formula_Drift_Final_Fight_2013_crowd Photo 3/75   |   Formula Drift Final Fight 2013 Crowd

After qualifying first for the final seventh round of the series, Essa charged into a Top 32 battle against opponent Luke Pakula and his AE86 Corolla. During this fight Essa’s E46 unfortunately blew its motor. Luck was on his side though as the AE86 also suffered a transmission issue and was unable to continue, which allowed Essa to gain the points and on paper move into the Top 16.

Formula_Drift_Final_Fight_2013_31 Photo 4/75   |   Formula Drift Final Fight 2013 31

“We started off the weekend 15 points ahead but that was not enough of a lead to lock anything down so I knew I had to lay it down in qualifying. I went out there and was able to do it, qualifying first and gaining another 12 points. That put us far enough ahead that even though we had a motor blow up in Top 32 and couldn’t move past Top 16 we were able to sit on the sidelines to watch it unfold,” said Michael Essa. He continued, offering more insight into the engine failure,

“I don’t think it was the bottom end – the bottom end is solid with CP pistons and Carrillo rods. We’re a privateer team with a small budget so our top end was all stock and I think we just lost a valve and a valve ate a piston and that was it.”

Formula_Drift_Final_Fight_2013_32 Photo 5/75   |   Formula Drift Final Fight 2013 32

With E46 inoperable, the points leader and his team could do nothing but sit back and watch the war path of second place Chris Forsberg in his NOS Energy Drink Nissan 370Z. The former 2009 champion would need to make podium in order to overtake Essa in points.

Formula_Drift_Final_Fight_2013_40 Photo 6/75   |   Formula Drift Final Fight 2013 40

Tensions mounted as Forsberg lined up against reigning-champ Daigo Saito and his Achilles Tire Lexus SC430 during the Great 8 matchups. Prior to the Great 8, Forsberg’s team had filed two protests citing rule infractions after the GSR Autosport /Yokohama team was allowed to advance. Series officials revoked those protests.

2013 formula drift season finale tandem eliminations bracket Photo 7/75   |   2013 Formula Drift Season Finale Tandem Eliminations Bracket

Following a fantastic battle between Forsberg and Saito, the judges enacted a One-More-Time tiebreaker. The two fought it out once more while cameras encircled Essa who stared powerless at the board for the results of the Forsberg/Saito battle. Saito advanced and Essa’s team went wild. Saito went on to win the event after defeating Tyler McQuarrie in the Mobil 1 / GoPro Chevrolet Camaro who finished a strong second after a tough season.

Formula_Drift_Final_Fight_2013_Essa_reaction_08 Photo 8/75   |   Formula Drift Final Fight 2013 Essa Reaction 08

“Coming into this event I wanted to prove that this season wasn’t a fluke and sitting on the sideline wasn’t how I wanted the event to go down, but unfortunately that is what happened tonight,” said Michael Essa. “The Formula Drift championship has always been my goal and I am extremely excited. There are so many amazing drivers and teams in the Series and being able to just compete with them is an honor. We are hoping to carry this momentum into the next season and earn more wins.”

Chris_Forsberg_at_2013_Formula_Drift_Final_Fight_02 Photo 12/75   |   Chris Forsberg At 2013 Formula Drift Final Fight 02

We then caught up with second place Chris Forsberg for his reaction, “I’m super proud of my team for giving me the best car I’ve ever had and the best shot we had to win the championship this year. However, it’s a real disappointment to see the championship decided over a technicality as per a disregard of clearly stated rules in the Formula Drift rulebook – rules that state if you are unable to fix your car in 5 minutes then you forfeit.”

The 10th year of Formula Drift ended with a bang. Over 20,000 estimated spectators converged at Irwindale over the two-day event and with a European car taking home the top spot there is no doubt future seasons will see even more Euros on the grid.

Formula_Drift_Final_Fight_2013_18 Photo 16/75   |   Formula Drift Final Fight 2013 18

“I think it really opens it up,” said Essa on his BMW winning the 2013 championship. “The series for a long time has just been domestics and Japanese imports so showing a European car can get on the podium and even with a brand new chassis, come out here and win the series - I would be surprised if I didn’t see more European cars running next year.”

Formula_Drift_Final_Fight_2013_14 Photo 17/75   |   Formula Drift Final Fight 2013 14

John Pangilinan, Account Direct of ID Agency, had this to say about the 2013 Final Fight, “This was probably the largest drifting crowd for any drift event we’ve ever thrown. Next year we’re thinking about possibly increasing to an additional event and possibly a couple new venues, so we’ll see – we’ll release all the new information at Sema this year. After having a BMW win the championship with a private team I do think some European car manufacturers will take notice and hopefully they will come and support the drivers and the series.”

Formula_Drift_Final_Fight_2013_41 Photo 18/75   |   Formula Drift Final Fight 2013 41

Jim Liaw, president and co-founder of Formula Drift continued, “What a way to complete the tenth season with the biggest crowd and probably the biggest motorsport event ever in Irwindale Speedway history. We are extremely grateful for the fans, sponsors and drivers that have helped grow the series over the ten years and we look forward to many more seasons to come.”

2013 formula drift season finale podium irwindale events center 07 Photo 19/75   |   2013 Formula Drift Season Finale Podium Irwindale Events Center 07

Formula 2013 Final Standings

1. Essa, Michael - GSR Autosport / Yokohama BMW M3 - 555.50 Points

2. Forsberg, Chris - NOS Energy Drink / Hankook Nissan 370Z - 538 Points

3. Saito, Daigo - Achilles Tire / Bridges Racing Lexus SC430 - 510.50 Points

4. Aasbo, Fredric - Hankook Tire Scion Racing tC - 487.50 Points

5. Gittin Jr., Vaughn - Monster Energy / Nitto Tire Ford Mustang RTR - 481.00 Points

2013 formula drift season finale podium irwindale events center 05 Photo 23/75   |   Photo by Bob Hernandez

Round 7: Final Fight Event Results

1. Saito, Daigo - Achilles Tire / Bridges Racing Lexus SC430 - First Place

2. McQuarrie, Tyler - Mobil 1 / GoPro Chevrolet Camaro - Second Place

3. Wang, Forrest - Get Nuts Lab / Achilles Nissan 240SX - Third Place

Manufacturers Championship Final Standings

1. Lexus - 975.50 Points

2. Nissan - 912.50 Points

3. Ford - 906.00 Points

4. Scion - 866.50 Points

5. BMW - 846.00 Points

Tire Final Championship Standings

1. Hankook - 1053.50 Points

2. Falken - 1008 Points

3. Achilles - 973.25 Points

4. Nitto - 834.50 Points

5. Yokohama - 788 Points

Formula_Drift_Final_Fight_2013_20 Photo 24/75   |   Formula Drift Final Fight 2013 20
Formula_Drift_Final_Fight_2013_30 Photo 37/75   |   Formula Drift Final Fight 2013 30
Formula_Drift_Final_Fight_2013_21 Photo 50/75   |   Formula Drift Final Fight 2013 21
Formula_Drift_Final_Fight_2013_opening_ceremony_02 Photo 60/75   |   Formula Drift Final Fight 2013 Opening Ceremony 02
Formula_Drift_Final_Fight_2013_43 Photo 67/75   |   Formula Drift Final Fight 2013 43
Formula_Drift_Final_Fight_2013_Essa_reaction_09 Photo 74/75   |   Formula Drift Final Fight 2013 Essa Reaction 09
Formula_Drift_Final_Fight_2013_44 Photo 75/75   |   Formula Drift Final Fight 2013 44
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