Formula D Pro Am All Stars Event Recap
After winning the midwest series, Midwest Drift Union, I was invited to the Formula Drift All Stars event at Toyota Speedway in Irwindale, California AKA "The House of Drift". This would be the event for the top Pro Am drivers and it would take place during the final round of Formula Drift - Round 7: "Title Fight," October 7-8th. My long-time friend and fellow hodag, Ryan Hagen, and I headed out about 4AM Tuesday from Milwaukee, Wisconsin and got to the hotel near Irwindale, California Wednesday afternoon. Nothing crazy happened on the way there which is generally a good thing. It was (obviously) a super long drive, but I am getting pretty good at driving across the country for drift events, so I wasn't too phased.
After sleeping a good 13 hours (I only got a couple hours of sleep max on the way out there), we headed to the track Thursday morning and got our pit area picked out. It was then on to performing the ritual of checking the fluids and tires on the race car, filling it with gas, dusting it off and generally making sure it was ready to rock.
Last year, as some of you may remember, I did not have a great ending to my drift event at Toyota Speedway. During the first round of XDC's 2010 season I crashed hard at this track (you can find videos of it on youtube). I had to make sure I was keeping my mind off of that, because as any driver can attest, coming back to a track after a hard crash isn't easy.
On the brighter side, I was feeling pretty confident about this course since I competed on essentially the same layout at XDC last year. I tried doing the same thing, running the outer bank in 4th and downshift to 3rd just before entering the inner bank. I kept trying and trying and my line just wasn’t right and I wasn’t able to stay on throttle long enough. This was the case throughout the first day of practice and even though I had a couple of good runs I wasn’t feeling very good.
Another thing on my mind was tire wear. Formula Drift had added a “power alley” after the inner oval and then a long decreasing radius tire-killing right turn before the finish. Don’t get me wrong, this layout is by far the most exciting for the driver and crowd, but I definitely hurt on tires. I brought with me enough for the old track but not this new one. Luckily with the help of ASD and Falken, I was able to make a trip to the Falken warehouse the following day (yeah, I was kind of in heaven) and pick up a few more tires! This was huge and it absolutely saved my weekend!
Friday was a little more practice and qualifying. Funny side story: While waiting in the grid during my practice runs, Hagen looks down and happened to see a bolt that looked like it could have come off my car. We decided to give my a car once over, and while it wasn't my driveshaft bolt (it must have been someone else's), we found some major issues my car's driveshaft - specifically, it was falling out. Of the three driveshaft bolts, one was missing, the nut had fallen off a second bolt and the third bolt was halfway out. During my little bit of downtime, we drove to three different hardware stores in the area until we found the right bolts and I installed them just before qualifying. Disaster = averted.
I was driving about the same, maybe a little better than Thursday, but the truth is my car wasn’t the same as last season. After consulting with Ian of ASD, I made some changes. The sun went down and so did track temperature, which made a huge difference in grip. My fiance, Mal, was watching the live stream and texted me to say she could tell the grip level had changed based on how the pro drivers were doing, and to adjust for it. What a good spotter back in Wisconsin! I was watching FD practice and we saw one of the scariest crashes in drifting. Jim Guthrie, a well known road race driver and now drifter, lifted off the throttle on the outer bank and his car immediately went straight into the wall. The track was shut down for over an hour while they cut away the car to get him out and took him to the hospital. Being a driver, it was unnerving and I felt terrible for him and his crew.
Once the track was cleaned up we started qualifying and I changed the settings on the car to compensate for the change in track conditions. I was still not driving the way I wanted to, but luckily I qualified 4th. Not too shabby, I guess.
Saturday was the big show and the crowd was crazy! Record attendance and not an empty seat or place to stand anywhere! We had a short practice session before the competition and I decided to try staying in 4th gear until the power alley where I’d make my shift. It worked perfectly!! I had figured it out just in time and my runs were 10 times better.
My first battle was against Orlando Gamez and I lead first and got the advantage. During his lead run, he spun out in front of me and it was a near-collision but I squeezed through for the win. Next up was my battle against Enrique Mendoza and I was able to beat him and move on to the FINALS! Hell yeah!!
Julian Jacobs qualified a spot ahead of me so he got to lead first. I stayed with him and I’m not sure who had the advantage. I lead the second run and it ended up even, as both of us had mistakes, so the judges had us go one more time. Both our cars were severely overheated at this point and thanks to Ryan Hagen, Bill Cook and his crew, and Dave Briggs and his crew, they were able to get all my tire changes done after every battle and they kept the engine from melting down(THANKS GUYS!). My engine was running so hot when I was at the line the radiator overflow tube blew off and all of the water boiled out. The tube got reattached, but we didn't have any water to add so I just crossed my finger I could make it out there one more time. Both our cars should have died at the line but mine kept going and even though Julian was running rough, he lined back up with me. He lead again and was slower than before because of mechanical issues and I had a heck of a time following, but it worked out and it was my turn to lead. The judges told us to try to pace each other so he took off first and then I took off and passed him before the entry. I threw down a solid run, putting my car in all the right places, and when I came back in I got word that I took first place!!
The rest was celebration and all I can say was how proud I was to take the victory for the Midwest. I didn’t at all mind leaving from the track that night soaked in champaign and driving the 40+ hours home! It felt great and this win will definitely keep me motivated and excited through the off-season and winter build.
I’d like to thank all of the companies I have partnered with for an outstanding 2011 season. I truly would not had as much success as I had this year without the help and support I received from ASD, Falken Tire, Enkei, EMS World, Mechanix Wear and Race Design (CHECK OUT ALL MY SPONSORS BY CLICKING THEIR LOGOS ON THE RIGHT SIDE OF THE PAGE - YOU WON'T BE DISAPPOINTED!). Not to mention, a huge thank you to my friends and family who have been everything from my pit crew to my biggest fans.
I also want to throw big shout out to Exedy Racing Clutch!! Their products are awesome! Check 'em out - you know you need a new clutch.
So with the 2011 season officially in the books, I'm now on to finding a way to make 2012 an even bigger and better year for supporters and myself. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or find me on facebook if you want to be a part of something that promises to be really awesome for the 2012 drift season!
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