This past weekend (probably the hottest weekend this year) Formula Drift made its annual stop in New Jersey. Round 4 found its way to the Wall Speedway and just like every year, it did not disappoint. Every year we are mystified by the seasoned veterans, the rookies and the average drivers who show some spark and prove themselves worthy of the title, “professional”. We also see the old replaced by the new as well as the new being shown their place by the old. Qualifying this year was a little different and gave way to a few different drivers earning the top spots. As if the crazy heat wasn’t enough, it of course was forecasted to rain. But sure enough the thunderstorm withheld itself and we were just left with a lighter shower that happened to come during qualifying. Drivers like reigning rookie of the year, Odi Bakchis, qualified first because he ran before the rain, while more experienced drivers like current points leader JTP, qualified 14th. There were the usual suspects though. Vaughn Gittin JR qualified 2nd, last years round 4 champion, Conrad Grunewald qualified 8th. The judges tried their best to be fair toward those who had to qualify in the rain. The track was slick and the drivers couldn’t safely attain the necessary speed or smoke to get the full scoring. Out of qualifying, two drivers stuck out the most to me. One being Walker Wilkerson. Walker spun out on his first run then had the unfortunate and embarrassing mishap with his hood the second run which resulted in double zeros. On the other hand, rookie Chelsea DeNofa looked very good. He qualified 5th but looked as if he had the top spot in mind. That’s just the thing about Formula Drift, you can never underestimate anyone.
Photos By: Sid Fligel exclusively for StanceNation.com
Saturday was much better in terms of weather. The rain had cooled the air, the water had dried and the track was ready to be torn up. Things went as planned in the 32, no upsets until Matt Powers edged out Darren McNamara to make the top 16. This is where the day got interesting. First, rookie (well, by the fact that this is his first year in FD) Daigo Saito knocked out top seeded Odi Bakchis to make the 8 and then came the most controversial match of the day, DeNofa vs McQuarrie. This was by far the hardest run of the day for Chelsea. The first run was clean and we all though he had it won, that is of course until the crash. McQuarrie, during his lead run, had lost control, hit the wall and ultimately forced DeNofa into him causing both cars to crash. DeNofa’s car suffered the worst of the damage was deemed undriveable. The judges ended up ruling that McQuarrie had won the race as would advance to the 8 because he did better in the first round. Whether or not I agree with this is irrelevant, but Chelsea, you drove like a boss and I hope that you get the car fixed and continue your journey to the top.
In the 8 we saw timeless drifting. JTP vs Forsberg, Saito vs Grunewald, this is what we were all waiting for. Quickly the 8 became 4 and we finally got to see the most anticipated race of the day, Daigo Saito vs Yoshihara. It was very close, too close, but in the end Daijiro Yoshihara came away with the victory and went on to face Vaughn Gittin JR in the finals. Both drivers ran beautifully, but as the evening set in, JR drove off into the night with his first win of the season.
Chris Forsberg knocked Saito out of a podium spot (Saito’s first time not making the podium this year) to obtain the third trophy. Overall, it was a fantastic weekend filled with drama and excitement and I can hardly wait until next year. I’ll leave you with a ton of photos that pretty much explain everything I said above and of course current standings.
The top three at this particular event were; 1. Vaughn Gittin JR, 2. Daijiro Yoshihara & 3. Chris Forsberg. The overall points standings now look like this; 1. Pawlak – 342, 2. Saito – 329, 3. Yoshihara – 291 & 4. Gittin JR – 279.