10 Things I Learned at Formula Drift Road Atlanta

DaiYoshihara

10. Is Dai Yoshihara Finally Back?
Watching Dai Yoshihara in qualifying I felt he was looking really good and finally putting some runs together. I looked over at Chelsea DeNofa’s spotter in fact (and told him that Dai Yoshihara would win the event during practice). Sadly, Vaughn Gittin Jr. spoiled my prediction but Dai Yoshihara is starting to look back to his old self. He has been a driver looking really short on confidence so perhaps the return to the podium will help him remember what winning feels like. This was his first podium since Long Beach in 2013. His car has looked far behind the other 86/BRZ chassis in the sport but maybe this was the start of his comeback tour!

AlecHohnadell.FormulaD

9.Alec Hohnadell Will Win An Event This Year
Alec Hohnadell has grown and developed faster than almost any drifter I have seen. The kid is world class and knows how to win things. His progression in Formula Drift is clear and I think he got a bad call in his Final Four battle with Dai Yoshihara (and actually won). Watching the battle more and more, it really seems like Alec Hohnadell should of been in the finals. I don’t think he should lose sleep over this at all however. Sometimes calls will go your way and sometimes they won’t go in your favor. I do think across these next six rounds he will score his first event victory. He currently sits 10th in the championship after his fourth place finish this weekend.

FormulaDriftPro2

8. Road Atlanta Highlights Pro 2 Behind the Curve
Pro 2 was ugly and borderline unwatchable this weekend. Drifters couldn’t enter right, couldn’t stop spinning, and also couldn’t manage to tandem. I almost want to pretend the new Pro 2 season didn’t start this weekend. Jeff Jones, Marc Landerville, and Ryan Litteral all had solid performances but that is about where it stopped for me. The event was slow and especially hard to watch as a fan. Perhaps, the need for a perfect line to run Road Atlanta well was just too much for these younger drifters. My vote is to remove Road Atlanta from the 2017 Pro 2 calendar and pretend this event never happened. I am hoping for vast improvements at Orlando Speed World.

RyanTuerck.Differential

7. Ryan Tuerck and his Evil Differential
I doubt many people will argue with me that Ryan Tuerck has the ability to win a championship in Formula Drift. His car just doesn’t want to help him get across the finish line. He seemingly has repeat differential issues with the FR-S across the last season and moving into 2016. I cannot even really understand what happened here short of the thing just ripping itself out of the car. Ryan Tuerck needs a string of luck or his car to stay together for the next seven rounds to stay in the championship conversation. Ryan is sitting in 14th place right now but only 88 points away from the championship with six rounds to go. Orlando Speed World is going to be a huge event now for drivers to establish dominance in the championship chase.

PatrickMordaunt

6. Pat Mordaunt Loves Road Atlanta
This past weekend at Road Atlanta marked my 12 year anniversary with drifting. I was introduced to the sport on assignment with Import Racer magazine at Road Atlanta in 2005. I have very specific memories of certain battles through my Formula Drift history. One of those battles has always been Dai Yoshihara vs. Pat Mordaunt back at Road Atlanta. This track just gets Pat Mordaunt or Pat just gets this track. He always manages to impress here. I think if his Top 16 battle was against anyone but Forsberg or Vaughn on this weekend he would of been in the Great 8 easily. He put up an insane fight against Forsberg, even pushing him to a OMT. Watch Forsberg vs. Mordaunt here.

ChelseaDeNofa.Championship

5. Most Wide Open Championship in History – Stay Tuned
Adding a Round 8 to the championship really shakes up the strategy and reality of how a champion is crowned in this sport. Each round counts about 12.5% less than years past when totaling your score. The eight round format gives drivers a little more room for error in winning a championship. Under the seven race format, you basically needed to qualify seven times and finish in the Great 8 every weekend with several podiums to be in the Top 5. If you were lucky, one round could be a poor finish in Top 32 / Top 16 but it needed to be offset with a victory or high podium finish. After two rounds of Formula Drift, the Final Four has featured eight different drivers. This goes even further to leaving the championship a wide open battle.

FormulaDriftPodium

4. The Old Guard Dominated
This podium looked straight out of Formula Drift 2012. In fact, if you pull up the results for Wall Speedway 2012 on Wrecked Magazine you will notice the podium is identical. Sometimes even when things change they also mange to stay the same. Road Atlanta is a difficult track to tackle so it shouldn’t be that shocking the veterans really stepped up to the occasion. I also really miss Darren McNamara when we come to Road Atlanta as he also managed to put on a great show for the crowd here. Before this weekend started I would of bet against Dai Yoshihara and Vaughn Gittin Jr. both being on the podium. Was this a fluke for each of them or is the old guard back in form and ready for a serious championship chase?

ChrisForsberg.PodiumRecord

3. Chris Forsberg’s Insane Podium Percentage
Our stats guru Jacob Leveton was crunching some numbers after Road Atlanta and pointed out to me that Chris Forsberg has one insane podium percentage! Chris now has 28 podiums out of 82 career events. That is an unreal podium percentage of 34%. That number gets even more impressive when you consider he had a complete year of poor performances in the Sears 350z convertible. He has the most podiums in Formula Drift history but a huge margin already and shows no signs of stopping anytime soon. This will be a record that will sit top in the history books for quite some time. Following along with his statistical average he will hit 30 podiums by the end of this season.

VaughnGittinJr.ThreeWheelDrift

2. Can Vaughn Gittin Jr. Make a Championship Run?
I am not quite ready to declare this the year of Vaughn Gittin Jr. in Formula Drift. If you listened to me on the Maximum Drift podcast, I mentioned that Vaughn has a championship crew and is a championship driver but he tends to lack focus at keys times in the season. He has the ability to win but is hardly half the battle in this sport. The poor performance of DeNofa, Aasbo, and Ken Gushi really left the championship wide open. Vaughn sits in first place right now by 36 points but I am not ready to declare his Mustang the dominate force. Let’s look back at his championship reality once the East Coast leg is wrapped up in New Jersey.

KennethMoen

1. Kenneth Moen’s Top 32 Run Was My Favorite of the Weekend
In the battle versus Chelsea DeNofa in Top 32 it just looked like Kenneth Moen’s gas pedal got stuck to the floor! It might not of been the most technically perfect run but watching it in person was amazing! I thought he was going to fly off the track about 10 times in his run. DeNofa who has one fast BMW barely was able to stay in the television camera lens. This was a very 2014 Kenneth Moen style lap. Watch it here

I attended my first drift event at Road Atlanta in 2005 while shooting for Import Racer Magazine (RIP). Since then I have produced drift content for PAS Magazine, Modified Magazine, Drifting Magazine (RIP), and many more publications. I was the producer of the movie Slide America and then helped found this website in 2007.

35 Comments

  1. Otis says:

    Vaughn looked great this weekend, I called his victory after his first qualifying run in fact.(after top 32 I had the finals picked only swapping alec and dai)

    Also I’m picking Alec to win Orlando now, he should have been on the podium this weekend and it’s gonna push him even more being home in Florida

  2. Samurai Sam says:

    did kenny moen invent the levitating clipping point?

  3. bk123 says:

    I agree with this except for the PRO 2 comment. The “veteran” drivers did well of course understanding that practice was limited to >2hrs before qual and an hour just before comp. Given the weather and the fact that this was a new venue and new everything for some of the bunch, I think they deserve a little more credit. I think we saw improvement on every run for the most part with every driver (including the vets), so in hoping practice doesn’t get cut in half in Orlando, I feel like these guys will be better prepped to put on a better show. Fingers crossed! But keep Atlanta. They already got a program hit with rd 4 not being held at a Pro event. 2cents

  4. Sits says:

    Am I the only one that gets pissed about the multitude of cousin kissers having to stand the entirety of the event?

  5. chris beasley says:

    10. Dai. no, hes not back. he got a bye vs goodin in 32. I don’t think he beat Mad mike in top 16. then vs hohnadel in final 4 I don’t think he won. He had a lot of luck and several calls that went his way. I would bet he doesn’t make it past top 16 the rest of the year.

    Also, yeah, Moen looked really good. I think he will get a podium or 2 this year.

  6. Jabroni says:

    @bk123 how dare you try to justify that piss poor pro2 performance. that shit show looked worse than any pro am or practice event I’ve ever seen let alone a FD event. In 2011 pro-am ran along side FD Atlanta, and that event was 100 times better to watch. they had the same small window for practice with the same steep learning curve.

  7. Anthony says:

    11. Faruk Kugay was absolutely terrible. Formula Drift should reserve the right to send any drivers that aren’t ready for Pro down to Pro 2 at any moment. I don’t think he made a single lap all weekend that showed any redeemable qualities. Matt Field got the shaft, again, against him this weekend.

    12. Pro 2 should only ever return to Road Atlanta if they get twice the practice time as they had this weekend. Their Top 16 competition took as long, or longer than ALL of the Pro competition. Between the abysmal “tandem”, to the fact that just about every single battle had one driver going off course, it was absolutely terrible to watch. The poor guy driving the track sweeper never even got out of the seat.

  8. Dustin says:

    @Anthony My group had side bets going on where Faruk was gonna fly off track. He doesn’t belong on the track with Pro1 drivers at all.

  9. Jabroni says:

    i was trying to guess which driver Dan in the blue supra was going to smash into on the entry

  10. Doof says:

    @Anthony: While I agree Faruk is absolute garbage.. Matt did not get the shaft at all. The problem is he drove like an idiot. If you’re chasing a sketchy, slow, and inconsistent driver, why are you going to initiate right on his door?

    Yes, Faruk was slow, but he was on the correct line. Matt hit him on entry and then as he corrected to go up the hill, Matt decided to let his anger get the better of him and put his foot down and run Faruk off course. He was at fault for the contact, and made an illegal pass. Seems to me the right call was made. I was laughing when I saw them give it to Faruk, because Matt had it in the bag, but he screwed himself in the end.

    Maybe next time Matt should calm his tits and leave some space. It’s called strategy.

  11. Formulafgt says:

    Pro2 is a joke… Would have been a better show with all drivers combined like pro1 2013. Why would anyone want to come up into one of the worst series in worldwide pro drifting. Pro2 needs a West Coast vs East Coast series that meets for a final t16 at Irwindale. And I 100% agree if you do horrible you should get bumped back to Pro2. To only have 32 drivers in Pro1 is a huge disgrace upon the organization. God have mercy on your souls…

  12. SK1DS says:

    Pro 2 was ASS. Dan in the blue supra was FAST, almost as fast at pro guys, but they’re just bad drivers.

    Matt field decided to be an ass and he paid for it.

    Dai Yoshihara is back. He made one little mistake against Vaughn and that cost him. The judges I think wanted to see him back, so they gave him some BS calls. Dai V Mad Mike should have gone OMT. Dai V Alec should have gone OMT.

    Kyle Mohan got cheated. Shoulda gone OMT, or anything but unanimous.

    Fredric Aasbo needs to come back to reality and realize he’s blowing motors because he’s trying to run 1000HP out of a engine designed for a commuter economy car. Add even 1 cylinder (Audi I5… that would be sick) and he stops blowing motors. Or, you know get with the rest of the world and run a 2J or LS…

    VIP this year was PIMPIN!!! We got a full trailer, nice bathrooms, AC, free water and food, shit was nice.

    I have to say this is one of the best FD events in a while. Lots of close battles and good runs.

  13. Dustin says:

    I think you need to rewatch the Mohan battle. He almost centered the last clipping point going up the hill.

  14. Curtis says:

    I gave Pro 2 a chance this year and I quickly remembered why I never bother to watch it, it was terrible.

    How the hell is Faruk in Pro, seriously???

    While I like Dai he should have lost to Alec. He clearly straightened on the last corner

  15. Eddi Hughes says:

    Not the prettiest

  16. Kids Heart says:

    The thing I took from this event is how much I miss Saito, Nishida and Yokoi.

  17. Rowdyboyz says:

    Great write up, I like recaps like this. I read also that Alec had a bad clutch after the run with Dia, so for the sake of the “show” I say it was good he didn’t advance, would’ve just given Vaughn another by-run to end the show. I also agree that Matt had it in the bag and that it did suck he had to battle against a driver like that , but a real professional would’ve known how to handle it IMO. I mean watch Faruks next battle(I don’t remember who he faced ) but I do remember it wasn’t as controversial

  18. Turbology says:

    @SK1DS interestingly enough, it seems Aasbo is of the same thought. You could hear his frustration in the interview with Laurette Nicoll, and he hinted at running a 2JZ.

    Yes, billet main caps will improve the durability of the motors, but how many band-aid fixes can you do for what is inherently a motor well beyond its threshold of design?

    2J and LS are battle proven at the kind of power levels necessary to remain competitive, but at this point, the 2AR is seemingly far past the tipping point of ROI.

    Not sure of the potency of the 8AR-FTS, but why roll the dice with another 4-cylinder, outside of marketing purposes? Swallow the 2J pill and make reliable, consistent power.

  19. Kids Heart says:

    And how about use a rwd chassis.

  20. I agree with a lot of the things in this article and in the comments. Some I do not agree with. One of my disagreements being with the Pro-2 Comment. I think it should stay at RA because these guys will not benefit from being handled with kid gloves. They need to get out there in front of the big crowds and learn on the same courses they will be running in the future. These drivers need a push, a challenge because if they aren’t challenged then they never grow as a driver. I think part of the reason why they did so poorly was inexperience and nerves. Some of the drivers simply were not ready, the car wasn’t ready, or the crew and spotters were not ready. I enjoyed watching some of them progress throughout the day. I do agree that I have seen better runs in a grassroots low level and pro-am event than in Pro-2 this year. I will continue to watch Pro 2 and see these drivers grow to a pro level.

    As far as main competition. I, like a lot of you, disagree with some of the rules FD has. I think it sucks when a great, aggressive driver is put against someone who isn’t up to par, as was the case with Matt Field. We can argue the different points about what should have been done but for those of you who are drivers, wouldn’t you have done the same?

    As far as Alec, he is an amazing driver and he is growing in the sport so quickly and I believe we will see a win from him this year. I think he should have advanced but if the comment above, about his clutch, is true, then perhaps it was for the best.

    VGJ came out and laid down some really great runs, nothing really special as far as a show but he displayed that he is back and with some power. While I am not a fan of his I can say he is making a pretty solid comeback from his wreck and this new car seems pretty legit.

    It was great to see Dai have a good finish. I hope this turns into a streak for him and his team. He is a great driver and I want to see him giving 110% again.

    Aasbo had more hard luck this week. I think after having to fix an engine and making it back out they should have allowed him to call a timeout or something for the tire. That was just bad luck. I saw a lot of guys de-beading tires, seemed more so than normal.

    There were so many drivers off course and the bumper carnage was huge. As we left we saw a kid trying to sell a piece of someone’s bumper in the parking lot.

    I think there was a lot fewer BS calls this year and I want to give the judges a recognition for it.

  21. Jbone427 says:

    I knew the moment i saw Vaughn’s first qualifying run that he would be a serious threat for the weekend. That independent rear suspension has really helped him and his car no longer looks snappy, rather smooth and planted instead. And he finally has some sick angle to go with it. I predict a championship year for him if he can keep his head right!

  22. Biddys says:

    I cant believe Aasbo’s engine doesn’t have billet main caps. If you want your 2jz to last more than a season they are a must. lets say Aasbo makes 1000whp out of his 4 cylinder that’s 250whp per cylinder. Then compare that to A 6 cylinder at the same power level it comes to about 167 whp per cylinder. Side note a 2JZ with 250whp per cylinder would make 1500whp (talk about some wheels speed) At that level I would definatly have billet main caps if i wanted it to last a weekend.

  23. Mike Peters says:

    Man, Wrecked Magazine is really blessed to have access to so many leading industry engine builders on it’s blog. Who is Steph Papadakis anyways and what has he done?

    Quick Toyota hire one of these bloggers!

    #hatersgonnahate #prettysuretheteamthatwonthechampionshiplastyearknowswhattheyredoing #hashtags #pizzadiet #letstakeovertheworldwithakeyboard

  24. Jbone427 says:

    Haha @curtis i meant during the transitions., car no longer looks like its skating on ice

  25. OGLarry says:

    @curtis One has to have very planted car indeed to smoothly 3 wheel through an entire turn. His team must have an old dirt oval consultant, seriously.

    http://www.nationalspeedsportnews.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/Kokomo-ClausonDarland-Gill.jpg

  26. Jabroni says:

    @oglarry almost every major team has a dirt/asphalt oval guy or a drag racing guy in its paddock ASD with falken, Gardella with mobil1 along side scott who is now with foresburg who has 20 years of circle track experience, papadakis, bergonholtz, kevin wells and matt field have off road racing experience etc etc

  27. ASD Motorsports says:

    No dirt track consultant needed. Some of us here raced dirt track for years before FD was ever created. Countless main event wins and even a national title or two on dirt.
    I’ve said for years these things are just dirt late models on pavement.
    Even back when we ran the ASD Mob program we were showing videos of dirt tack suspension to the guys. Maybe one day I’ll get around to writing a drift chassis set-up book to pass some of this info along.
    It’s not rocket science. All the info is already out there, it’s just learning how to apply it to a drift car and how much or how little. And IRS gives us more tools to play with now on the Mustang, so it’s nice to finally have what everyone else has had.
    Car is pretty decent but isn’t great yet. Still improving it. But don’t expect those front wheels to stay on the ground anytime soon.
    Let’s see how it goes at Orlando. Competition is pretty stiff nowadays.

  28. Turbology says:

    @Biddys surprised me too, I figured that would have been one of the first parts Papadakis developed with BC, at the very least by this point after losing multiple engines. Aasbo did say they are developing new parts with each issue, so live and learn I guess.

    @Mike Peters I don’t think anyone here is claiming to be even remotely as knowledgeable or experienced as Steph, just making casual observations dude. They’ve had a lot of engine failures. No mud-slinging, just facts.

    Aasbo is a great ambassador for the team and always composed, but in that interview he clearly mentioned exploring ‘other’ Toyota engines. I have nothing but respect for Steph and the things he has accomplished.

  29. Biddys says:

    yeah @turbology I think the main cap issue first reared it ugly head at motegi super drift.

  30. SK1DS says:

    @Mike Peters, I’ll put it simply, have you ever seen Tuerck, Gushi, Forrest Wang, Cameron Moore or Alec have the same consistent motor issues as Aasbo? Heck Tuerck probably has the most aggressive setup with Anti-lag and all, but he blows diffs, not motors. Stephen is a genius, and I think he is an absolute industry leader with converting FWD cars and building solid, competitive and cool machines.

    @Jabroni, @ASD and @OGLarry, yea dirt experience helps but I honestly think Vaughn set it up like that to compensate for the difference between a solid rear axle and IRS. A solid rear axle will flex and play a little more, and to compensate for this I think he setup his rear suspension a little softer.

  31. Drift Bukake says:

    Mike Peters- you are irrelevant in the drift game. Please refrain from commenting. Go play in your el Camino.

  32. @SK1DS, who do you think built and maintains Vaughn’s car? ASD…. Pretty sure they are familiar with the how and why it is set up the way it is.

  33. NUTTERBUTTER says:

    ALEC DIDNT HAVE HA CLUTCH ISSUE JUST SO YOU KNOW.

  34. Mike Peters says:

    @Sk1dzzz

    You realize they’re running 2j…lol. Solid comparison.

    Steph’s doing things that have never been done on his engine platform, and some new problems are presenting themselves. They’ll figure it out and move forward, and do their part to make America great again.

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