Our final post in our series will cover the current leader in the championship chase, Mike Essa. Coming into 2013, Essa had a lot of unknowns in his toolbox. Sitting on Yokohama tires for the first time, his E46 chassis was freshly-built, and no BMW had ever taken a podium. For Essa, his first Podium would have been considered a success, and an event win would have been even better. But now that he’s the leader in the clubhouse for the championship with two event wins and a third podium finish, Essa is simply ecstatic.
|1. Mike Essa||489.5 Points|
|2. Chris Forsberg||474 Points|
|3. Fredric Aasbo||425.5 Points|
|4. Vaughn Gittin Jr||410 Points|
|5. Daigo Saito||409.5 Points|
|6. Justin Pawlak||400.5 Points|
Essa’s plan is simple: don’t screw up. While this may sound simple, in 2012, the leader going into the final event did NOT win the championship due to an early elimination, and in 2011, the leader entering Irwindale was knocked out early in top 16 and had to cheer for another drivers to screw up in top 8 before securing the championship. With a 15 point lead, finishing in the same around as Chris Forsberg or finishing just 1 step below Forsberg will earn the championship from Essa. As we outlined yesterday, qualifying will be very important, and both drivers have out-qualified each other an equal number of times, which will make the first two runs of Friday’s qualifying session two of the most important qualifying runs of the entire season.
Essa’s Irwindale results haven’t been the greatest historically, missing the top 32 cut in 2010, hitting only top 32 last year, and only top 16 in 2009 and 2011. However, Essa has proven that this year and his current E46 BMW chassis is far superior than the previous E92 or Z4 chassis, and previous results should be expected to be exceeded. Should Essa confirm the championship this season, he would become the first driver to earn the championship after earning his license in the Formula D ProAm system as all previous Formula D drivers have earned their license either by competing in Formula D since the beginning (Millen, Hubinette, Forsberg, Yoshihara, Gittin Jr) when licensing wasn’t an option or via their previous driving (Foust) or International (Saito) resume. This would be a huge accomplishment that would give up-and-coming drivers a sense of achievability towards the FD championship that may not be there today.