Tony Cisneros is a husband, a father of four, a youth pastor, and a self-employed entrepreneur. Cisneros also drove himself into earning a Formula Drift (FD) Pro License with his 700 hp LS2 s14 equipped with a 4-speed dog box transmission.
If you have been keeping up with the Top Drift series this year, you may have noticed that Cisneros was in first place after the first three rounds, with second place 17 points behind him. At the end of the series, Cisneros finished third overall and earned his pro FD license. Great news, right? Well, the way it went down wasn’t so great.
During qualifying, Cisneros put down two seemingly high qualifying runs that left the audience in awe. A while after he had pulled off the track, a Just Drift (JD) worker requested that Cisneros return to the grid. Upon arrival, they instructed him to go out for another run, but was told nothing else. On this run, Cisneros spun out (something he hadn’t done all weekend). At the end of the lap, a JD worker instructed him to take another lap. Cisneros spun again, on what he thought was a free run. Later, him and his team noticed that there was an oil spill on the part of the track in which he had spun both times. Extremely confused as to why he had been given four runs, Cisneros made his way over the the judges to inquire. The judges informed him that his initial runs were not counted because an inner cone was missing on the course when he had laid down the first two amazing runs. Only after he had earned zeros on the latter runs, he was told that his first two runs would not count, but his second two runs would be counted as his qualifying runs. Cisneros said, “This really took a lot out of me and saw all our hard work going down the drain fast for something I couldn’t control…” Unfortunately, Cisneros failed to qualify and spent the rest of the evening dealing with accusations of him cheating and simply sitting with his family and team looking somewhat defeated.
Watch the qualifying run that wasn’t counted, here:
Cisneros was not the only driver who experienced the short end of the stick. Ryan Litteral (placed 2nd at the event and 5th in the series) was also granted an additional qualifying run. Another source who was on track during the event claimed Justin Pawlak (who was a judge at the event) angrily made his way to to JD worker and expressed a significant amount of dismay because they had not set up the track correctly after a car had knocked down one of the cones. Pawlak, as an advocate for the drivers, was passionate about this issue because he thought it would mess up the odds; and he was right.
Some people may not find this to be a big issues because Cisneros ultimately earned his FD license. However, when you factor in performance requirements and awards with sponsors, it can be a big deal. Those who compete, usually go in with the full intention of winning, not settling with second or third. Although there is no way to know for sure if Cisneros would have ended up in first place even if his initial qualifying runs were considered, he was nonetheless robbed of the opportunity to win. Perhaps if there was better communication at the event (between the judges and the JD workers), or even if Cisneros knew what the situations was before his second set of qualifying runs, this could have been avoided. It is just unfortunate the most of the spectators were extremely confused because there was no PA system at the event that announced scores or judging calls.
I had the opportunity to chat with Cisneros over the past few days and he has gone through an incredible journey. Check out some parts of our conversation:
Q: Formula D next year? What should we expect?
A: “Yes, we are gonna enter Formula D next year. Our plan as of right now is to run the entire season. You can expect us to charge hard, do things professionally, taking this opportunity very seriously, realizing not everyone gets to be able to have this chance to do something you dream about doing.”
Q: Any changes to the car for next year?
A: “The car right now will get new aero kit, colors will most likely change depending on sponsors/partners. Motor and power should stay the same. We are looking into options for more forward grip, but other than that just refreshed inside and out. Looking ready to rumble in FD.”
Q: What has been the biggest struggle getting to this point?
A: “Our biggest struggle has been working out the little bugs that really killed our season last year. This year everything was great, but it almost didn’t happen. I was extremely frustrated and wasn’t sure this was meant to be for me. But as it would happen, we started this season well and the rest is history now. Learning a new car was very hard, also to break old habits from our previous build in the GTO, which was a lot heavier and harder to drive. Trust that this car was gonna do everything I wanted it to took a little time for me.”
Q: Describe your journey in becoming a licensed FD driver in three words.
A: “A dream, exciting, reality.”
Q: Who is your drift idol/hero? Why?
A: “Really the person I look up to is a guy I’ve had the pleasure of knowing for a [while now] is Odi [Backchis]. What he has done in Formula D in 3 years is awesome. He’s in the top 10 in standings right now and charging to the top. He’s super down-to-earth and is down to give anyone a hand and share his knowledge with you if you ask. I [couldn't] be happier for him and am honored to call him a friend.”
Q: What advice do you have to offer for for all the aspiring drifters out there?
A: “Car commitment!!!! Start off small…Get your car control down. To jump into a v8 right away will give [you] bad habits and as you go on in competitions you need to have the basics and car control down. Keep it simple and keep drifting fun!!!! If you decide to go for the next level, commit to it and practice practice!!”
Q: You have a wife, kids, and a full-time job. How did you manage to balance it all?
A: “Don’t forget youth pastor…Lol..Yeah with all we have gone through this last year also, I believe that if you keep the important things first that all the other things fall into place. And that is exactly what happened this year. Everything fell right into place. And if Formula D is in my future, I believe that will fall into place also.”
Cisneros’ Sponsors: DMA Performance, Godspeed Project, Feal Suspension, Dailey Visuals, Reef Fire Systems, FR Sports, Drive Energy, Dry Down.