The Top Drift Pro Am 2014 season kicked off this past weekend, March 30, on the balcony of Willow Springs in Rosamond, California. The morning of the main event was cloudy outside with icy winds. Many of us were expecting some rain, but it just didn’t happen. The clouds moved out pretty quickly, while the drivers set off for practice in the first three hours of the day.
After lunch, qualifying began, with somewhere around 60 drivers competing for the top podium. After a few hours of qualifying (there were a lot of drivers), the Top 16 was set.
The first battle starred Alex Heilbrunn and Darin Burgess. Alex took the win in his forrest green s13 coupe.
Eric Martinez went up against Mike Bolanos in the second battle. Martinez managed to take victory over Bolanos’ red s13.
Donovan Brockway faced off with Adam Knapik in the third battle. They stuck fairly close to each other, but Brockway managed to walk away with the win.
In the fourth battle, Daniel Giraldo faced Tyler Page-Howell. Giraldo kept a small gap on his lead run, and stuck close on the follow. He had a great line through both runs and won the match.
Battle five featured Spike Chen, who has been on the podium twice up to this point in the 2014 season, versus Kyle Lumm, the Socal Sidewayz 350Z driver from San Diego. Kyle dirt dropped on the second run, and Spike Chen moved on to the Great 8.
Jason Kim and Cody Sarem battled it out on the tarmac in the sixth face-off. Jason Kim took the win over Cody Sarem, who spun first on the entry during the lead run, and then going into turn 2 on the follow run, spun again.
Dan Burkett faces Drew Ostrowski in the seventh round. On the first run, Ostrowski hit the cones upon entry in his Lexus SC300. Burkett took the win in his FC RX7.
The final battle of the Top 16 came down to Adam Levi and Joe Tardiff. This battle was especially tough to decide a victor. After two “One More Time’s”, Adam Levi took victory over the black sc300. Tardiff spun right at the entry behind the green building.
The tournament moved right into the Great 8 from there. First up was Alex Heilbrunn versus Eric Martinez. They had a good run, but Heilbrunn took the win, and ended the competition for the SC300.
Next up was Daniel Giraldo in his white AE86 versus Donovan Brockway. Daniel pulled away with the better flow and took the win over Brockway’s E30.
Spike Chen went up against Jason Kim in the third Great 8 battle. Both had solid runs, but it seems like Spike Chen was just a little cleaner with way more power and took the win.
Dan Burkett and Adam Levi had the final bout of the Great 8. The two stuck together and were unbelievably close during both runs, but Dan Burkett managed to gain victory over Levi.
The final 4 began. First off were Spike Chen and Dan Burkett. Dan spun into the dirt in the second turn and Chen took the win, assuring him his third podium finish of the season.
Alex Heilbrunn went up against Daniel Giraldo, but both cars experienced difficulty and they both took a 5 minute break. It was a race to see who could finish their car. Miraculously both cars were good enough to race within the 5 minutes. Heilbrunn had lost 3rd gear and Daniel Giraldo broke his shifter lever. Alex Heilbrunn took the win against the Hachi Roku.
Next up, Daniel Giraldo and Dan Burkett duked it out for 3rd place. Giraldo took the win for that, which left us with the undecided factor of the 1st place finisher.
Alex Heilbrunn and Spike Chen, two extremely aggressive drivers, lined up for the winner’s race. It was a heated run, with both drivers choosing aggressive lines; they did an amazing job at staying glued to each other’s doors. When the time for podium came, it was decided that the winner is Alex Heilbrunn! Spike Chen came in second, and Danny Giraldo in third place.
It was amazing to see all of the drivers efforts in the top 16 and qualifying. There was so much smoke being made (mostly by Heilbrunn and Chen), and it was a hot, long weekend. The battles got really aggressive, and it is quite impressive for Alex Heilbrunn to take the win with a missing 3rd gear, as well as for Daniel Giraldo to come back after flux welding his shifter to take 3rd place. I was blown away by the hard work and dedication of the drivers and I can’t wait to see what Round 2 will bring us!
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