Formula Drift prepares to finish off its eighth season and final competition for 2011 at the “House of Drift”, Toyota Speedway at Irwindale CA. The championship race has come down to the narrowest of margins with the Top 5 drivers coming all within striking distance to take home the championship. Follow along as we recap both Round 5 and 6, leading to the final FD Irwindale event while we wait to see who emerges the Formula D 2011 champ.
After a delayed practice due to torrential rains, both drivers and teams were left wondering if weather would affect their strategy going into the weekend’s competition. The fear quickly subsided the next day during qualifying as the sky cleared, offering ideal track conditions. Rounding out the Top 5 qualifiers, Tyler McQuarrie landed himself on top with a score of 94.5 points, followed by Justin Pawlak (93.5), Rhys Millen (89.6), Daijiro Yoshihara (86.9), and Aurimas “Odi” Bakchis (86).
Pawlak was the championship points leader entering Round 5. With a renewed mid-season vigor, he propelled his Falken Tires Ford Mustang up the leaderboards with a 57-point lead going into Seattle. Destined to drift his way onto the podium once again, Pawlak was unexpectedly knocked out in the Top 32 due to clutch failure, leaving his closest championship points competitors Yoshihara, Darren McNamara, and Chris Forsberg the perfect opportunity to narrow the margin. Coming off a Third Place podium finish at Round 4 in New Jersey, this was the big break that Yoshihara had been looking for, as a big win at Seattle combined with Pawlak’s early exit would set the stage for a shuffling at the top of the leaderboard. Yoshihara in the Discount Tire/Falken Nissan S13 defeated Jeff Jones in his 1JZ-powered CX Racing S13, followed by Matt Powers in the Need for Speed/Nitto Nissan S14 in the next round—Powers lost control and spun his way to elimination. Forsberg in the NOS Energy Drink/Hankook Nissan 370Z needed a one-more-time round to squeak by South Africa’s own Otto Graven and his Monstermob V-8–powered 350Z, while McNamara in the Falken Tire Saturn Sky made quick work of disposing Walker Wilkerson in his Fatlace/Intec Racing–sponsored S13, only to be eliminated in the Top 16 by Millen in the Red Bull/Hankook Hyundai Genesis coupe.
McQuarrie, driver of the Falken Tires Nissan 350Z, matched up against Fredric Aasbo in the Need For Speed/Scion Racing tC in the Great 8 as both drivers showed the Seattle crowd why they are professional drifters. A series of perfect tandem drifts sent both drivers into consecutive one-more-time battles but it was Aasbo who proved to be too much for McQuarrie to handle as he moved into the Final 4. Yoshihara defeated Vaughn Gittin Jr., while the battle between Forsberg and Ryan Tuerck ended when a driving error eliminated Tuerck in the Gardella Racing Mobil 1/Red Bull Camaro. Kyle Mohan in the Nexen Tire/Mazdatrix RX-8 was undermatched against Millen as the Hyundai moved on to the Final 4.
The Final 4 pitted Yoshihara versus Aasbo in a too-close-to-call battle with Yoshihara narrowly defeating Aasbo. Forsberg met Millen with Forsberg earning an automatic podium as Millen spun on his chase run and once again lost control when facing Aasbo in the consolation round. The Finals matched up the 2009 champion, Forsberg, versus Yoshihara. Yoshihara drew first blood as he drifted his way to victory over Forsberg and took over the points lead, dropping Pawlak to second in the standings.
Round 5 Results
1st Place Daijiro Yoshihara
2nd Place Chris Forsberg
3rd Place Fredric Aasbo