I ended up not sleeping at all and headed straight to the track at 7.30am in the morning with Formula Drift judge Andy Yen.
The drivers were starting to gather for the Drivers’ Meeting and it was interesting to see how cliques formed amongst the drivers with friends reserving seats for their fellow “competitors”.
There was a short break before the first practice kicked off at 9am. I walked round the pits to capture shots of the cars and speak to drivers, before wandering around the track to find a good spot to take photos.
This is the sixth time that Formula Drift is being held here and returning drivers should be familiar with it. However, changes to the tech regulations meant change of car set-up and hence drivers need to re-adjust to the car although being on the same track.
There were no spectacular crashes, just a few noses into the tyre walls and some rear end clippings. Towards the end of practice, dark clouds headed our way and there was a slight drizzle. Thankfully the (cold) winds drove them away and I could continue shooting (I forgot my rain gear!).
After about three hours of practice for all 46 drivers, it was straight into qualifying with two individual runs for each drivers.
Starting in reverse 2010 order, the rookies went first and immediately the first car, Jim Guthrie, spin at the first turn (yes, the 90-degree one). I suspect the ground was a bit damp from the little drizzle, as there was quite a bit of spinning in the beginning.
One by one, the drivers kept going and going. I parked myself near the bridge, along the straight at the clipping point before the second turn.
These two marshals were very kind and beckoned for me to stand there, and not offering or allowing it to anyone else simply because “I am a girl and a cute one”. Ha ha!
I managed to get some awesome videos as a result of the cars damn damn close!
The standards here are much higher compared to that of Asia (duh) and the scores were so close. After both runs, the best of both scores are then taken and the top 32 will move on to the tandem battle rounds the next day.
Almost half of the top 32 (14 to be exact) scored 80 and above, with the highest qualifier Conrad Grunewald of Team CGR in his 2010 Camaro SS achieving a 93!
Btw, joining the three-judge panel this year is Ryan Lanteigne as Ernie Fixmer is unavailable due to new work commitments in the aerospace field. Ryan Lanteigne is experienced both as a driver as well as a judge in the Drift Mania Canadian Championship.
Dai Yoshihara of Team Discount Tire/Falken Tire in his 1993 Nissan 240SX, who finished fourth overall last year and missed by a whisker (he was just one point away from third-placed Ryan Tuerck), gave a fantastic second run and hit a 92.9, qualifying him in second.
Scoring a 92.2 just below Dai is Kyle Mohan of Team Nexen Tire/Mazdatrix in his 2010 Mazda RX-8, who ran a dangerously close clipping of the wall where I was standing. See Kyle Mohan do a super super wall-clipping on his second run:
The last of the entire field to take the track is 2010 Formula Drift defending champion Vaughn Jr. Gittin of Team Falken in his 2011 Ford Mustang (reverse starting order remember?). He messed up his first run and only managed to score 41 points. On the second run (which was also the final qualifying run of the weekend) fans had their fingers crossed and it was looking good until he spun at the hairpin at the end!
Oh man, what an upset!
Our friend Charles Ng from Hong Kong (he’s supported by Singapore companies Driftpac and SPARK Motorsports) in his bright orange suit of Team Evasive Motorsports/Nitto Tire and his 1991 Mazda FC RX-7 qualified 20th with a best score of 72.5.
2009 Formula Drift champion Chris Forsberg of Team NOS Energy Drink qualified 16th with 79.2 points in his 2011 Nissan 370Z, while Ryan Tuerck qualified 10th and Rhys Millen 5th. A pity Tanner Froust took a temporary retirement due to other racing commitments and schedule clashes..
The rest of the qualifying results are as follows:
Speaking with Dai after qualifying, he shared, “Last season I was doing well until the final round where I screwed up and lost the chance to fight for the championship. This year I am back with an aim to win the championship. There have been some changes to the Formula Drift regulations, causing a different set-up for the car, so I wasn’t sure if the car will be as good as it was last year.”
“After today, the car has shown its abilities and is doing well so far but I’m not sure how it will be in tandem battles. We’ll find out tomorrow!”
Based in Irvine, California, Dai has been busy the last few weeks helping out with relief efforts for the disasters in Japan, while preparing for Formula Drift at the same time. (See website www.rfjp.org for more.)
“My family and friends are all alright and safe, but it is still an incident that affects the whole country and I just want to help out and support as much as I can. Half of my mind is thinking of Japan and how it is coping actually, while the other half is focusing on the competition. Nonetheless, the 2011 Formula Drift season has got off to a good start for me and I will give it my all!” Dai added.
All the best Dai!
There was an autograph session for all the drivers (they were seated in a looooong row) before a final practice session for the day.
Conrad Grunewald qualified in first place!
I recognise Ryan who was one of the judges at FX Open two weeks back…
Chris Forsberg, 2009 Formula Drift champion and his famous NOS orange Nissan Fairlady…
Darren McNamara of Ireland is so bubby and cute!
Tough luck bro!
Rookie of the Year in 2010, Fredric Aasbo is really tall!
I was so tempted to pull it!
Tomorrow, the day starts at 9am for the Top 32 to practise again before the Round of 32 tandem battles kick off at 11.30am.
There will then be a break before the Round of 16 runs begin at 3pm all the way to the crowning of the Formula Drift 2011 Round 1 winner.