It’s hard to convey the cultural significance and sheer magnitude of an event like the Formula Drift championship. Last Saturday, the grounds of Irwindale Speedway were filled with the sights and sounds of the drifting world, as hordes of rabid fans packed the “House of Drift” for the final event of the season.
The sprawling milieu reflected the unique blend of performance and style that is the heart of the drifting community, and which sets it apart from any other form of motorsport. Automotive enthusiasts were able to check out the latest and greatest performance offerings from companies like KW, Whiteline, HRE, Wilwood and Rays Engineering. The importance of style and fashion in the drift culture was highlighted by the staggering number of tents and booths selling shirts, stickers, books, key chains, lanyards, bags, koozies and even “drift-spec” RC cars.
Slammed Society showed up in all its tire-stretched, fender-flared glory for the Fatlace-sponsored car show. Rows of spotless, stanced imports illustrated the high degree of quality and workmanship owners invest in their rides. Dripping with lustrous paint and squatting on deeply-lipped wheels, these cars represent pure automotive perfection.
With a McLaren MP4-12C, the Bisimoto 911 turbo and a Lamborghini Aventador LP 700-4, the Speed Hunters tent was hard to miss. These guys do spectacular automotive photography across the world and are truly at the top of their game; volume one of their limited edition photo-book, "A Year in Global Automotive Culture," was on sale at the event. Luckily, we were able to pick one up before all 1,500 copies sold out.
Much like comparing mixed martial arts to boxing, drifting offers a level of excitement and complexity not found in traditional motorsports; howling tires and clouds of thick rubber smoke provide an excess of raw sensory input. The relentless, white-knuckle suspense is relieved only after both cars successfully complete a run, or in the event of a spectacular crash, which is always just around the corner.
After the 32 qualifying drivers shook-down their vehicles and practiced their lines one last time, the main event got underway just as the afternoon sun began to recede into the hazy, western sky.
From the start, it was evident that Round 7 was going to be an intense battle until the very end. The mayhem started when Chelsea DeNofa, in his black, 3-rotor Maxda RX-8, spun Patrick Mordaunt’s stroked 350Z off the course in an aggressive maneuver which cost him the win. The judges frequently called for a “one more time” (OMT) when unable to decide between two drivers.
Proving just how unpredictable FormulaD can be, crowd favorites such as Rhys Millen, Ken Gushi, Matt Powers, Chris Forsberg and Vaughn Gittin, Jr. were all eliminated; Millen attacked with his usual trademark precision, but came in too hot chasing rookie Daigo Saito and took himself out. Ryan Tuerck was looking confident all day in the Retaks 240LS, but was unable to match Justin Pawlack’s consistency and nerve, securing himself a 3rd place finish.
When all was said and done, it came down to Pawlack in the Falken Mustang RTR and Saito in his 1200-hp Achilles SC430. Pawlack, like so many others, lost control and went hard into the wall on his second run following Saito, making Daigo Saito the first series rookie to be crowned the Formula DRIFT champion.
If you're an auto enthusiast and have never experienced the thrill of watching a professional drifting competition, you owe it to yourself to check out Formula DRIFT. Stay tuned for a complete listing of all 32 qualifying drivers, including pictures and stats.
A huge thanks goes out to the MyLife@Speed and Eric Gearhart, without whom we wouldn't have been able to put together many of these great photos from the event. Be sure to check out MyLifeAtSpeed.com and their Facebook page @ facebook.com/MyLifeAtSpeed
Click HERE for the hi-resolution album