Formula Drift Long Beach – Sideways in So-Cal
Formula Drift Long Beach is the first stop of the 15th sanctioned season of the action packed, tire burning season of drift racing. The hopes and dreams of the offseason have been compressed into last weekend thundering down the city streets of Long Beach, what a weekend it was.
Expanding from four events in the first season to eight rounds this year, the competitive body has grown substantially and the cars have evolved into 1000 horsepower monsters. You can think of it more as a sideways drag race than anything else.
Like other sanctioned race series’, the drivers first qualify for the event. On Friday, competitors are judged by their line, drift angle, and style, after which they’re placed in a bracket for competition.
Leading the pack at Formula Drift Long Beach was the Worthouse Drift team, with last year’s rookie of the year Piotr Więcek taking the first place position, with a score of 96. His teammate, last season’s championship winner, James Dean also scored 96 but as Piotr had a higher style score, the number one spot went to him.
The Worthouse duo is, once again, clearly the team to take down this year.
There were plenty of other exciting battles on Saturday, where drivers are judged based on lead and follow runs. The lead run driver must come into close proximity to various ‘clipping points’ determined by the judges, and the follow driver needs to mirror the lead driver, maintaining proximity.
As the sport has evolved, horsepower has played a major factor in assuring the lead driver can’t simply run away from you. As such, American cars are making a strong comeback, while in the early years they were simply too heavy and cumbersome.
It’s worth noting that the same can be said at the AutoCon car show that took place at the Long Beach drift event. While many imports seemed to be favorites for modification in years past, the latest generation of American cars has strong aftermarket support and fans of all ages.
While plenty of Japanese and European cars are still being drifted, a good old American V8 has found its way into many of them, pushing power up to the 1000 mark in many of the cars.
It isn’t just Mustangs out on the course either. A couple awesome Corvettes are in competition this year as well. Just in time for the new season, Matt Field completed his Falken Tire C6 Corvette in the Bay Area out of his shop, Drift Cave, in Morgan Hill, CA. It’s an absolute monster and, as a new build, has to be a bit nerve-wracking on the unforgiving street course.
Another Corvette in the series found the wall early on in competition, having to forfeit in the top 32 in an all American battle against a Mustang.
Even crazier than the big-bodied American cars this year, is a Ferrari 599 piloted by Federico Sceriffo. It’s an incredible build, and so cool to see this thing pitched sideways at 80mph. Unfortunately, he made contact with his competitor, Chelsea Denofa, sending Chelsea’s Mustang into the tirewall.
Chelsea’s team was able to pull the front bodywork off and get the car back out, but you’ll notice Federico Sceriffo is nowhere in sight.
Sadly — likely in the first impact with the Mustang — the steering in the 599 was compromised, sending Sceriffo into the wall in the first corner of the drift course. His beloved car, which he calls “Fiorella”, was engulfed in flames. Certainly an emotional weekend for the Italian team, but by the end of the day they had the car back together, and they’ll be rebuilding and making improvements for the next round in Orlando.
Others were able to continue drifting around the Formula Drift Long Beach with some battle scars.
Such is the price when you’re running this close to walls at this speed. You have to put a lot of trust into your car, and your tires. Lots of investment goes into making these cars reliable over the course of the season, and the tires need to be absolutely dependable.
You’ll notice the scalloped Falken Tire livery that’s been on plenty of Japanese cars over the years looks right at home on American muscle, too.
After drifting was done for the day, it was time to get up close and personal with the drivers.
The next morning, the top 32 was back on grid, shaking the streets of Long Beach.
People in the apartments above had some of the best views of the Formula Drift Long Beach track.
Early on in the day Cameron Moore was bested by Justin Pawlak. Moore made contact with the wall and was unable to recover, straightening out and ending his drift. With this run an automatic loss for Moore, JTP easily took the round with a solid lead run.
But if you had seen Moore’s car after practice the following morning, it’s really remarkable that the team fixed everything up in time for qualifying and competition. It goes to show how it really is a team effort.
After a really tidy follow from ‘Rad Dan’ Brockett, the streets of Long Beach took their next victim.
While Dan’s car looks pretty banged up, he drove back to the pits under his own power, but the Falken S14 of Odi Bakchis was the driver who advanced.
More intense battles went down until half were knocked out. There was a break, and then it was time for the top 16.
This is a great time for fans who picked up the ‘VIP Experience’ pass to get up close and personal with the cars and drivers. While Formula Drift does have an open paddock, there’s just something a bit special about being next to these cars on the actual course.
The National Anthem was sung, and the stands were packed for Formula Drift Long Beach season opener.
Drivers were neck and neck all day long as the bracket was narrowed down, round after round.
The Worthouse Drift team had some struggles as James Dean had a mechanical failure in his run against Alec Hohnadell. While he was still declared winner of the round, a controversial decision met with boos from the crowd, he was unable to fix his car to face off in the next round and finished fourth on the day.
Finally, it came down to the last battle, where Fredric Aasbo bested Forrest Wang for first place.
It was a close fight, so close in fact, that the judges couldn’t make a clear decision on the first run. They opted for a ‘One More Time’ run, and Aasbo was the eventual victor.
Aasbo’s Corolla is powered by a tiny 2.7L motor, but it certainly is no slouch. With a massive Borg-Warner turbo, the motor cranks out an impressive 1000hp with nitrous, plenty to pull away from a driver who makes a mistake.
Forrest Wang took home second place in his 2JZ-powered Vapetasia S15. It was a great outcome for the Get Nuts Laboratory team after a year-long hiatus and the podium placing was Wang’s best-ever result at a Formula Drift event.
Rounding out the podium was Piotr Więcek who was quite pleased to finish in the top three. He’s a hugely talented young guy who really deserved the good finish, driving nearly without a flaw all weekend.
In this moment, all of the hard work through the event and over the off season was all worth it.
Aasbo celebrated with his team and will be the man to beat moving into the next round in Orlando, Florida in three weeks.
You can follow along with the fun during the next round on the FD livestream and be sure to check the Formula D homepage for schedules and more.
With the sun setting on the iconic street circuit, that’s it from Formula Drift’s 15th season opener at the Long Beach street circuit.
Formula Drift Long Beach Photo Extra!