Formula Drift Rookies – Streets of Long Beach

      It’s been a little over a week since Formula Drift Long Beach, and we’ve been wanting to get with the rookies who made an appearance, but decided to wait for their hectic travel and repair schedules to come to a rest. Now that everyone has settled in at home and started prepping for Atlanta, we wanted to know what they have to say about their experience in Long Beach. The common misconception that rookies do not have the driving skill to compete is rampant. Sometimes simple mechanical issues will keep a driver from even completing a practice run, let alone qualify in one of the 32 competition spots. Formula Drift is the pinnacle of professional drifting, and all teams need to come prepared. Unfortunately in order to learn how to be prepared, drivers and teams must experience defeat at the hands of mechanical failure. Lets see how our 2013 rookies coped with issues at Formula Drift Round 1 – Streets of Long Beach. We were able to get with a few rookies, and they told us how everything went down.

Brandon Wicknick – Layton, Utah
davidfdround12013fri-51“Coming in to Long Beach I had no idea what to expect. We brought a car that we knew had problems. We were fighting a misfire a few days before and did not have time to figure it out. So with that on my mind, and a lack of sleep, I was in my zone (for those that don’t know me I pretty much live my life in that zone). I was nervous of how I would do on an unfamiliar track and stacked up against drivers I have been watching for years. If I’m being honest, I must admit I really worry about whether I deserve to be at the level I am with so many good drivers in Pro-Am series around the country. I was feeling a lot of pressure to do well. We got the car ready and made it to the line for practice.”

davidfdround12013fri-14“I sat in the car amongst all the other drivers who had been in my shoes at one point. That thought helped to calm my nerves. I felt great excitement as the drivers lined up in front of me launched and I pulled up to the line. This is real. I am in my first FD event. My team and I have worked hard and sacrificed so much over the last 3 years for this moment. Let’s do it. My first run felt pretty good. I followed Jeff Jones and hung back a bit to follow his line and get an idea of how to navigate the course. I didn’t notice til the end of the run but something didn’t feel right in the rear end. I pulled in the hot pits and jumped out to find the left rear wheel was loose and every single wheel stud was bent. I thought my day was over. Joe, Jose and I ran through the pits to grab tools and the 5 lug studs that I had in my track box. It must have been a quarter mile each way running back to our trailer. We were loosing very valuable practice time. 15 mins later we had the wheel back on with new studs. Back out for more practice. The next few runs were amazing. I felt good on the track. The car had NO issues whatsoever and my confidence was through the roof. I was able to practice tandem with Forrest Wang, Jeff Jones and Corey Hosford. I was ready to qualify.”

davidfdround12013fri-26“On my last run, the car died right as I was transitioning under the Firestone bridge. I had to be towed off the track. We got the car back to the pits and were immediately informed that we had to be on grid for qualifying. Knowing we were nearly last in line for qualifying, we asked for some time before going to grid. We rushed to get the car running. We replaced the fuel pump loaned to us by Spike Chen. Nothing. We checked all the fuses and found we had lost power to the coils. Replaced fuse. Car starts. We rush back to the gate and were informed we had to wait to be let on the track to make it to the hot pits. My heart is pounding at this point contemplating the gravity of the situation. I’m full of confidence in my driving and getting good feedback from my spotter yet loosing all confidence in my car. I had to trust that the car was running great before the blown fuse and we had fixed the fuse so I crossed my fingers that I could lay down another run like I had in practice.”

IMG_9108“When my time arrived I leave the line, first gear pulls hard, second gear gaining speed, third gear and then… cut, cough, spit, backfire. Pull the handbrake and set my angle for the first turn. 3rd gear drop the clutch and instant failure. Shut it down. Knowing I scored a zero my heart sunk. I hurried back to the pits. We pulled apart the fuel filter and cleaned it. It was fairly dirty, enough to make me believe that it may have been the problem. We check fuel pressure and verify spark on all cylinders. Everything looks good. I jack up the rear wheels and load the engine in 3rd gear with the brakes. Pulled great to redline. I was feeling like I fixed the problem however my anxiety was off the charts at this point. I rushed to the line to gather myself and try to calm down and focus. As l left the line for my second and final chance to make it to top 32, I felt the car cut in second gear. I knew it was over. I tried to finish my run but it was pointless. I accepted defeat, the defeat of mechanical issues of which I am so accustomed. I parked the car and determined to enjoy my day watching the rest of qualifying. My focus now is on having the car 110% for Atlanta. I am now determined to join the race for rookie of the year. Thanks to all who support our team and for the encouraging words of many that give us reason to keep up the fight. We’re doing all we can to be ready for the east coast events.”

Brandon Wicknick Facebook Page

Luke Pakula – Fullerton, California
IMG_8745“Formula Drift Round 1 that took place in Streets of Long Beach this past weekend, didn’t bring us results that we were aiming for. Unfortunately we run into rear end problems right before the morning practice started on Friday. The final drive ended up shattering as I went to warm up the tires causing us to sit out through the whole practice session. My team worked hard to get another final drive in the car just in time for qualifying. Due to the fact that I have never driven Streets of Long Beach I had no choice but to give up my first qualifying run and just drive the course and take in as much as I can about the course set up.”

davidfdround12013fri-10“Second qualifying lap, I had no choice but to go all out. It went well until the last corners surface change caused me to spin out. We ended up with a 0 and did not get into the big show, but the crowd was still thrilled for how well the second lap went without any practice.”

davidfdround12013fri-45“As for the rest of the season, our plans were to attack the east coast on a budget. But because our transportation connections fell through and the surprising news inside our race engine, we are forced to forfeit those rounds. Main focus for the next 3 months will be more testing with the AE86 and making sure that all the weak spots have been fully worked out before Formula D Washington, Texas and Irwindale. Meanwhile in the down time, we are also going to focus on our S14 chassis which we are hoping to debut by Irwindale. That chassis is still sitting in its raw form, but as we are learning more from other teams and just collecting more of our own data. We will make sure that this build will be done at its maximum potential.”

Luke Pakula Facebook Page

Eugene Kretschmer – San Jose, California
davidfdround12013fri-50“Our road to Long Beach was like many others, a bumpy one to say the least. Just like all rookie teams, we spent every waking hour and dime we had and could borrow to build a competitive car and to make it to as many events as possible. We had purchased a 6.7 stroker LS engine that was going to put us in the 500 hp range that we really needed to be somewhat competitive. On our first test day, 4 days before we were to leave for Long Beach, the engine lost oil pressure. We immediately brought the car back to the shop and removed the oil pan to find it filled with bearing material, large chunks of bearing material! At this point we knew we were screwed.”

davidfdround12013fri-8“No time to point fingers at our engine builder, only time to come up with a solution to get us to Long Beach. The quickest solution was to install my pro-am motor which was sitting idly by on an engine stand. It’s a stock LS1 making roughly 300 hp. We knew we would be greatly under powered to be competitive, but at that point we just wanted to make the event. After an awesome test day with old reliable (my pro-am setup) we were stoked to be making our first Formula Drift event. Spirits were high once we arrived in Long Beach; we were hungry for a win, or at least a qualifying run that would get us in the show.”

davidfdround12013fri-25“I was a little nervous about running this track as I’ve seen first hand how being only a foot off line can put you into a wall. My first practice run I held nothing back and went in hot like I had driven this track before. As soon as I pulled that handbrake and pop the clutch I heard a terrible clunk from the rear end. I didn’t pay attention to it and just kept on going. The car felt totally different, it wanted to spin through every turn. I went back to the pits and my team jacked up the car and found we had blown an axle. A brand new Driveshaft Shop 650 hp rated axle!”

IMG_9088“We knew we were in trouble, because at the drivers meeting they had told us that we would be lucky to get 4 practice runs in before qualifying. As my team swapped axles, I really thought I was screwed and wasn’t going to get to practice at one of the hardest tracks in FD. My team swapped the axle and got me back out there with 3 good practice runs. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough. I couldn’t put down a run in qualifying and we didn’t make the show. We are not deterred though. We have paid for an entire season, but now that we need to build a new competitive engine, we do not have the funding to make Atlanta and possibly all the east coast events. We are hopeful though, that we can find a sponsor or sponsors that can get us to the east coast events. It’s been a rough road just to make Long Beach, but my team and I are resilient and will never give up the dream!”

Eugene Kretschmer Facebook Page

Joshua Steele – Houston, Texas

davidfdround12013fri-11“Ok well roll back 6 months ago cause that’s where we started on the car! Its a 1998 S14, and we built an LS2 to drop in it. I basically went into this year FD with the mind set of building the car like a skate board, go grind sh!t and do wall rides! What I mean by that is I really wanted no emotional attachment with the car what so ever!!! Just go out, all out, and rip! If you hit a wall, bust a bumper, what ever, doesn’t matter, it can be fixed, (thank God for tubed front and rear ends…lol).  We basically got the car done 4 days before leaving to LB, but from what I hear, that’s not bad…”

IMG_9043“I’ve never driven an S14, so coming out of my S13 I was thinking it was going to be out of control different??? Well we rolled out to Willow Springs on Tuesday a couple of days before qualifying, got there and the place we had to ourselves!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! That’s what I call a 2for baby!!! Either way the car handled perfect, NO PROBLEMS. I’m still shocked (that NEVER happens!!!) The car felt good, and it felt exactly the same as my S13. I did use all the same types of components on the S14 as I did my old car, so that might of helped, but either way it drove great!!!”

davidfdround12013fri-18“So Friday creeps up, myself and my spotter got food poisoning Wednesday night which was awesome! My crew said it was the best thing they heard all week listening to me pray to the porcelain god… Apparently I don’t ralph very well?!?! But need less to say we were good for practice… First run at LB every one was like just chill and do a drive lap… NOPE I went for it, figured what the hell… See what my crew did at Willow Spring was build the first turn with cones to replicate turn 9, so I just basically practiced that all day. It was crazy how dead on it was to!!! Felt perfect. But all in all I liked the track, rubbed the wall at Santa Clause a few times, and met a lot of friends and made new fans in the process! Don Johnson would be proud!!! hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaaha!!!! >:o >:o >:o
I wanna thank my crew Justin, Stephen, Mario, and my wife Ryan for the bad ass support. My sponsors, Non Stop Tuning, Matco Tools, BC Racing, Nevrslo Motorsports, Handicap Mafia, Power Fab Tuning, Sikky, and Exedy.”

Joshua Steele Facebook Page

Karl Osaki – Walnut, California
DKAR4814“The whole week leading up to the event was pretty crazy. A lot of sleepless nights. A bunch of little things turned into huge things as the event got closer. We got the car to Long Beach maybe an hour before practice started, still not finished. The whole team was rushing to get the car done in time for practice and qualifying.

I went out on my first practice run and the car stopped drifting after turn 9. I brought the car into the pits and we were trying to figure out what happened. Turns out the rear brakes seized up. Tried looking for a spare master, but there wasn’t one to be found. We ended up plugging the rear brake lines on the master cylinder.

Having no practice at all, I went out on my first qualifying run with no rear brakes. After initiating into turn 9 I heard a lot of funky sounds coming from the engine. Soon the engine started to lose power and I tried clutch kicking to hold out the drift. I heard what sounded like a huge backfire and the engine lost all power.

I brought the car back into the pits and we discovered it was a broken rocker arm; a text book SR20 upgrade. I was pretty disappointed that all of this happened, but then again I was also driving a rushed backup car. I’m hoping to have my primary car, an LS3 powered S14, ready for Atlanta. Overall, my first round of Formula D was really stressful, but fun at the same time. I’ll take this as a learning experience for the upcoming rounds.

I would like to say thanks to my sponsors DNA Motoring, Nexen Tire, VarrsToen Wheels, and my entire pit crew that stayed up for over 48 hours straight working on my car before the event.”

Karl Osaki Facebook Page

Will Parsons – Houston, Texas
davidfdround12013fri-6“For the 2013 fd season we had to build a new chassis to bring to FD because the old one would not pass tech. We used most of the parts off the old car with the main difference being a new cage and rear differential setup. Unfortunately the build took longer than expected and we didn’t end up finishing the car until the Wednesday before the event. I didn’t know how the new chassis would feel at the track with no testing time before hand but decided it would be worth it to make a showing and to get the car through tech. We arrived in Long Beach just in time for my tech appointment. Tech went very smooth and the only thing we had to change was the location of the drive shaft loop. I had never seen the Long Beach course in person and it is way smaller than I expected. We worked on the car into the night Thursday just to make sure nothing was missed and after a few hours we headed to the hotel. Friday morning started off with a very in depth drivers meeting.”

davidfdround12013fri-87“It was pretty crazy feeling to be in a meeting with all the drivers I have looked up to over the years and to realize I would be competing against them.  We were in the second practice group so I go a chance to watch most of the first groups practice. After seeing the line that everyone was running I started to feel pretty confident about the track layout. Our group got called up so I suited up and got in the car. My first run down the track I had a boost controller issue which caused a pretty bad spike in pressure. We took the car back to the pits and got the issue fixed but the damage had already been done. My second run the engine was way down on power and it started burning oil. I made one last practice run and the engine lost even more power and burned a entire quart of oil in one pass.  After a team meeting we decided it would be best to retire from the event and save what was left of the engine for rebuilding. It was a tough break but my new engine is already in the works and will be ready in time for Road Atlanta.”

Will Parsons Facebook Page

Rob Primo – Seattle, Washington
IMG_8888“Going into Long Beach we were pretty stressed. Not to say that Long Beach was a concern, it was more of not knowing if the car was ready and if we were going to travel all this way and have the car break on us. The stress subsided once we were able to test at Willow Springs. However it was still tough due to our very small team (me, my dad, and my girlfriend). Luckily enough we did get some help from friends throughout the weekend.

As far as driving Long Beach, I had heard from very good drivers that it was pretty intense especially the first corner. But to be honest I didnt notice the walls until I came close to hitting one. I knew they were there but I tried to put them out of my mind and focus on getting the proper line for the course. Also that straight is much longer than it looks on the livestream or tv. I initially thought I could still make it through the course even if I fumbled the entry but I soon learned that wasn’t the case. That first turn sets up everything.”

davidfdround12013fri-13“As far as mechanical issues, surprisingly we had minimal issues with the car itself. We did throw a serpentine belt, but luckily had a spare ready to go back on. We did fail tech for a few things, but we worked hard and quick to resolve them. More of the issues we faced were focused around not fully understanding the Long Beach program and what worked best for that track. We didn’t have our extra tank of nitrous in grid and that bit us as we couldn’t get it until qualifying. We weren’t able to get our back up diff finished with different gearing which would have done much better at LB. And lastly we weren’t tested on the new Achilles 123s tires. All things that could have been resolved but we weren’t fully prepared.”

davidfdround12013fri-86“Plans for the rest of the season include driving as much as possible and working on getting the optimal setup for my car. I’m going to miss out on the east coast events as most of my budget was spent on getting the car to a competitive level. However I will be running FD rounds 5, 6, and 7 in addition to some other fun events. Next year were hoping to take what we learned and put together a program that will run all 7 rounds.”

Rob Primo Facebook Page

Nate Hamilton – Dallas, Texas
davidfdround12013fri-48“Going into Round One I felt excited to be showing up to the big leagues! We had driven the car 2 times prior to LB so we felt comfortable, but we knew there was a lot of room for improvement. I was not nearly as “scared” or “nervous” as I figured I would be. Everyone from Chris Forsberg to Pat Mordaunt welcomed me!”

davidfdround12013fri-29“This is a story of understanding what the word PRO means! The whole event flew in front of my eyes! Morning meetings to direct practice sessions, straight to qualifying. You really have to show up ready to race! No one is wasting any time out there! Unfortunately for our team we went through quite a few rear end issues! We have a new 500+ hp motor with an all new G-force Transmission and unfortunately our rear end did not agree with the power!”

IMG_9104“How did it feel to drive on the Long Beach track for the first time? I figured I would be way nervous. But honestly after taking a lap or two, it was really a fun track!”

davidfdround12013fri-38“How did the team handle the mechanical issues we had? My team has been preparing all winter for the drifting season! We didn’t know we would be swapping rear ends the first round. But hey they did a great job and we got back out there!”

IMG_8737“What are our plans for the rest of the year? Our plans are simple, stay focused work hard. We understand we are rookies in a sea of people who love drifting and know alot more than our team. This is a challenge. We are excited to learn from and continue to develop a winning formula!”

Nate Hamilton Facebook Page

Chris Jeanneret – Seattle, Washington
davidfdround12013fri-88“My team felt very unsure because of the many issues we had with getting parts in on time, and my schedule between my race team and the Redbull GRC team I work with at Dirtfish rally school. The car came together as we hoped, but with a few setbacks that cost us a good showing. Despite the issues and setbacks, I want to thank my guys for working so hard through the night to try and make it to our goals. Driving the streets of LBC track has been a goal for 7 years now and I honestly thought I would be intimidated, but as soon as I made the first corner, my confidence was in a good place. I was ready to be there and wish our car was also ready, I can’t wait for redemption. We will be working hard to bring the STR Racing s14 to the next round ready to meet and beat our goals, and prove our teams ready to be in formula drift mentally and mechanically.”

IMG_8881“Would like to thank first and foremost Tom and Cris from STR Racing wheels for making this dream possible, also Ryan from Rywire for the countless hours he put in to give us a shot. And finally, the guys at Portland Ppeed Industries for spending late nights despite all the issues. It was great knowing so many people were there for me! My team Mike Nason and Galen Callahan for not giving up you guys are my backbone, also my awesome grandma for driving through the night with me and hauling the car to long beach. And to all who support me and my dreams I hope to meet and beat all expectations. See you next round – Chris Jeanneret”

Chris Jeanneret

Kory Keezer – Lake Stevens, Washington
IMG_8832Despite being a privateer without a crew, and being my first Formula Drift event, I actually felt completely confident going into round 1. I was excited, optimistic, and without expectation. Honestly, I was mostly concerned about passing tech! Kevin Wells worked with me on a few minor issues that I was able to address with the car, finally passed, and I was beyond ready to get out on the track.”

davidfdround12013fri-15Long beach for me was a lot of fun, hardest part being managing your speed through the course. +/- 5 mph. Too fast and your into a wall, or too slow and your way off your clipping zone. The track surface was smooth with little tire wear, which is completely the opposite from what I am used to at Evergreen, so that was very different. The hardest part about adapting to the new track was the walls. As most people know, I am in no way afraid to hit/scrape any walls at any speed, but this track was very tight and left little room for error. I basically just pushed it out of my mind and went 100% on my first practice run.. I find your less likely to crash if you fully commit to the course 😉

IMG_8983I pushed really hard to attend Long Beach, I just knew I needed to get there and drive, even if I didn’t have a solid crew behind me. So when I crashed, I knew I was in for a lot of work to get it back out for qualifying. Luckily I had friends that were also competing that happened to be having motor issues at that time, so I’m grateful they offered to jump in and help. We bolted on new parts that we borrowed from other teams, and to get the car back on four wheels. Without their help the car wouldn’t have seen the one qualifying run I got. I’m really thankful for the support and sense of community within Formula Drift. It was a definite scramble to piece the car together, and I’m thankful for the other teams/drivers that lent me a hand via loaning parts and tools. Special thanks to: Joon Maeng, Nate Hamilton, Odi Bakchis, and the entire KSport team!

davidfdround12013fri-89What are your plans for the rest of the year” “Futher develop my driving ability, attend as many FD Pro rounds as possible, continue competing locally, and as always-have an awesome time in the process!”Kory Keezer Facebook Page

Next month we fly into Atlanta to cover all the rookies who make it to Formula Drift Round 2 – Road to the Championship. We hope you enjoy reading what the rookies themselves had to say about their experiences in Long Beach. It is our mission to bring our readers the most detailed information we can, from the drivers and teams themselves. We are looking forward to Atlanta, and wish all of the 2013 Formula Drift rookies the ultimate success.

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