Formula Drift Rookies – Seattle

Formula Drift Seattle has come and gone, but the memories, experiences, and lessons gained by the rookies will last a lifetime. Round 5  of the 2013 FD season showcased some Northwest rookies that haven’t been seen since Long Beach, and a few rookies who have managed to stick with the entire season thus far. We here at pride ourselves in being the only outlet that gives the Formula Drift rookies a place to tell readers and fans about their struggles and triumphs, directly from the rookies themselves.
BeingtexanDo yourself a favor. Grab a refreshment like Will Parsons in the photo above, enjoy some great photos from Matt Ulfelder, and read these amazing stories from the Formula Drift rookies of Round 5 at Evergreen Speedway – Seattle.

Brandon Wicknick
WicknicklooksmeintheeyeandIfeelalright“We had been looking forward to Seattle all year. It is one of my favorite cities and the track has always appealed to me. We had also just finished swapping the block since our engine problems in Jersey. We went with a stock NA 2JZ bottom which put us in the 10:1 compression range, and added .5 liter of displacement while keeping the 1JZ head. On the dyno we saw huge gains at low RPM. The torque band was amazing, and Richard at The Racing Edge always does great at maximizing timing and getting great throttle response. So we had no time to test, but having confidence in the tune, we set out on the road.”

Wicknickpaddock“For the first time in history, we were a day early to the event. It was nice to relax and have time to set up our pit. Going into practice, the car did great. It was awesome to drive with all this low end torque I had never felt before, yet it was still that familiar feel of driving a turbo JZ engine. 4th gear drifts on the bank produced crazy smoke. I did notice after a few laps that my gearing was bad. I couldn’t ride the wall high without dropping inside a bit towards the end, and my engine was pegged the entire time. I needed more wheel speed. Since we have no way to change gearing, I had to use my driving to adjust and I made a few sacrifices to link the course. As much as I would love to say we had a great weekend with no car problems, that just wouldn’t seem right and nobody would believe me, so let me explain what went wrong.”

track“During practice we began to have problems throwing the serpentine belt. We tried a number of things to fix it that I would be embarrassed to describe and it wasn’t working. Finally we spoke with a few other teams running JZ engines and were referred to PSI racing who built and maintain Ryan Tuerk’s car. They happened to have the piece that they use to stabilize the PS pump and tensioner, and they recommended some other things that ended up solving the problem. We owe a huge part of our successful weekend to those guys. The next day we continued with practice, but immediately had problems. The car began to have a violent shake. We were looking for anything loose or out of balance and eventually found the clutch was broken. It still worked as far as releasing and grabbing, but it was out of balance and getting worse every run. Looking at the amount of time we had to fix it before qualifying, we decided to just stop practice and run the car as it was.”

Meeting2“With all the problems we had and me trying to figure a line to link the course, I maybe had 1 good practice run and now it was time for qualifying. My first run felt pretty good. There were definitely mistakes, but I thought it was good enough for a decent score. I was placed 22nd after the first round of qualifying. My confidence increased after hearing that. My second run I was trying to improve on where I messed up in my first run. I felt I did better, but I received almost the same score which set me at 32nd after all scores were tallied. I was thrilled to be in my 2nd Top 32 show of the season. We immediately began to swap the clutch after the drivers meeting. The guys finished up just in time for me to take one lap in top 32 practice. The car was feeling good, so now it was time to relax for the night.”

meeting“The next day in top 32 practice, after one run I felt the problem return. The clutch was vibrating and now it was causing shifting problems. Then on the next run, the car died. We got it back to the pits and found that the timing belt tensioner had snapped. We couldn’t find anybody in the pits that had one. Papadakis agreed to weld it for us. Stressed on time and if we could even fix it, we knew there was no way to fix the clutch problem. Word got to Forrest Wang that we needed the tensioner and he had one.”

tandem“We got the car back together and were ready for action. It happened to be that D-Mac was number one qualifier, which stacked me against him. That isn’t always a bad thing. Looking at the benefits of the situation, it offers an opportunity to drive with a top guy. More people will be watching since he has more fans. Most likely his follow run will be amazing. So with that attitude, I pulled up to the line. I just want to have fun. I know the odds are against me. I know that my car isn’t 100%, but I just want to make the best of the situation and have fun. Since I was following first, I asked if he would let me jump the line a bit and then he just go full out and I would try to keep up. Being the Irish gentleman he is, he agreed. On the start line, I jumped and was feeling good for a split second til I went for the gear change. Clutch in, lever down… lever down… lever… it wouldn’t shift. I see D-Mac blow by me as if I am not moving. Finally I find third gear and try my hardest to catch up. 4th gear same problem. Slow shifting. The run was a disaster. I was devastated. I didn’t expect to win, but I didn’t want to lose like that.”

team“Now for my lead run, I knew I had a shifting problem, so I informed my gentleman contender that I would be slow. Off the start I was able to quick shift to 4th avoiding high RPM, which allowed me to find the gears easily. It was slow, but I was able to clutch kick 4th at the wall and then the fun began. I was in do or die mode. I had no regard for the well being of myself or the car. I just wanted to drive like crazy. I threw big angle off the bank to the infield and aimed for the power alley wall. I ended up way outside but I didn’t care. I was feeling good. It was fun. I tapped the wall at the end of the run which smashed my taillight and crushed my bash bar. It was a blast for me. It was one of my best runs of the weekend at least from my standpoint of just going hard and having a blast. D-Mac advanced and we were able to go watch the rest of the show from the stands. It was a great time and I learn something new from every event we attend.”

J.R. Hildebrand
autographs“So my interest in Formula D has been strong for a long time. Back when my career in open-wheel was just getting started in 2003 and 2004, I was going through the Jim Russell Racing programs out at Sonoma Raceway where they started having drift events around the same time. I also got to know Tyler as that was happening, originally because he was one of my instructors, but then we both worked together at the school later on. In short, from the first time I saw drifting as a competitive sport, it just had obvious appeal; it was loud, fast, crazy, and used real cars! As my career continued on the open-wheel side, it’s always been in the back of my mind as something I wanted to do, and with Tyler having his own team, it being with Chevrolet, and my driving Chevy-powered cars in IndyCar, it all sort of fit together.

track3“Initially I had thought I could do the event in LB, but ended up with a scheduling conflict, so Seattle was the next one I could make. I tested the car a few days, felt pretty comfortable, and felt like I had a pretty solid handle on how things generally worked. Then I showed up with Tyler and the rest of the Mobil1/GoPro/Hankook team to Seattle, and basically thought ‘Holy s***, what the hell am I getting myself into…!’ Seeing it in person was a lot different than watching YouTube videos for sure, and having never driven the drift car on any type of banking, it was a pretty serious eye-opener.”

track4“Then when it came time to practice, that was a whole other set of ‘Holy s***, what the hell am I getting myself into’ moments, because I quickly realized that the only way to drift the bank was to just go flat out. There was basically no way to build up to it, which is somewhat foreign to me. In ‘traditional motorsports’ as we’ll call it for the sake of argument, it’s rare that you have to let it all hang out straight away. There are places that you CAN do that, even places that you just DO do it, but you rarely HAVE to do it. Once I finally wrapped my head around that, I got through the banking, the team did a great job to help me with the setup for it, and it started clicking.”

Wrenching“Then on Friday, it obviously became time to qualify. I will say as a side note, that we basically went through a season’s worth of small issues (fueling, intake, electronics, etc.) in one weekend already up until that point, so practice was a little intermittent between a few screw ups on my end and the car being finicky, but I felt confident that I could qualify for the event which was really the initial goal. For my first run, we were not helped by the fact that we completely missed our start time, and were actually all chatting in the trailer when they called me up to go…! I hauled ass to get in the car and get to the start line, but with no tire warmup or anything, and a bit of a thrash, I misjudged the transition off the bank and went two wheels off.”

Team“For the second run we were obviously more prepared and I still felt pretty good about it, so just went for it. I had a good run going through and off the bank, but I think because I was so concerned about under-committing to the next corner I over-committed and just did the ever-so-slow spin after getting a little too ambitious on the transition from handbrake to throttle. So I zero-ed both runs, but at the end of the day felt pretty good about how much better I had gotten within those two short days. It was finally at the point where it was as fun as I had remembered thinking it looked almost ten years ago now when I first saw it, and got me stoked to go do some more testing and practice to really be ready to let it rip in Texas.”

Rob Primo
Meeting“Thursday – Paid practice: The first couple runs in practice felt great. I have really started to get aggressive with the car, and I believe it’s showing. I had a good line and my infield transitions looked good. I don’t know if they were at the level of qualifying, but for the first few runs I was extremely happy. On the fourth run, I lined up in the chase position against one of the Go Pro Camaros. As it was practice, I gave him plenty of space so I could continue to dial in my runs. Once I got on the bank, I was just eating his smoke, so I dropped low and stayed in it. I came off the bank lower than I should have and took it into the wall. At that point I thought my event was over. I know I had spare parts and that my team was there, but I just immediately thought the worst. I hung my head disappointed in myself, and I just hoped we could do something to get the car ready by qualifying the next day. I took the ride on the tow truck back into the pits where I faced my team. I expected faces of disappointment, but I saw nothing of the sort. Everyone just kicked into gear.”

Crash“I got out of the car and took a moment to collect myself while Ray from Autohero, my Dad, Erich Hagen, and Yoshi Shindo started to break down the car. Before I knew it, everything broken was off the car. Luckily I had a lot of spare parts so we were able to make rebuild, however there were a few changes that needed to be made. One of my Apexi coilovers ended up getting bent slightly. I consulted with Chuck from Apexi, but unfortunately he didn’t have the parts I needed on hand. He was going to get me the new part that I needed in a few weeks, but just couldn’t get it to me immediately. I really appreciate that kind of support from such a well established company. It was a blessing that I randomly had my front coilovers from my backup car in the trailer, so we did a front suspension swap to a different set of coils. The next issue was that I bent one of my drop knuckles. I had a new prototype drop knuckle from Era 1 that I planned to test after FD Seattle, but this was a situation where push comes to shove. So we threw them on both sides with the backup coilovers.

Once we had the front end all together and bent the bash bars/wastegates back into shape, we were good to go. So around 8pm just as practice was ending, we went to start the car. It immediately surged backwards. We all looked at each other then double checked that the car was in neutral before starting the car again. The car again immediately surged backwards. The transmission was stuck in reverse.”

PrimoWrenching“Saying I was nervous would be an understatement. This transmission is the most expensive and the coolest part of this entire car. It was a very big investment that I made in the car over the off season, and the idea that I broke it made me pretty much lose whatever food I had in my stomach. However, this is the point in the story that explains why I love Formula D. I was pitted next to Tony Angelo who had his own transmission issues. While we fought to alleviate the transmission problem, we were constantly coming over to Tony asking for his advice. In fact, Tony spent a good part of his evening over in our pit assisting us in solving the issue. He could have easily just blew us off as we all compete against each other, but that is not how people in Formula D do things. Everyone is united in the sport that they love. Finally around midnight we had the problem fixed, at which point I gave out a very loud “Thank God!”, which probably woke a few neighbors up and broke a few county noise ordinances. A huge thanks goes out to Tony, Ray, Papa Primo, Yoshi, Lindsey, and Jason from PSI for their help in fixing this issue so I could get the chance that I had been working so hard towards.”

Autograph“Friday – Qualifying: I woke up just as fast as I fell asleep. I still knew that we had to do a lot that morning before I could get to the track.

· Get coffee!
· Pick up new hero cards
· Pick up Achilles tires
· Get backup pair of knuckles from Era 1

Even after all of that would be done, I still needed to make sure we could steal Biddys (from PSI) away from supporting Ryan Tuerck for enough time to do a re-alignment. We finished assembling all of the car while we waited for the pre-qualifying drivers meeting. Ultimately I had to leave for the drivers meeting before Biddy’s would show up, leaving me with a sense of unknown.

Upon returning back to my car, I saw it in a different position with the nose sticking out this time. I rushed up to Ray telling me that everything was good on the alignment and that I needed to test it. I fired up the car and went out to do a few doughnuts in the grid area. Even though this was just a sample of the car, I felt like I could get more angle and the alignment was right on. I drove back in the pit high fiving everyone I could reach.”

track“Practice: Just before qualifying, I got the chance to get on track once more. It was awesome having Ray and my Dad in grid with me. They both gave me such great confidence, especially after what we went through the night before. While I was lining up to run, I asked Ray “Should we do a drive through to make sure everything is good or should we just go for it?”. It was pretty much a rhetorical question, but Ray answered exactly how I hoped he would. “Just go for it.”

The next few runs I spent just focusing on getting my line down, and frankly getting my aggressiveness back. Each run was getting better, and the final run I put my rear bumper ever so slightly against the wall and gave it a nice scuff. I, along with Ray and my dad thought that was a great stopping point before qualifying. We pulled into the pits and did a good check of the car, along with changing out the tires for a brand new set of Achilles 123S.”

track5“Qualifying – First Run: Being that I had only ran Long Beach at that point and failed to qualify, I was sitting at a nice even score of Zero. Therefore, I would be one of the last to take my qualifying runs. So I sat back and watched as everyone else went. There were several top pros who ended up zeroing their first run. Finally I set out for grid to do a few burnouts and get ready for my first run. I tried to slow my breathing and just calm down, but I still felt a bit nervous. Once I launched off the line, all those nerves went away. I clutch-kicked into the bank and had a mid-high line on the bank, or so I thought, and I put down a nice in-field section. I finished the run and laid down my first scoring pass at an FD event with a score of 66. After the first round of qualifying, I was in the high 20’s. The top 32 would qualify for the main event.

Even though I was sitting in a qualifying position after the first round, I knew that I couldn’t get comfortable as a lot of amazing drivers would have a second go at it. My spotter Lucas Perez, gave me the feedback that my infield was very good and fast, but that I still had room to go higher on the bank. I sat and watched as the FD veterans threw down run after run. I was now officially out of the top 32 and it would all come down to my final run.”

track3“Qualifying – Second Run: Higher on the Bank. Higher on the Bank. Higher on the Bank. It’s all I was focused on. I knew that if I could combine the infield section of my previous run with a higher bank, I was certain I would be in. I was called to stage where I was given the go ahead. I entered and ran a much better line on the bank. However, as I came in the infield, I made a few wheel corrections that my very bright neon wheels wouldn’t hide. As I finished the run, I knew it wasn’t my best. I scored a 68.

My crew came down and let me know that I was just shy of qualifying. The 32nd car scored a 73. It was a humbling moment, but I really thought about the situation. This is Formula Drift, the best drifting sanctioning body in the world, and I am going against the best teams who have worked for years to get where they are. At this event, I really didn’t see any top level car malfunctioning and I attribute this to all of those teams’ hard work. Nothing good comes easy, and although I may have wanted to succeed, it just wasn’t my time yet.

The rest of the event I spent enjoying the great show that was Formula D Seattle, and talking to all the people that came to watch. I also brought in my dog Kramer, and he had a great time hanging out. Hopefully I’ll roll out to top 16 in front of the grandstands with him one day.”

Dadtime“Moving forward: Right now we are straightening the car and getting everything back to meet my superficial demands. As far as performance, I am working with Xcessive Manufactuing to get some custom front lower control arms done so we can widen the front wheel track, make the car plant better, and take advantage of the angle that the new Era 1 version 2 knuckles can deliver. Also, we are looking to swap out the 1000cc injectors for 2000cc injectors, doing so will allow us to increase the boost and make more power. Lastly, we are working with Garrett Turbo to obtain a new GTX 4088R, which will deliver a faster spool while delivering more power than my Garrett T04Z turbo.

As far as the track experience, I am continuing to build a relationship with NASA and am working to grow the number of road track drift events in the Northwest. The next event will be August 10th and 11th at the new facility Oregon Raceway Park. I’m just thankful that Achilles provided me with a lot of take-off tires from Daigo and Robbie’s cars. Practice certainly helps in this sport, and these used tires will provide me plenty of it.

I want to thank everyone on my Team and that supports my racing program! I will see you all in Texas at Formula D round 6!”

Will Parsons
Pearlywhites“I blew the head gasket on the car the weekend before FD New Jersey, so I ended up not making that round at all. We pulled the head to swap head gaskets and discovered that all four sleeves in the motor had dropped about 3 thousandths. We pulled the engine right away and sent it over to the guys at Engine Logics to have the sleeves repressed and the block decked. I didn’t end up getting the block back until the weekend before the event, so my dad and I burned a lot of midnight oil getting the motor back together in time to leave. We finished it just in time, and hit the road for Seattle.”

track5“The trip went pretty smoothly, aside from a small fender bender right when we got to Seattle. It ended up taking 46 hours for us to make it. Thursday practice, I was struggling to get my initiation correct and was having some clutch issues when I would clutch kick the entry. I ended up abandoning the clutch kick and started e-braking the entry, which slowed the car down some, but it was easier to deal with than fighting the clutch. The Friday morning practice went a lot better. I started getting to all of the zones, and was starting to carry more speed throughout the course.”

track4“I was feeling pretty confident going into qualifying, and everything on the car seemed to be working good. My first run, I made a small mistake on entry and was able to recover, but entering the infield, I shifted into fifth gear instead of third, which caused me to straighten and get a zero. I didn’t get to make my second run until much later when the sun was starting to cause visibility issues. I felt good leaving the line and on entry, but about three quarters of the way around the bank, I lost sight of the wall and started pushing down bank. My line was so far off I ended up straightening before I made it to the infield which earned me another zero and ended my weekend.”

InCar“Overall the event was a success, the track was a blast to drive, I got to meet a lot of awesome local drivers, and I made it through an entire event without a major mechanical failure. Next stop is Texas. Really looking forward to driving a familiar track and having home town advantage!”

Chris Jeanneret
Autograph2“Formula Drift Round 5 was a victory for us in many ways. We didn’t finish where we wanted, but we made it farther then we thought with how many odds that were against us. The Sunday before FD was the first time to drive the car, and we only got 3 solid runs since we were spending so much time checking over it after every run, and making huge changes to get the car competitive. Those 3 runs put a huge smile on my face, but at the same time concerned me. It was the first time I have driven in 2 years, and now I had to get me and the car ready to qualify in 4 days.”

track3“Thursday practice at FD was not looking good for us. We broke 4 left side axles on initiation in a row. We spent the rest of the day trying to figure out what is going on and why. We only managed another 2 runs for practice that day.”

track2“Friday was the day my team and I had to get this thing together and start working on our qualifying line. We went out for practice after the drivers meeting and had a great game plan and thought we had everything on the car figured out, but as luck would have it, we broke another axle, but this time it was the opposite side! We scrambled to get another one in the car and back out to practice. As we got back to grid, I tried to do a rolling burn out and as soon as I lifted, the same axle broke again! Ok now we are on our last axle and we have to go out for qualifying and its all or nothing, so I did the lightest burn out and aired up the tires more then I wanted to be as easy on the car as possible and hoped for the best….”

Ontrack“As I left the line, the car felt really loose, so I initiated as light as possible and set the car into drift. After that, I said to myself ‘well lets hope she holds together!’ …. and it did. I pushed the car as hard as I could out to the wall clip and the touch and go area, then into power alley. I never lifted from 4th gear, leaving a whole set of Falken 615K tires up in smoke in one run. After i cleared the middle of the track, I came through the final hair pin feeling the tires were done and tried my hardest not to hit the wall, with my foot flat on the gas pedal and finished my run. As I got back to the pits, my spotter messaged me we got a 75 on our first run, and I was smiling ear to ear and was hoping that would secure us a spot in the Top 32, and it did. We were 29th, and now was the time to get the car ready for tandem.”

track5“Saturday morning the fans were pouring in, and all I can say was the pressure was on. Our first battle of the day was with none other then Vaughn Gitten Jr., who is a driver I have always loved watching from the side lines, and know is a straight up and aggressive driver and would be hard to keep up with. Our first run we followed, and I tried my hardest in the STR Racing S14 to just keep up with his crazy fast Mustang, but once he initiated, his car instantly put 4 car lengths on me, and I just tried my best to stay on line and close the gap in the infield with running a shallower line. Next we would follow, and all I could think is that Jr. is going to be right on me, so I need not to lift at all. This time I tried a different approach to my initiation, and it backfired. The transmission popped out of 4th gear and I went straight, and at that time I knew my day was done and pulled to the inside lane and let Jr. go around me.”

Team“Although we didn’t make it past Top 32, we qualified with very little practice and learned a lot about the car. We were the only NW team to qualify, and I think that says something about our program and look forward to improvements for the next round, and bridging the gap closer to the podium! Id really like to thank my sponsors for giving me this chance to shine and standing behind me this year, you are what make this possible. STR racing wheels – Tom and Cris, Diversity Law Group – Phil Su and his wife, Falken Tire – Roman and all the guys, 425 Motorsports – Dan Reiss and his amazing staff, English Racing – Luc English and Myles and everyone that got this beast back on track, Tein suspension – Paul and the best suspension Ive ever been on , Sean @ SPL pro parts suspension arms, Nissan Parts cc and Russel Moore, Ryan of Rywire wiring, Jeff of Imperial tint and graphics for keeping the car looking sick, Ron at Weddle Industries for building me an awesome clutch. Todd at Fueled racing, Ron at Wiseco and K1 rods. Andreas of Risk Taker clothing, Sanctiond car care products, and of course all my friends and family, and my crew cheif Mike “Nascar” Nason and Galen Callahan.”

Kory Keezer

driversmeeting“I went into FD Seattle fairly confident, being that it is my home track and I know the line well. FD changed the line quite a bit in the power alley to make the course faster, and of course they added a wall.”

Track“My biggest challenge was having to change to a different tire weeks before the event. The RT-615K Ive used for the past two seasons was back ordered 90 days and was unavailable at the time, so I only had a couple of practice sessions to try out a never before used cheaper tire, with a lot less grip.”

track4“The event still went pretty well for me scoring a 70 in qualifying with some very conservative runs.”

team“With the exception of the new tires, the MPS Powerplant ran beautifully yet again all weekend, and I want to thank Falken tire for having my back 100% even after I didn’t make the big show. Can’t wait for the next event!”

Nate Hamilton
Autograph“Open Practice for Seattle, I had a harder time getting used to this track than I thought I was going to have. I thought it was going to be easier than it was, and I was just realizing that this professional series is teaching me new skills. So, it took me a while to get used to. Seattle’s bank is different and it was really difficult to see. The first outer zone was a complete struggle for me. In our first drivers meeting, the judges tried their best to make it more visible.”

track5“Practice on Friday, I starting working on my vision moving from zone to clip. We started feeling better and made some of our first runs that really felt good.”

track4“Going into qualifying I felt great, and by the end of practice I had become more comfortable with the wall.”

track3“First qualifying run, I was closer to the wall than ever. After the second inner clip on my way out, the car either really gripped up or I undershot, but both of my front wheels ended up over the line. Zero.”

Track2“Second qualifying wasn’t until about 3 hours later. The track was cooling as the sun went down. This run I wanted to make sure I didn’t undershoot, so I poured it on and must have misjudged it because I tapped the wall at the end, might have even straightened. I honestly thought that run would have given me a good qualifying score. But unfortunately, the judges didn’t see it that way. I got another zero and we didn’t have an opportunity to be in the show.”

Team“I really enjoyed my time in Seattle. It’s always good to be able to study how these driver’s compete. It was also really cool that my good friend, Chris Forsberg, podiumed in 1st place. All in all I learned a lot from Round 5: Seattle. I am also extrememly excited and prepared for FD in Texas.”

8ellThere you have it! Pretty amazing stuff these guys go through in their first year of Formula Drift. Rookies depend on support from fans and sponsors alike. Do your part, and follow the links below to show these guys the support they need, and we will see you in Texas for Formula Drift Round 6 at Texas Motor Speedway!

Brandon Wicknick – Facebook
J.R. Hildebrand – FacebookWebsite
Rob Primo – Facebook
Will Parsons – FacebookWebsite
Chris Jeanneret – Facebook
Nate Hamilton – FacebookWebsite
Kory Keezer – Facebook


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