Round 4 of the 2015 Formula Drift Championship, appropriately dubbed “The Gauntlet”, rolled into Wall Stadium Speedway located in Wall Township, New Jersey on June 26-27, marking the halfway point of the season. With unpredictable weather in the forecast and wet conditions promised sometime in the weekend, the chase for the championship would certainly see some mixing up at Wall.
Wall Stadium Speedway; a high-banked, short oval tucked in the quiet Wall Township in New Jersey. Most of it’s time is spent as a track for weekly racing on the big oval for Late Models, Hobby Stocks, and many other staples in the grassroots American paved oval racing that many small towns have.
However, once a year the track is taken over by Nissans, Toyotas, Fords, and Chevrolets that you don’t normally see racing on the banks. Formula Drift comes to town and turns this quiet oval speedway into a fast paced smoke show.
Wall also demands respect, as it’s not unusual to see her chew up cars and spit them out without forgiveness when drivers tempt that old, battered steel barrier.
The first battle of the Top 32 is between the Enjuku Racing Nissan 240SX of Nate Hamilton and the Greddy Racing Scion FR-S of Ken Gushi. It was a hard battle and Hamilton actually hit the back of Gushi’s car in the first inside clip. The action was amazing, and was one of the best battles for Nate in a while. They switch around and Gushi stayed about a car length back until just past the first inner clip, and Hamilton wasn’t has high on the bank as Gush was. It was just as intense, but Ken Gushi won in a two-to-one decision with Andy Yen wanting to see a one more time.
Conrad Grunewald in the Megan Racing Chevrolet Camaro would need to overcome the CX Racing Nissan 240SX of Matt Field. Field was all over that rear zone of the bank’s wall, and kept a one to one-and-a-half car length lead until the finish when Grunewald closed in on his door. It was looking like a similar run when they swapped, until Grunewald spun after the inner bank, nearly taking himself and Field out. Because of that, Field took the win.
It was the fight between Achilles Tire driver Robbie Nishida in the Infiniti G37, versus Daigo Saito in the Nissan GTR. Saito stayed back but surged on the inner flatter banks, but Nishida kept a good pace and line, though he had a lot of steering corrections. Saito had an earlier initiation on the bank, but Nishida spins out on the inner bank after the first front clip because of too much aggression. Saito got the win, or he would have. A few moments after the battle, the judges used a replay to see if Saito went over the line at the start that is supposed to be treated as an invisible wall. He did, but the starter didn’t flag, which would have resulted in a restart. So the result was nullified by the judges because of that error and would be rerun. That’s when Saito put a big gap between Nishida and himself. Robbie Nishida went on the attack at the inner rear zones, but once again Daigo Saito got the win.
Last event’s winner Ryan Tuerck in the Retaks Scion FR-S went up against the Chase Bays Nissan 240SX of Brandon Wicknick. Tuerck stayed ahead for a while, but Wicknick got very aggressive on the inner course. Wicknick was too aggressive on the second inner oval and hit Tuerck, causing Tuerck to spin out. It could have been avoidable contact, so the judges deemed it was Wicknick’s fault and Tuerck would have to fix his car before he could continue. Tuerck was given ample time to fix his car, which took four-and-a-half battles for repairs. Wicknick took the lead, but he needed Tuerck to spin or straighten out. Instead, Wicknick would go two tires off at the very end and get a double zero. Tuerck gets the win and moves on to the Top 16.
The Enjuku Racing Nissan 240SX of Pat Goodin looked to get past the SLP Chevrolet Camaro of Mike Essa. Essa had a crash on his second qualifying run, so his car wasn’t 100 percent. On his lead, Goodin was very high on the bank, but Essa used proximity through the entire course by sacrificing angle and a bit of line. It did catch him off on the exit of the first inner bank, though. Essa was a bit sloppy on his angle on the bank. To the second zone, Goodin wasn’t as close as Essa was on his follow run, but Essa’s run wouldn’t be good enough. Pat Goodin is awarded the win from all three judges.
The Get Nuts Lab Nissan Silvia of Forrest Wang looked to get past a struggling Dai Yoshihara in the Turn 14 Distribution Subaru BRZ. Dai used a very low line on the follow as Wang got right up on the bank rail. Dai stayed at the door of Forrest until the last rear zone in the inner bank. Dai looked really good on his lead run, but Wang closed it in at the second front clip and ended with about half-a-car back. However, Forrest Wang would get the win.
Next up was the GT Radial Mazda RX8 of Kyle Mohan versus the Gatebil Nissan 240SX of Kenny Moen. Moen got right on the wall, but Mohan stayed very close until the last rear zone. It was a very aggressive run by both drivers and impressed the judges, though Mohan had a slight mistake in the last rear zone. Mohan was up on the wall, but Moen stayed right at his rear bumper. Moen then lost a bit of ground towards the end. Kenny Moen got the win, but Andy Yen wanted to see a OMT in this battle.
The Oracle Lighting Dodge Viper of Dean Kearney would have to take out Vaughn Gittin, Jr.’s Monster Energy Ford Mustang. Gittin had a huge lead until the second rear zone, but Kearney closes up toward the finish. On Kearney’s lead run, Gittin uses a very unusual start but it seems to work. Kearney rides the wall but he hits the second inside clipping point. It looked like Gittin would have the win, but he has a huge mistake before the last rear zone by going off line, dropping two tires, and straightening out. Because of that, Kearney took the win.
The start of this battle between the Rockstar Energy Scion tC of Fredric Aasbo and the Gold in the Net Toyota Chaser of Mats Baribeau was rerun after Aasbo went over the line. After a second but clean start, Aasbo rode high on the bank while Baribeau takes out a cone on the second zone. Aasbo held a large lead, but Baribeau had a little bit of a bobble at the last zone. When they swap around, Baribeau rode against the wall, but keeps it going while Aasbo was very aggressive. It all goes wrong for Baribeau when he went off course at the end by taking a tire off and going up onto the bank before the finish. All three judges give Aasbo the win. Rain began to fall, and weather started to play a factor in the runs.
Jhonnattan Castro in his E3 Spark Plugs Nissan 370Z would go against the HGK BMW M3 of Kristaps Bluss. Castro took a high line on the bank, but Bluss was very aggressive and stayed right at the door of the Z! In the final rear zone, Bluss hits Castro and spins the both of them out. The judges rule that Bluss was at fault, so Castro held the advantage. Castro would take the car behind the wall for repairs. Castro came back and Bluss created a huge gap between the two drivers on his lead. Bluss continued that aggressive drive, and Castro only catches up by the last rear zone. However, the mistake in his follow run causes Bluss to lose despite his amazing lead run, and Castro moves on.
Next up was the GT Radial BMW 3-series of Chelsea Denofa, and he would face off against the Achilles Radial Nissan 240SX of Geoff Stoneback. Denofa was very aggressive on the bank, and Stoneback had to use less angle and a lower line to keep up through the entire course. While the rain continued to drizzle on and off, Stoneback ran his lead run and a double initiation. Denofa goes way wide and hits the bank on the second rear zone, and, despite Denofa’s wheel returning to zero, he kept his angle and line. They go one more time because of really sloppy runs by both drivers according to the judges. For the one more time, Stoneback stayed right with Denofa, but on the second rear zone, he loses line and slows too much. Stoneback’s lead run looked much better, but Denofa stays right with him through the entire course. Chelsea Denofa gets the win and moves on the Top 16.
The Drift Paddock Nissan 350Z of Pat Mordaunt faced off against the Perry Performance Nissan 240SX of Marc Landreville. Mordaunt opens up a large lead and was very aggressive on his run, while Landreville takes out the first front clip and destroys his front bumper, driver’s front fender, and driver’s side skirt. Mordaunt completes the course and gets the advantage. Landreville has to be towed off and later reveals that his car took too much damage to continue. Mordaunt moves on and continues his streak of Top 16 appearances in 2015.
Next was the domestic battle between the Roush Performance Ford Mustang of Justin Pawlak and the Falken Tire Chevrolet Camaro of Tyler McQuarrie. Pawlak looked good but, McQuarrie had the proximity through the course on Pawlak’s lead run. Swapping around, McQuarrie kept a high line and opened a gap, but Pawlak closed up at the second front clip and nearly hits him before the last rear zone. Very aggressive battle between them in both runs and the judges loved it. However, Justin Pawlak got the win with two of the judges going for him, and Bryan Eggert went with them going one more time.
In this swap battle, it was the Sikky Mazda RX8 with an LS engine driven by Dan Savage going up against Masashi Yokoi in the D-Max Racing Nissan Silvia with a 2JZ. Yokoi showed again why he was hyped in his debut, as he stuck to Savage’s door for nearly the entire course! Savage had a great lead run until the final outer zone. Yokoi could have been a little higher on his lead, but Savage got too aggressive and he nearly hit Yokoi at the final rear zone. Savage wasn’t as consistent as Yokoi because of that aggressive driving on his follow run, and that gives Yokoi the win.
The NOS Energy Nissan 370Z of Chris Forsberg would face the Get Nuts Lab Nissan 240SX of Alec Hohnadell. Forsberg was up near the wall, but Hohnadell was right at the bumper of the Z, then Forsberg began to open up a gap at the second front clip. Hohnadell closed in again at the last rear zone and the pair swapped around. Hohnadell had a large lead and continued to force Forsberg to get more aggressive. It looked like Forsberg dropped a tire at the front clip, but he closed up again on the final rear zone. Despite what looked like a better run by Hohnadell, Chris Forsberg got the win.
The final battle of the Top 32 would be between the ARK Racing Nissan 240SX of Odi Bakchis and the DNA Motoring Nissan 240SX of Jeff Jones. However, Jones did not finish the course as something was wrong with his car. They take his car back to the pits to investigate, but Jones’s car is done and Bakchis moves on.
The first pair of the Top 16 would be Ken Gushi and Matt Field, and they would attack a course that was very wet. No rain was falling, but water remained on the course. This meant that speeds slowed down and the drivers looked like they were in slow motion. Gushi over rotated and Field spun out behind him thanks to the soggy conditions. It was judged that Field spun without help from Gushi’s spin, and Field was at the disadvantage. Field knew this and poured his talent all on this run and kept the car in control, while Gushi took caution. However, Field spun out on the final rear zone before the finish, and that allowed Ken Gushi to move on.
A lot of people are starting to look at Ryan Tuerck as the punching bag of Formula Drift, as every run he’s had, there has been contact with the other driver in some form or another. He would face off Daigo Saito, whose car was finally beginning to run right. Ryan was banging off of the rev limiter on the very wet bank, and Saito showed tons of car control by staying door to door with Tuerck throughout the run. Saito was nearly right at the Tuerk’s front bumper in the inner rear zones. It was an amazing run by both, and the only mark against Saito was that he came off the bank earlier. When they changed positions, we began to start seeing some smoke, but it was still a slick track. Daigo showed even more car control and pulled off more separation until the finish where Tuerck closes up. However, both drivers did well enough to warrant a one more time call by the judges.
In the OMT run, Tuerck has a huge lead until the first front inner clip. On the second rear zone, Tuerck and Daigo make contact and both spin out. Daigo is judged at fault for the contact with Tuerck. On his lead run, Daigo uses a middle line until the very wet middle section, which slowed the cars down a lot. While he was very close, Tuerck didn’t make contact or do anything to result in a zero for him, and got the win.
Pat Goodin has been a driver to look out for this season with some very good runs in 2015. Forrest Wang, though, continued to look like the driver he’s always been as, even in a new car. Goodin was on the wall and opened up a gap, but had a bit of a waiver before he spun out on the final rear zone. Goodin threw away a chance at the Great 8 as he was looking better than Wang. Goodin had more angle throughout his run, but hitting the bank with his rear bumper caused him to lose traction on the rear tires, resulting in a spin. Leading this time, Wang has a ton of angle on the bank, and then Goodin adds insult to his own injury by spinning out on the first clipping point while Wang is able to finish. Forrest Wang gets the win.
The battle of the Europeans would be between Kenny Moen and Dean Kearney. The bank was starting to dry out, and this may have led to Moen hitting the wall on his lead and straightening out. He doesn’t crash, but it is a zero. On his lead, Kearney has a later initiation than Moen, but still runs a good line. Moen nearly hits the door of Kearney, but they don’t make contact. The inner section was still very wet as the cars lost speed before the finish. Dean Kearney moves on because of Kenny’s zero.
The other pride of Norway, Fredric Aasbo, would face off against the pride of the Dominican Republic, Jhonnattan Castro. Aasbo holds a very high line, but because he goes over the center line at the start, there is a restart. Leading, Aasbo has another high, wide, and a handsome drift, while Castro straightens out on the bank resulting in a zero for him. Aasbo had a correction after the first front clip and it looked like he straightened out, but the inner course is still very, very wet, so it was not counted as a zero. On Castro’s lead run, he struggles with the bank and completely loses it in the second rear zone. Aasbo nearly contacts Castro but avoids him. Aasbo completes the course and gets the win.
Pat Mordaunt was in his third Top 16 appearance for 2015 and looked to make it a third Great 8, but Chelsea Denofa stood in his way. With Denofa leading, Mordaunt was lower on the bank and spun out in the second rear zone. Denofa keeps it going and finishes the course, giving him the advantage. A huge gap was created by Mordaunt on his lead against Denofa, while both drivers were very slow on the inner portion. Mordaunt gained some grip at the second front clip to nearly cause a non-chase situation for Denofa, but Denofa got the win as the gap wasn’t enough to overcome the spin Mordaunt had on his follow.
Justin Pawlak was on a redemption run after his issues at Orlando Speedworld, and he wanted to make quick work of Masashi Yokoi. On Pawlak’s lead, Yokoi isn’t as close as his previous battles, but Pawlak spun coming off of the bank. Yokoi uses him as a spinning clipping point and completes the course. On his follow, Pawlak went in too aggressive knowing his zero was a huge disadvantage, and hits Yokoi. However, Yokoi continues on despite being hit. That’s two zeros for JTP, and Yokoi moves on.
Both drivers are viewed as very consistent, but Chris Forsberg has experience on Odi Bakchis. However, you wouldn’t know it after Forsberg spun at first inner clip on his lead, and gave the advantage to Bakchis. On his follow, Forsberg would spin out once again at the same inner clip as his lead, and Odi moves on.
On his lead run, Ken Gushi goes straight after initiation while Ryan Tuerck continued on with his normal line. The track is starting to dry out and affected the run for both drivers, but Gushi drifts up on the bank in the second rear zone. Gushi had the bigger mistakes so the advantage was going to Tuerck. Ken understeers once again on the bank on his follow and bangs panels with Tuerck. It was a punching fest between the two drivers and made everyone get up on their feet! However, the mistakes by Gushi overcome his aggression, and Ryan Tuerck moved on taking out the two time number one qualifier.
When Forrest Wang and Dean Kearney met for their battle, the track began to dry out as smoke started to plume out of their rear fenders. Leading, Wang had a opened up a gap against Kearney after the second rear zone, but Kearney dives in close in the last rear zone. When they switch places, a restart was called for a false start by Kearney. Starting over, Kearney takes off at the right moment and stays up on the bank, while Wang charges up on Kearney at the first rear zone. Contact was made by the drivers at the second front clipping point. Wang was too aggressive and charged in, so he was deemed at fault. Judges give the win to Dean Kearney.
Chelsea Denofa put on pressure against Aasbo on the follow, but Fredric Aasbo keeps his cool on his lead run. Denofa continued to be aggressive but, on the second rear zone, he straightened out and gave the advantage to Aasbo. Denofa looked really strong on the bank, but Aasbo kept a safe, but competitive distance. With no mistakes, Aasbo got the win, as the straightening out of Denofa gave himself the defeat.
While Odi Bakchis admitted that he isn’t comfortable with the rain, it sure didn’t seem to be affecting him! He keeps a good lead run and maintains his composure despite an aggressive follow by Masashi Yokoi in the first rear zone, even making contact! Another great, insane battle as the conditions continued to change! Yokoi held a middle high line, and Bakchis got aggressive. At the first front clip Bakchis lost some ground, but gained it back at the second front clip and stayed door to door with Yokoi to the finish. These guys weren’t playing around! Andy Yen goes for a one more time call, Brian Eggert said Odi won, but Ryan Lanteigne went with Yokoi! No decision meant they were going one more time!
In that battle, Bakchis starts with a good line, but Yokoi stays right as his door! From the front clip to the finish, Yokoi sticks with Bakchis! They swap and Masashi flicks it into the bank, but Bakchis is right on his bumper. Bakchis and Yokoi stay door to door from the second rear zone, and it was a battle! Yokoi gets the win, but both drivers earned praises from the judges, Ryan Sage, and Jarod DeAnda!
The first Final 4 battle was Ryan Tuerck versus Dean Kearney to see who would go on to the finals. If Kearney was defeated, he would not see the podium since he was the lowest qualified driver of the four. Tuerck ran a very high line up the bank with lots of angle on his lead, but Kearney was all over him! However, Tuerck was able to pull a gap on Kearney. They switch around and Kearney rides the wall, and Tuerck spins out coming off of the bank! Dean Kearney is going to the finals and Ryan Tuerck would have to hope that Yokoi would lose to Aasbo to get a podium.
The rain began to fall once again as Yokoi changed his tires from his one more time battle against Bakchis. He and Aasbo started, but a restart was called because Yokoi went over the line before getting behind Aasbo. It was evident in that short sprint that speeds have dropped again, but Aasbo is able to keep enough momentum to keep his tC up high on the bank on his lead. Aasbo made a minor mistake at the first front clip, but Yokoi made a similar mistake at the second front clip. The advantage in Aasbo’s favor. The rain was getting harder and the wind was blowing more as Yokoi took his lead run. He ran up on the wall and Aasbo fell back until the second rear zone. Aasbo still looked better than Yokoi, and they finish tight, door to door! Fredric Aasbo goes to the final battle for first, as the mistakes made by Yokoi were enough for his defeat. Ryan Tuerck got his wish, and gets third place thanks to qualifying higher than Yokoi.
The weather gets worse, but Fredric Aasbo held a high line on his lead while Dean Kearney made a slight mistake just past the front clip. However, Kearney closes it in from the last rear zone to the finish going door to door! Kearney needs an amazing lead run to force a one more time call. Kearney initiates into the first turn with both drivers going very, very slow. Kearney runs over the first front clip, but had a slight lead of about a car length. Then, Aasbo closes back up at the final rear zone and with no distinct advantage by Kearney, and the win goes to Fredric Aasbo for his second 1st place podium in 2015! This was also the second time that Aasbo won at Wall.
By taking third Place, Ryan Tuerck is in the points lead by a single point, with Odi Bakchis in second. Fredric Aasbo sits third in points only seven back, while Ken Gushi is in fourth, with 47 points separating himself and Tuerck. Finally, Chris Forsberg is in fifth with only 50 points to make up to get the points lead. First and tenth are only separated by 120 points with only three rounds to go. Mathematically, it’s still anyone’s game, but the top five would need to falter in the final three events for the 2015 Championship. Hankook Tire holds the Tire Manufacturer Points lead, with Nitto and Achilles following. Scion holds the Vehicle Manufacturer Points Lead, with Nissan and Ford following.
Next up will be the second World Championship Round at Fuji Speedway in Fuji, Japan on July 11th and 12th, while the next U.S. round will be at Evergreen Speedway in Monroe, Washington on July 24th and 25th. That round is also the second Pro2 Championship event, so that will be a very busy weekend for everyone, including us here at AmDrift. We’ll see you then!