This past weekend’s Top Drift event at Willow Springs Raceway, the second round of the Formula Drift licensing series, was pretty unique in terms of things that rarely happen, happening. Driver and spectator turnout was great, but there was tons of downtime due to a record number of oil spills, the most we’ve ever seen at a track event, and other things such as mechanical breakdowns calling for track rescue. Top Drift Round 2 was not a disappointing event though, as the driving got better throughout the course of the day, and the battles in the finals kept going and going, keeping fans, friends, and family of the drivers on edge until the end.
The promise of competition was strong coming into Round 2. Horsethief Mile admittedly is not my favorite track, nor the prettiest, but it’s a drivers track… one that few have mastered in it’s entirety. Thrill seeking drivers love sliding down the hill sideways, and the turnout is always great. Those who have driven it for years, naturally were the ones I expected to see succeed this round.
Right out of the morning drivers meeting, I immediately tossed my predictions out the window, as drivers I expected to be on a steep learning curve started making some killer runs. Younger fellows such as Micah Diaz and Brandon Shannon, who spent most of their recent days of drifting at Adams Motorsport Park in Riverside, along with many of their buddies who have converted to Just Drift regulars, came out swinging with no fear of the infamous downhill that forces you to place your car in the absolute perfect position to scrub speed before curving around the bottom of the hill without correcting your line.
Unfortunately, today was the day where lots of people broke and also forced cleanup crews to frequent the track. Drifting is an extreme motorsport that puts a lot of stress on parts and nobody really gets upset with the driver when something goes south, but the frequency of incidents such as broken parts and spilled oil was something for the record books. Just Drift and Willow Springs Raceway staff were on overtime getting the messes sorted out, and getting the drivers back on track, so I’d like to say good job to them for the efforts!
Admist the chaos of incidents, the camaraderie was high as it always is at Just Drift events, and everybody took it with stride and made the best of it. Rarely do I ever get time to walk around the grid and pits during scheduled track time, so it was kind of nice to have the opportunity to observe everybody patiently waiting and hanging out talking smack and having a good time.
Morning to noon was plagued with downtime, but things started looking promising around qualifying time. The action really started to pick up and drivers finally got to make some solid runs. Unfortunately, the issues kept coming and messed with drivers heads as they prepared to make their passes, most likely breaking their concentration and psyching a few of them out, directly affecting their performance. The experience of the unknown is valuable for those wishing to advance into Formula Drift, because this sort of thing happens all the time. Pro Am is the place to get used to it, and those who adapted were able to make killer runs to land them high qualifying scores.
Top Drift Top 16 qualifiers were ready to rock. Top left to right: Brian Nimmo, Kyle Cameron, Sean Adriano, Rob Carlsen (1st place qualifier), Dominic Rotondo, Tim Cobb, Brian Page-Howell, Micah Diaz, Josh Lind, Adrian Riesser. Bottom left to right: Adam Knapik, Jason Kim, Alex Grimm, Zach MacGillivray, Andy Hateley, Adam Feliciano.
Competition ran what seemed forever with tons of killer battles. The most note worthy battle of Top Drift was that of Sean Adriano and Jason Kim. Sean drives Jason Kim’s previous year(s) competition car which Jason still owns, and came out kicking and screaming door to door with Jason all the way to the final run. Sean was fresh back from a drift trip to Japan, so that must have something to do with the newfound calmness and skilled driving he presented to Jason on track and gave him a run for his money. A battle between a Just Drift veteran and one of the younger promising faces of Just Drift was a great way to wrap up the event.
Congrats to Sean Adriano for winning Top Drift Round 2. Jason Kim finished second like a proud father, and another steadily improving and extremely promising driver, Dominic Rotondo, comes in third. Notable mention: Sean Adriano also competed in Top Drift Limited, which he is no longer eligible to participate in due to his Pro Am win. Sean has some big shoes to fill for the rest of the 2016 Top Drift Pro Am season.
Head to the Just Drift website in a few days for updates and standings. Just Drift Round 3 will be held at night on July 16, 2016 at Willow Springs Raceway. Come out to Round 3 and join the fun, but meanwhile enjoy the Round 2 gallery!