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Pro-AM side of a Formula Drift Event

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It's just like Christmas. It only comes once a year. Formula Drift Seattle at the end of July.

This is the single biggest event of the year for northwest drifting. The exposure is huge and thus... So is the pressure to do well.

Leading up to the event I got some exciting news that my father who loves to come watch and help was actually going to make it back early from his 2 month commercial fishing season in time for the event. It's always nice to have him around for support and his vast mechanical knowledge. He would be helping me out at the event along with Nikolay Konstantinov (spotter) and Ray Stonehocker (Grid Engineer).

Going into the event I was in 6th place for our Formula D Pro AM series. Sitting less than 10 points behind 5th. The top 4 drivers get their Formula D licenses and invites to Formula Drift Pro-AM all stars at Irwindale speedway in October.

Thursday -

First Practice with beautiful weather

We were given 2 hours straight of on track time at the speedway. I took this opportunity to drive as much as possible (shredding 6 tires). The engine was doing such a great job cooling itself that I never wanted to shut it off. So I just ran it straight for 2 hours, even changing tires while it was running.

I was extremely loose that day and really put no pressure on myself. I thought my driving was reflecting it. My bank driving was solid but I still had things to work on with my transitioning through the power alley. However I just continued to think that bank drifting would carry me through the event at that point.

At the end of the practice I noticed my car was idling 500 rpms higher then usual, but I just shrugged that off attributing it to the car running for 2 hours straight doing many passes in the process. I parked the car in the pits and called it a day. I left the track for some much needed sleep.

Friday -

Washington showed us weather overnight dumping a substantial amount of rain. We had morning practice scheduled before the pro qualifying however that was canceled due to flooding on the track. We weren't set to drive until 6pm where we would get 2 practice runs before our 2 qualifying runs.

So I took this opportunity to to fix something that was bothering me with the car. The brakes weren't working like the had earlier in the season so I replaced the old front pads and turn the front rotors. Not a huge need in drifting but when you left foot brake the bank its nice to slow yourself a bit. I had that all buttoned up around 2pm and took the opportunity to talk to fans and spectators.

At 3:30 I was showing a spectator my engine and I took a close look at my intake manifold (custom welded manifold done by the fabricator I went to before partnering with Garage Autohero in 2009). This manifold has caused me some issues and it would cause me another this day. I noticed a 4-5 inch crack on one of the welds of the manifold. This explains the higher idle and would cause me to have a boost leak for qualifying and the competition to follow. With 2 hours to go before we start to grid up for qualifying we quickly loaded the car on the trailer and headed for Garage Autohero (25-30 minutes from the track).

We got there and cleared out room within the shop so we could back the trailer directly into the shop and weld the manifold on the car as there was no time to take it off. Luckily this went on without a hitch. We were back in the truck and on the road before we knew it. But it was right around 5pm on a friday and we hit dead standstill traffic on the way back to the track. What should have taken 10 minutes took 50. I was able to breathe my way through 2 or 3 potential heart attacks and made it to the track just as we were about to grid. As we rolled in we were given an applause from the on lookers and drivers. Very close call!

There actually is a quote in the original fast and furious saying something to the effect of "You're lucky that 100 shot of NOS didn't blow the welds on your intake." Well I'm lucky to only be running an 80 shot so it just cracked a bit. A little humor after the fact is always nice when it works out.


My first run felt solid. I did hiccup on initiation putting the car right next to the wall thus having to run a somewhat shallow line to start. My infield clip wasn't the best. But it was an overall decent run. I scored a 75. After the first set of qualifying runs I was sitting 2nd.

My second run I wanted to get a better initiation and set myself up for success. I put down what I thought was a great run. I was ecstatic when I called up to my spotter. I was then informed that I scored a 68.

With my first run score I qualified 6th.

I began to reflect on my previous thinking. I wasn't going to be able to just "Win on the bank" All of the drivers in Pro AM can drift the bank well. So I began to reflect on all of my runs and where I was playing it conservative and I needed to turn my weaknesses into strengths.

So after talking it over with everyone I took some time to myself as everyone left the track. I changed tires, swapped in a new bottle of Nitrous and prepped the car and myself for the main event. I finally left the track at 11:30

Saturday -

we had practice from 10:30 to 11:30 and then top 16 at 1pm.

I would be going against Steve Thompson of Drift Union who drives a 2JZ powered Toyota Soarer. He has a lot of great driving experience and would be both a challenge and a pleasure to drive against as I would consider him a good friend. We had a plan of driving together in practice that morning as we wanted to put on a good show. However things didn't go to plan and we only got to take 2 runs together. Each of us got to lead and chase so we had a glimpse of what was to come.

I continued to practice what I thought I needed to change. I was feeling better about my chances as my angle was better off the bank, my overall driving was smoother and my cabin (I drive windows up) was starting to become a Falken Tire smoke cloud. I came out of qualifying riding high emotionally.

I went back into the pits and talked with my team. Everyone was giving great kudos. However I wanted an outside opinion so I asked one of the judges their opinion and he gave it to me straight. Letting me know that I still needed to get my line down because I was missing the second clip.

Unable to practice this before top 16, I focused in and tried to staple it in my brain, because at some point muscle memory takes over when you are moving so quickly.

Top 16.

I led and Steve gave chase. I put down a great run and was able to hit all the clips and put down my best run of the event at that time. My spotters informed me that Steve had taken a lower line on the bank and that I had the advantage.

I followed Steve and gave him a small gap. I started to catch him on the bank and came off in relative close proximity. Then just as I was about to transition he hit the wall on the second clip. His trunk blew up and it was almost a Mario Kart type moment. Throwing Bananas (debris) all over the track and right towards me. Upon exiting the debris I got back on the throttle and finished out the run.

I was awarded the win.

Top 8:

I was matched up with another great driver and friend Erich Hagen in his S13.

I led and put down another great lead run. I was just really feeling the car and driving with a feeling that "I'm going to win this." After the run my spotter told me that Erich was close at the end and that I needed to beat him.

I followed Erich and closed in him coming off the bank and into power alley. I closed the gap and on the final hairpin was just behind him. As he flipped around the hairpin he went too wide and hit the wall causing him to straighten.

I was awarded the win and was moving onto the Top 4.

Top 4:

I was feeling good and confident in my driving and ready for the next round. I would be getting the series points leader Nik Jiminez. An awesome driver and someone that I had a close battle with during round 1 where I ultimately lost to him.

We were rushed to the line both doing burnouts on the way. As I was preparing to go Nik reversed off the start line. I was informed that he broke an axle and I would be moving onto the First Place round.

Its an unfortunate side of racing that I have been on the both sides of. But there is nothing that can be done so you take it and move on.

Top 2:

After a quick tire flip I was ready for the winner of the other battle. However I was informed that in the other battle the lead car spun causing the chase car to hit him and that chase car broke his oil cooler spilling out all of his engine oil. Therefore the broken car won but was unable to continue and face me.

So the battle for third was a solo run and so was the battle for first. Pretty anti-climatic.

I was informed that I just had to drive through and make a clean run to get first place. I thought that was kind of a bad way to win. So I did what I only though was right. I went out as fast as I could and laid down my best run of the entire event.

Upon returning to the pits the judges came up to me and said that I was the best driver that day and deserved that win no matter the circumstances.

So as it sits now I am in 3rd place of our season standings with one event to go. What a difference one event can make! A dream coming to fruition. One more event to go for that Formula Drift License.

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