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Wow! Formula Drift Atlanta!
This will be a strange place to start from but Formula Drift Atlanta 2012 was the last big event that I went to before I got ill. I’m sure that from the URL of this blog you can probably get a rough idea of how I was ill, and the details of that really don’t matter in this post.
As I’ve been recovering from that illness coming back to Atlanta has always been my end goal. I’ve always said that once I feel good enough to go back to Formula Drift, that I would have won. I’ve put myself into extremely uncomfortable and difficult situations to get myself to where I am now and looking back on it, as I type this, I can say that I’m extremely proud of the person that I have evolved into over the past 7 years, the work that I have done and the lessons that I have learnt.
So before we get into the meat of this blog. If you’re one of the many people that are subscribed to this blog by email, that follow the blog’s Facebook page or Twitter or are even friends with me personally on Facebook, that struggles with different issues; if I can hit my big targets, then you can too. Just take your time and let the process work. It took me 7 years. I know people who have got through their issues in 7 weeks, 7 months and some people are still working hard to get through theirs who I met when I started reaching out for help. Just keep working, you’ve got this!
Anyway, now that I’ve said my piece on that. Let’s dig into this!
Road Atlanta and Formula Drift have a very long and interesting history. Atlanta the first venue to host a round of Formula Drift way back in 2004, utilising a brand new section of track that was made specifically for the event (which in time has affectionately become known as the horseshoe). Though the layout has changed over the years, as the level of driving has progressed and as the technology within the cars has improved, Formula Drift still use that same section of track.
The course sort of looks like a P with a tail that has an S shaped crook in it. The cars start at the base of the P and run straight down a steep hill into a 90 degree left turn, they then transition to the right (forming the S) and then continue up the back of the P before following the P shape around a long sweeping right hand turn and then they run back down to the base of the P.
If that made no sense, then watching this little clip might give you a better idea:
The event spans three days, two of which are open to the public. Thursday is a closed testing day and qualifying for Pro 2. Friday was the competition day for Pro 2 and the qualifying day for Pro 1 and finally Saturday is Pro 1’s competition.
Pro-1 is the top championship. Pro-2 is a step between regional Pro-Am and Pro-1. The Pro-2 championship is held over four rounds across the country and the cars are built to a slightly more budget friendly specification (for instance there’s a limit on tyre width).
When I last went in 2012 the visual gap between Pro-2 and Pro-1 was significant. The Pro-2 guys were good drivers but it was clear that they lacked the marketing skills of the Pro-1 guys.
That has most certainly changed now though! There are plenty of teams in Pro-2 now with beautifully prepared cars, merchandise stands, social media presence and more, in a bid to grab the eye of potential sponsors in the audience.
I often mentioned MAPT Motorsport in my King of the Ring (R.I.P) blog posts and often talked about how professional those guys looked, it was that very reason. No matter what happened on track, they had a presence at the event. They captured the hearts and minds of the audience.
It’s something that these smaller Pro-2 teams are really focusing a lot of energy into and I hope that it’s something we can really see emulated on a larger scale here in the U.K.
Of course, I couldn’t talk about social media presence and merchandising in Pro-2 without talking about Adam LZ.
Adam LZ’s entry to Pro-2 has been controversial. It’s no secret that results wise he’s not had the best of starts to his season but in terms of professionalism his team are ON POINT. His booth takes card payments, which really took me by surprise. I can’t remember the last time I saw a booth taking card payments at a drift event, if ever. The pit crew and other members of staff are all really approachable and happy to talk about the cars, they took some of my stickers.
His competition car is this Enjuku Racing built 2JZ powered Nissan S15: Note the lack of high impact livery. His sponsors get value from the videos and social media stuff he does rather than having a sticker on the car, so he has gone for a “street” look. Will we be seeing more builds like this in the future of professional drifting?
He also brought out his OG cream S13 and 911 GT2RS for display.
On the other hand, a striking livery can really draw a crowd too! I hadn’t heard of Andrew Schulter before seeing his car. The livery is really unique and eye catching!
Kelsey Rowlings is quite a prominent figure on social media too. A lad came over whilst we were talking and said to her that his girlfriend wanted to meet her but she was really shy. Kelsey took some time out to go and have a chat with her.
It was super cool to see her go out of her way like that. The female drivers are certainly bringing more girls into the sport, which is awesome, and it probably made that girl’s day to meet Kelsey which, hopefully, is just one of the many hundreds of memories that girl will make with her boyfriend and this sport.
How cool are her headlights?!
Nate Snyder also has a good looking car this year. Had a quick chat with him and gave him a sticker!
Most of the cars in Pro-2 this year had really interesting wraps to be fair. As I said earlier, the teams are really pushing to be professional and eye-catching. Exactly what the fans and sponsors want!
The Pro-2 comp, under the lights was fantastic. I was sat quite far back, which made shooting the cars as they ran difficult (especially with the smoke which I’ll talk more about later). In the end, Australian Josh Robinson took the win in his Ute. Kenric Mever came second and 22 year old Garrett Denton rounds off our podium.
Pro-1 is the headline event of the show. This is where the best of the best face off.
A lot of drivers who I saw in 2012 are still present. Including:
Forrest Wang. Forrest is a well renowned for the style that he brings to Pro-1. Over the years he has retained Japanese style liveries and his wide chrome wheels, rather than getting too corporate with his program, which a lot of fans seem to respect.
Ireland’s Dean Kearney in the Oracle Lighting Viper. At 1350hp (yes you read that right, 1350hp) this Viper is the most powerful car in Formula Drift.
I also really liked his pit truck haha!
‘Rad Dan’ Burkett was a Pro-2 driver, if memory serves when I came out. It’s nice to see he still has his signature Supra and signature mullet!
The Falken team are still heavy hitters in Formula Drift. Daijiro Yoshihara is still on the team with the Subaru BRZ and Justin Pawlak is still running a Ford Mustang.
Odi Bakchis (240sx) and Matt Field (Corvette) weren’t on the Falken team last time I came over. I believe they joined at the same time last year and produced a show on Donut Media called Frenemies. It’s an interesting watch if you get the opportunity, check it out on YouTube.
Chris Forsberg is still in the 370Z and supported byu NOS Energy Drink
Multiple Formula Drift champion, Norwegian Frederic Aasbo is competing in a RWD converted new Toyota Corolla. It’s an unusual car from which to start a drift build, but beautifully constructed by Papadakis Racing.
Jhonnattan Castro from the Dominican Republic was having his “Rookie year” in 2012. It’s great to see he’s still competing and that his car is still sporting the red, white and blue of his homeland’s flag.
Ken Gushi, who is one of the drivers that’s been with the series since it’s inception in 2004, is competing this year in a Toyota GT86. In 2012 he was the first FD driver with a Subaru BRZ and that was the first ever GT86/BRZ/FRS that I had ever seen!
The Napoleon Motorsports electric Camaro driven by Travis Reeder is a car I was very interested to see. It’s eerily quiet, especially in comparison to the thundering V8s and screaming straight sixes around it, but slides really well. I most certainly think that electric cars have a place in the future of drifting, as they do in every other field of motorsport too.
There are some guys in the UK with a Tesla powered R32 Skyline under the name of ZeroEV. I’ve yet to see them in person. There are also companies producing electric conversion kits for classic cars (I saw a converted Morris Minor at the London Classic Car show). As emissions laws are getting tighter, especially here in Europe, I certainly think electric cars are something we need to embrace here in the world of motorsports and classic car restoration/modification.
The Worthouse Drift Team consisting of James Deane and Piotr Wiecek have been a force to be reckoned with here in Formula Drift.
James did a fair bit at Arena Essex and as a supporter of my local scene, I have to admit, he was the driver I was rooting for!
Kyle Mohan is still representing the rotaries! Huge congratulations to him on recently becoming a Dad!
Federico Sceriffo’s Ferrari 599. Another very unusual platform for drifting. The car retains the Ferrari V12 which sounds incredible!
Ryan Litteral is another of my favourite drivers to watch.
I didn’t get as many action shots as I might have originally liked. I know a bad workman always blames his tools but my camera was simply running out of range and was struggling to focus through the smoke. The Atlanta track is built into a big natural bowl, which retains the smoke as the cars go around. At night, under the spotlights, it looks absolutely magical but photography difficult haha!
That’s fine though, Next time I go I’ll have to make sure I have good camera equipment and possibly a media pass. It’s something to work towards.
I did manage to get some shots from the start line. The start line was a surprisingly nice place to stand. One could watch the cars leave and descend into the track.
At the end of the evening Frederic Aasbo took first place, Ryan Tuerck finished second and James Deane came in third.
The sister event to Formula Drift is Global Time Attack.
Time Attack is a competitive event, the person who sets the fastest lap time of the day wins.
There are a number of classes which split the cars in terms of drive train (FWD, RWD and AWD) and modification, so the cars range from nearly standard street cars to some of the craziest track I’ve seen in terms of power upgrades and aerodynamic modification.
I don’t know much about Global Time Attack (GTA) or many of it’s drivers. The UK has it’s own series though and it’s 110% something I’m going to watch later on in the year.
I do, however, know Savannah Little as we follow each other on Instagram. I was going to pop over and say “Hi” but she was in conversation most of the time she was out of the car haha!
Sally McNulty of Snail Performance was in the #projectnotsodaily Subaru.
R35 GTRs are an incredibly popular choice in this field of motorsport and rightly so in my opinion. The prices of these are really dropping now and they are not only a fast AWD car in standard form, but there are lots of companies around the world who are producing aftermarket bits for them and there are plenty of cars making over 1000bhp.
Though I’m not the biggest fan of Ford Europe, the Focus RS is also another good choice for Time Attack. Again it’s a fast, modern platform with plenty of aftermarket support.
Of course, there were plenty of Evos and Imprezas in the AWD field.
The RWD field was a little more varied with everything from Camaros and Mustangs, to Porsches, 350Zs and even a little AE86 Corolla!
90s Hondas were the most common car in the FWD classes. Which is fair, they are light and highly tunable.
Time Attack was a little easier to get action shots of too. There are a few good photography spots around the Road Atlanta course.
Why I didn’t get any static shots of that stock car is beyond me. It was cool!
I did get a quick video of the blue Camaro flying past. Some of the cars sounded incredible downshifting on their way down the hill and into the Formula Drift S. The Camaro really stood out to me though.
I suppose I’ve got to the point where I need to start wrapping this post up now. Georgia, to me, is an incredibly special place. I had thought it was so special because getting back there was an important goal to me. It’s a truly beautiful place though and Formula Drift is a party. The driving is sublime, the cars are really out of this world and the people; drivers, fans and staff are all so friendly.
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By Richard Francis