Formula Drift Orlando - round 2 recap
Formula Drift returns to Orlando for the third time in row. Drivers have accustomed to the conditions and track layout on the oval track - starting off straight and almost completing an 8 figure. The weather was as expected - hot and humid. This is round 2 for Formula Drift PRO championship as well as the first round of FD PRO 2, so the event took place from thursday to saturday. Thursday - practice and Pro2 qualifying, friday - Pro2 finals and PRO qualifying, saturday - PRO finals. There are no Toyota 86 / Subaru BRZ drivers in Pro 2, we will cover PRO championship drivers which currently are five - Dai Yoshihara, Ken Gushi, Ryan Tuerck, Jhonnattan Castro and Cameron Moore.
Ken Gushi and Greddy Racing / Boost Brigade / Toyota Racing team have rebuilt their car from ground up this year. Ken is a senior driver of Formula Drift and always brings the best to the show in his 2JZ powered 86 and qualified in a high 6th position. In Top 32 Ken Gushi was battling with Kyle Mohan. While Ken had a great advantage in lead run and seemed it's an easy win, in follow run Gushi initiated way too late. Judges probably gave a flat 0 (incomplete run) and Kyle Mohan advanced to Top16.
The newcomer of the year to 86-chassis Cameron Moore in his Nameless Performance Toyota 86 seems to be still adapting to the car and qualified in 23rd position. Nevertheless in Top32 Cameron beat Alex Heilbrunn who took 2nd place on podium in previous round. Wasn't an easy win as judges gave a solid OMT decision (One More Time) in the first battle as neither driver showed an advantage. In second battle Cameron Moore had a great follow run while Heilbrunn went a bit over the line near exit. Also Alex Heilbrunn debeaded a tire in this run and was not allowed to continue - Cameron Moore got a bye-run and advanced to TOP16. In Top16 Moore meets Alec Hohnadell. In lead run Cameron Moore spins and gets a zero. In follow run Alec Hohnadell makes a solid run-away and advances to Top8.
Every season Ryan Tuerck is making a good show in his 2JZ powered Toyota 86. He also built another 86 with Ferrari engine and calls it GT4586 that is being showcased in every FD round. In Orlando he also did runs with the car on track during half time breaks to give a ride to some lucky event visitors. This year he got 3rd place in first round and looked promising in Orlando scoring 3rd position in qualifying.
In Top32 Ryan Tuerck gets a bye run. In Top16 Tuerck meets his Drift Alliance buddy and one of best friends - Chris Forsberg. They put on a good show, Tuerck's follow run seemed a bit closer proximity and Tuerck advanced to TOP8 to meet another his buddy from Drift Alliance - Vaught Gittin Jr. It was clearly a fun battle to watch with good proximity and lots of smoke. First two battles there was no clear advantage and judges call One More Time. Second battle looks much like the first with great proximity and car control but on follow run Tuerck has mechanical problems and stops in middle of track. Car gets towed and Vaugh Gittin Jr advances to Top4.
Castro seems to be still adapting to his car and Orlando track. In practice often you could see Jhonnattan Castro fly through the transition at full throttle gaining too much speed and proximity and forces himself to drive himself off the track to avoid collisions. Castro qualified in 20th position and was put up with Chelsea Denofa in Top32. Lead run is very similar, but in follow run DeNofa does a full throttle dive through transition and crashes into Castro. Probably expected that Castro will be fast there too, but it is decceleration zone and judges find Chelsea DeNofa at fault and Castro moves to Top16.
Top16 brought the biggest highlight of the event - Jhonnattan Castro vs James Deane, the winner of round 1 in Long Beach. This was probably the best tandem battle in Castro's career. Both James Dean and Castro show very close proximity. Lots of smoke, super close proximity from both drivers and judges call OMT. Crowd stands up for the second run and both drivers bring their best show again! On follow Run Castro gets even more proximity, seems to be scrubbing front tires with Deane's Worthouse S15 and seems to get a bit of advantage. Follow run Deane shows almost identical run, everyone was expecting OMT which was given by one judge, but other two judges gave the win to Jhonnattan Castro because Deane seemed to have a shallower line in follow run.
In Top8 Castro meets Michael Essa. In follow run Castro gets lost in smoke and stays 3 car lengths back and is forced to take a shallow line to catch up. While it was a good run it clearly gave Essa an advantage. in Lead run Castro makes a good run but Essa is right there behind him and while one judge gave OMT, other judges voted for Mike Essa. Nevertheless Jhonnattan Castro will be remembered for the rest of the season for his battle with James Deane as it was the best battle we've seen.
The blue Falken / Turn14 Distribution Subaru BRZ is a monster and so is Dai Yoshihara, one of the Formula Drift pioneers. It's been 4 solid years of building and refining the BRZ and it shows - Dai Yoshihara got the pole position in qualifying earning himself a bye run in Top32.
Top16 Yoshihara meets Nate Hamilton. Dai does a perfect lead run and follow run as well and easily wins the battle to Top8.
Battle with Dean Kearney - in practice runs they had a collision. It was a rough run for both drivers with quite a few mistakes. Judges decide to give the win to Yoshihara, this also gets him instant podium finish in Top4 as he got the best qualifying run.
In Top4 Dai battles with Mike Essa. In lead run both drivers have a very good run and no major mistakes but on the follow run Yoshihara falls behind and leaves a gap. Judges decide to give advantage and Essa goes to the finals. In finals Essa loses to Fredric Aasbo who was the winner in Orlando last year as well. Dai Yoshihara finishes 3rd.
Next round - Formula Drift at Road Atlanta!
Photography: Valters BožeMore photos: