Deane wins in Long Beach

The weather was cloudy and cool for the Top 32 competition heats. Light rain arrived for the Top 16, increasing to a torrential downpour for the Final.

Following the introduction of the Seeding Bracket on Friday (replacing the traditional solo qualifying runs), the leading 24 drivers had only participated in practice sessions prior to Saturday’s Top 32 competition heats. Whereas positions 25-32 were populated by drivers who went through a Top 16 battle on Friday to qualify, giving them considerably more track experience.

Among a raft of rule changes, drivers will have more latitude to make a straightening correction without the run automatically being ruled “incomplete.” However, if they straighten for approximately two seconds, it will still result in an “incomplete” score. This rule change will allow the judges to evaluate the severity of mistakes and assess both runs from both competitors.

Vernon Zwaneveld (Netherlands) and Reese Marin (USA) joined the Formula DRIFT judging roster to interpret the new rules. For FD Long Beach, they adjudicated alongside regular Brian Eggert (USA) as part of the rotating judging panel.

Three-time (2017-19) Formula DRIFT Champion James Deane claimed his first victory since the 2019 St Louis Round. Having returned to the series last year, Deane’s RTR Motorsports team had to overcome a catastrophic fire that engulfed the Mustang during a Tuesday demo run. After they worked tirelessly to repair the car, Deane mastered the changing conditions and now leads the Championship heading into Round 2 in Atlanta.

Deane had a particularly challenging path to the Final. In the Top 16, he ran six times against Jonathan Hurst (USA), driving his new MRCOOL Cadillac XLR. Deane was also asked to run One More Time (OMT) against three-time Champion Fredric Aasbo (Norway), driving the Rockstar Energy / Toyota Racing GR Supra before the Irishman beat Bakchis to reach the Final.

Second place Olsen (like fellow Norwegian, fifth place Aasbo) was equally comfortable in the slick conditions thanks to years of winter ice drifting. Olsen finished fourth overall last year after joining Bakchis at Team Feal. His second place in Long Beach equalled his best result in New Jersey last year and confirms he continues to be a major title threat.

Third-place Bakchis is no stranger to the podium, having claimed several wins since joining the series in 2011. Many pundits feel it’s a matter of time before Odi claims his first Championship.

The top Rookie was Hiroya Minowa (Japan), who placed eighth overall driving the Enjuku Racing / Cusco / Jerry Yang Racing Toyota GT86. Placing first in the Seeding Battle, the 14-year-old defeated Dylan Hughes (USA) and teammate Kazuya Taguchi (Japan) before Aasbo eliminated him in the Top 8. Minowa will undoubtedly be a name to watch over the next decade or two.

Formula DRIFT was pleased to welcome a sixth tyre supplier to the series. Kumho Tire joined GT Radial, Kenda Tire, Nexen Tire, Nitto Tire and Vitour Tire in the highly competitive series.

The punishing concrete walls on the Streets of Long Beach course, together with changing conditions and determined competitors, mean that a number of teams leave Round 1 with cars that need extensive repairs before Round 2 at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta, which will be held on May 9-11.

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