Deane wins round 4 of the 2024 Formula Drift

Returning to North America’s first drift arena, the Formula DRIFT PRO and Link ECU PROSPEC Championship teams were greeted by high temps and humidity at Englishtown Raceway in New Jersey. Track temperatures around 145˚F were recorded before the PROSPEC Seeding Bracket and competition heat, resulting in a greasy track, stressed engines and drivers. Fortunately, the track gripped as night fell, resulting in thrilling battles under the floodlights.


Under 2024 Formula DRIFT regulations, the first 24 competition places are set by the results of the previous round (Round 3). Positions 25-32 are then determined by competitive tandem runs in the K&N PRO 16 Seeding Bracket on Thursday. The top eight finishers from the Seeding Bracket then advance to Saturday’s competition heats, while the remaining drivers took an ice bath.

The winner of the K&N PRO 16 Seeding Bracket was Dmitriy Brutskiy in the Never Settle E46 BMW. The double PROSPEC Champ entered both Championships this season and beat Jonathan Hurst (USA) in the Final. The driver of the MRCOOL Cadillac XLR made contact with Brutskiy, causing the BMW to spin. Hurst’s mistake put Brutskiy on the Seeding Bracket podium and into 25th place in the competition heats, pairing him with Taylor Hull (USA) on Saturday. Hurst would face Nick Noback (USA) while third place Andy Hateley (USA) in the Hateley Motorsports E46 BMW secured 27th position and would compete against Matt Field (USA) in the Top 32 heats.

While there was jubilation for the top eight Seeding Bracket finishers, clouds gathered over the RTR Motorsports trailer as reigning Formula DRIFT PROSPEC Champ Ben Hobson (USA) again failed to extricate himself from the Seeding Bracket for the fourth time. Despite the undisputed ability of the Pennzoil / BC Racing Mustang RTR Spec 5-FD, Hobson has yet to come to terms with his 2024 competition car.

Eliminated from Round 4 alongside Hobson were Robert Thorne (USA), Derek Madison (USA) and Rudy Hansen (USA); although Hansen had qualified for the PROSPEC Championship and would compete on Friday, as would Brutskiy.


It’s been years since we’ve seen a driver dominate a Formula DRIFT season. The last four seasons have seen the Champion win by less than 40 points over his nearest rival after eight rounds. In the last six years, we’ve not seen the Champion get more than two wins in a season, with the exception of Chelsea DeNofa in 2023, who scored three. But at the halfway point of the 2024 season, James Deane (Ireland) has racked up four podiums and two wins from four rounds in his AutoZone Ford Mustang RTR Spec 5-FD. He currently has a 74-point lead, which compares to his 52-point advantage when he claimed the 2019 title.

Who can stop the Irishman? Simen Olsen (Norway) had mounted the strongest challenge, finishing second in the first two rounds. However, his early exit from the Top 16 in Round 3, and a failure to even start his Top 32 heat in New Jersey saw Olsen drop from second to fourth in the standings. Team Feal withdrew the Feal Suspension Nissan S14.9 as a precaution after an engine fault was diagnosed.

Team leader Aurimas Bakchis (Lithuania) stepped up in New Jersey, putting his Feal Suspension / GT Radial Nissan S15 into second place to secure second in the Championship. Having finished third in Rounds 1 and 2, Bakchis was relieved to reach the next step on the podium, which is especially remarkable given the massive fire that engulfed his Nissan in Atlanta and the subsequent engine failure during practice in Orlando.

Bakchis defeated Federico Sceriffo (Italy), Ryan Tuerck (USA), Ken Gushi (Japan) and Adam LZ (USA) on his way to the Final. LZ put up the strongest resistance, forcing the judges to request One More Time (OMT) before they could separate the two drivers. 

A couple of mistakes by LZ on the final run saw his LZMFG E36 BMW in the dirt and out of contention. However, he placed third, which is more remarkable since he wasn’t scheduled to compete in New Jersey. The result bumped LZ from 13th to ninth overall and will hopefully persuade him to complete the entire FD PRO season.

Deane’s voyage to the Final saw him overpower Kyle Mohan (USA) in the Top 32 and Rome Charpentier (USA) in the Top 16. Deane then scored narrow victories over Chris Forsberg (USA) and Dylan Hughes (USA) before he faced Bakchis.

Where Deane’s RTR Mustang is able to intimidate most drivers, Bakchis was unfazed. Their battle was hard-fought, but Deane won with a split decision from the judges. Their choice came down to small mistakes by Bakchis, who continues to perform at the highest level.

“I’m pumped to have got the win after a very challenging night with a couple of car issues,” Deane told us. “Obviously, the team never gave up and I’m so proud of them and everybody who supports me. I’d like to thank all the partners who made it possible to reach my fourth podium of the season. I’m not sure how we’re doing it, but we’re trying our best and need to stay focused. Hopefully, the next round is just as good.”

The absence of Olsen allowed fellow Norwegian Fredric Aasbo to leapfrog him into third overall. Aasbo reached the Top 8, where he was eliminated by Adam LZ after a dramatic OMT contest. It was Aasbo’s third OMT of the night after being asked twice to repeat his runs against Round 3 winner Conor Shanahan (Ireland). Their Top 16 clash was perhaps the most intense of the night, with Aasbo’s Rockstar Energy Toyota Racing GR Supra getting the decision over Shanahan’s Red Bull / Garagistic E36 BMW by the narrowest margin.

Shanahan was the top FD PRO Rookie in New Jersey, but the Rookie title race is still led by 14-year-old Hiroya Minowa (Japan). Finishing Round 4 in ninth place, Minowa holds seventh in the 2024 points table, driving the Enjuku Racing / Cusco / Jerry Yang Racing Toyota GT86. 

The teenager was ejected from the competition following his Top 16 loss to Ken Gushi (Japan). Gushi noted he’s known Minowa since he was born and has competed in Formula DRIFT four years longer than Minowa has been alive! 

And in a return to form, Dylan Hughes (USA) finished fourth in the Royal Purple E46 BMW 2JZ. Eliminated from the Top 4 by James Deane, the points haul bumped Hughes from 14th to tenth overall in what will hopefully be his resurgence.

“We’ve witnessed another insane event in New Jersey following the intensity of Orlando as the competition continues to get better and better,” reflected Ryan Sage, President of Formula DRIFT. “We see James Deane score his second win of the year, and Odi makes up some ground as the Championship chase starts to take shape. It was also good to see Adam LZ back on the podium, but it looks like James is the man to beat at the halfway stage.”

After Round 4, Toyota continued to lead the 2024 Auto Cup, and Nitto still headed the Tire Cup.


With its larger entry list, the Link ECU PROSPEC championship runs a 32 32-seeding bracket in which the first 16 positions were determined by Round 1. The remaining 30 drivers then compete in a sudden-death Seeding Bracket to claim one of the remaining 16 places in the Top 32 competition heats, populating positions 17-32. Unfortunately, 14 drivers were eliminated and would watch from the sidelines.


Round 2 of the 2024 Link ECU PROSPEC Championship made history when 21-year-old Amanda Sorensen (USA) became the first woman to step onto a Formula DRIFT podium. By securing second place, Amanda also celebrated her best result since joining the series in 2021. The result meant she climbed from 36th to seventh in the PROSPEC points race.

To reach the podium, Amanda defeated Jack Davis (USA), Nik Jimenez (USA), Joshua Love (USA) and Nate Chen (USA) in her US Air Force / Sorensen Motorsports BMW. She joined Connor O’Sullivan (USA) in the Final as he also recorded his best result since joining PROSPEC last year. 

The driver of the O’Sully Racing / RTS E46 BMW overcame Rookie Lee Yearwood (Trinidad & Tobago) in the Top 32, then Cody Buchanan (USA) and Cory Talaska (USA) before facing Tommy Lemaire (Canada) in the Top 4. 

The winner of the opening round, Lemaire, put his XPN Carbon-Kevlar Nissan S14.9 in most of the right places. O’Sullivan won with a better chase run, but the Canadian driver maintained his lead in the championship by finishing third. In fact, Lemaire extended his lead from 16 to 28 points.

In the Final, it was again O’Sullivan’s chase run that resulted in victory. With Sorensen going wide in Outside Zone 2 and dropping back into OZ3, O’Sullivan had to stay clean to take the win. 

The result thrust O’Sullivan from 13th to second in PROSPEC, ahead of Nate Chen in third. The top PROSPEC Rookie was Luis Lanz (Venezuela), who finished 13th after surviving the Seeding Bracket. Lanz currently leads the 2024 PROSPEC Rookie of the Year title, sitting 17th overall and one place ahead of fellow Rookie Nik Jimenez.

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