FD Atlanta review!

As the longest serving track on the Formula DRIFT schedule, Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta is also the fastest thanks to the downhill approach to the first turn. Add a wet track for PROSPEC qualifying with a gravy infield, and fans were treated non-stop frenetic action from Thursday afternoon to Saturday evening. 

With the GT Radial-shod 2024 Link ECU PROSPEC Championship joining the PRO teams in Georgia, the three-day festival featured 82 drivers going for gold, gliding some of the most powerful competition cars in the world around the legendary track.

With 64 competition places available, 18 drivers would depart early but not before each had a chance to prove themselves in the new Formula DRIFT Seeding Brackets. The head-to-head format replaces solo qualifying laps, allowing drivers to show their prowess in tandem runs to claim a place in the competition heats.

In the PRO Championship, the first 24 positions were preset, with positions based on their Round 1 result. The remaining 13 drivers competed in the Seeding Bracket to claim one of the eight places in Top 32 competition. The drivers would compete in a full tandem competition, with their finishing rank determining the starting position on Saturday.

The PROSPEC Seeding Bracket followed a different format. This time, only the first 16 positions were preset according their 2023 Championship standings. The remaining 29 drivers competed in a sudden death Seeding Bracket to claim one of the remaining 16 places in Top 32 competition. The loser of each tandem run was eliminated on the spot, but only after testing their skills on the battlefield.

In addition to the new qualifying process, Formula DRIFT introduced a number of competition rule changes, starting with limitations on when the judges can request One More Time, where the drivers repeat their runs. This option is now reserved for close, exciting battles when it was otherwise impossible to choose a winner. 

There’s also been a major change to what constitutes an “incomplete” run. In the past, if a driver straightened their front wheels at all, it was ruled incomplete. In 2024, driver’s have more latitude to make a straightening correction, allowing the judges to evaluate the severity of mistakes and assess both runs from both competitors.

And the third major rule change is that drivers can no long lodge an appeal at the track. This was introduced to avoid long delays in the action, placing more emphasis on the three judges who interpret the rules. At Road Atlanta, the judging panel comprised Brian Eggert (USA), Reese Marin (USA) and Robbie Nishida (Japan).


With 13 drivers competing in the K&N PRO 16 Seeding Bracket, three received bye runs, helping them advance to the Top 8. Throughout the heats there were thrilling battles to determine the eight drivers who would advance and the five who’d retire.

It came down to close combat in the Final between Jeff Jones (USA) in the Evol Auto Works / Prisma Labs / BIG Drift Energy Nissan 370Z and Dan Burkett (USA) driving the RAD Industries Mk4 Toyota Supra. The decision went to Jones after Burkett made a single mistake in Outside Zone 2, over-rotating and losing ground to his opponent. 

Third place went to Diego Higa (Brazil) with Joao Barion (Brazil) in fourth. Placing sixth was Dmitriy Brutskiy in the Never Settle BMW. The double PROSPEC Champion (2020 and 2021) is competing in both Formula DRIFT PRO and PROSPEC championships this year and qualified for both.

Among the casualties of the K&N PRO 16 Seeding Bracket was 2023 PROSPEC Champ Ben Hobson (USA). He placed tenth in the Pennzoil / BC Racing Mustang RTR Spec 5-FD and failed to qualify for the second time, meaning he’s yet to compete in the 2024 PRO Championship. He was joined by Andy Hateley (USA), Derek Madison (USA), Federico Sceriffo (Italy) and Rudy Hansen (USA) who all took an early airport shuttle. 


Moving away from the unyielding concrete barriers that line the Streets of Long Beach course, a number of Formula DRIFT PRO drivers took the opportunity to explore the open expanses of Georgia, taking to the grass and hurling the red mud with abandon. Unfortunately, Kyle Mohan (USA) found Road Atlanta also has concrete barriers and hit one hard enough to reposition it with his KMR / Renewable Lubricants / Mazdatrix RX8. 

The unforgiving sawtooth kerbs that defined the edge of each turn also ambushed the unwary, causing tires to debead as the drivers fought for control. 

Besides Mohan, Rome Charpentier (USA) probably suffered the most. His Garagistic / Pedal Commander / Vitour Tires E82 BMW was battered throughout the competition heats but the team fought valiantly to keep him in the running. Charpentier was rewarded with fifth place, and could have gone higher but for a close call after his Top 8 heat with Aurimas Bakchis (Lithuania). On their second run, Bakchis twice nudged the BMW with his Feal Suspension / GT Radial Nissan S15. Moments later, Charpentier would leave the track and cross the gravel trap but the judges felt the impacts were neither the cause nor effect.

With Charpentier beached, Bakchis completed their Top 8 run with gusto until a loud “pop” echoed around the Road Atlanta amphitheater, followed by gasps as the Bakchis S15 erupted into a cataclysmic fireball. After wrestling the car away from the approaching barrier, Odi emerged from the inferno, which was quickly extinguished. 

Despite qualifying for the Final 4, Bakchis gifted teammate Simen Olsen (Norway) a bye run into the Final to meet Scandinavian compatriot and three-time (2015, 2021, 2022) Formula DRIFT PRO Champion Fredric Aasbo (Norway) in the Rockstar Energy Drink Toyota GR Supra. 

With Lithuanian Bakchis and James Deane (Ireland) completing the Final 4, it was an all-European slugfest from which Aasbo emerged victorious.

The road to the Final started gently for Aasbo, receiving a bye run through the Top 32 when the Corvette Barbarius of Joao Barion (Brazil) was classified DNS.

Moving into the Top 16, Aasbo was able to shrug off Kazuya Taguchi (Japan) after a tire debeaded on the Up garage / ISR Performance / Jerry Yang Racing Toyota GT86, causing him to leave the track.

In the Top 8, Forrest Wang (USA) was keen to keep pace with the winged Norwegian but his GetNutsLab/ Yellowspeed / Vitour Nissan S15 slid into the Supra shortly after initiating into the first turn. This put Wang on the back foot and he struggled to catch his opponent. On the second run, Aasbo’s signature precision allowed him to glue the Supra to the Nissan’s door and claim victory.

The Final 4 introduced Aasbo’s nemesis, James Deane. Both are three-time FD PRO Champions and the Irishman, who had already slapped his boss, Vaughn Gittin Jr, out of the Top 32, squared up for another scrap. Fresh from his victory in Round 1, Deane intended to assert himself and completed a ferocious lead run. 

In his haste, Deane didn’t fill all of Outside Zone 2 (OZ2), which was all Aasbo needed to punish the RTR Mustang driver. Not only did his Supra draw the perfect line around the track on his lead run, but Aasbo set a pace the 1200hp Ford could barely sustain. Unable to replicate Aasbo’s proximity, the Papadakis Racing GR Supra headed to the Final.

The confrontation began with the epic combat the fans craved. Olsen’s lead run in the Feal Suspension Nissan S14.9 set the bar, filling the Outside Zones and hitting the Inside Clips. Aasbo was able to mimic Olsen in the chase and replicate him in the lead, but the runs were close enough for the judges to request OMT for the first time that day. 

As the cars prepared to return to the start line, Olsen’s crew was frantically trying to connect an electrical cable that had come astray. Although the issue appeared to be rectified, Olsen lost power halfway through the third run and Aasbo claimed the win, boosting him from fifth to third overall in the title chase. 

“The lightning-quick Road Atlanta course is my favorite track and I think it showed today. We got a win for the boys who worked their butts off to overcome some challenges in practice. But here we are taking out the best of them in James and Simen, so I’m delighted and grateful, and excited to get to Orlando!” Aasbo told us after the podium ceremony.

Olsen’s second palce moved him to within two points of Championship leader Deane, who rounded out the podium places. Bakchis claimed fourth but dropped to fourth in the standings and was faced with major repairs before Orlando in three short weeks. 

Some big names were knocked out early in the Top 32 heats, including double FD PRO Champion Vaughn Gittin Jr (USA). YouTube star Adam LZ was eliminated in a controversial battle with Matt Field (USA). We also lost Ryan Tuerck (USA) and double PROSPEC champ Dmitriy Brutskiy among others.

Fourteen year-old Hiroya Minowa (Japan) was another Top 32 casualty but by placing 18th overall in the Enjuku Racing / Cusco / Jerry Yang Racing Toyota GT86, he became the top Rookie in the PRO Championship.

“While our 20th season was crazy, the 21st has already managed to top it with some incredibly tight battles taking place,” reflected Ryan Sage, President of Formula DRIFT: “It was great for all the amazing Road Atlanta fans to come out to see even more action thanks to our new format. They also saw Fredric Aasbo rise back to the top of the podium, remaining unbeaten against Simen Olsen. But James Deane has been the most consistent driver over the first two rounds and you have to imagine he or Freddy could be looking down the barrel of their fourth Championship.”

After Round 2, Aasbo’s performance meant Toyota maintained its lead of the 2024 Formula DRIFT Auto Cup and Nitto remained at the top of the Tire Cup.


Heavy rain preceded the PROSPEC 32 Seeding Bracket, creating challenging conditions for the early runners until the track dried. And with 29 drivers competing for 16 competition places, there was enormous pressure to succeed, especially for the Rookie drivers who joined the 2024 Link ECU PROSPEC Championship including Adam Heishman (USA), Allen Boss (USA), Brian Wills (USA), Clarke Hatton (Ireland), Coty Demster (USA), Jayce Habich (USA), Josh Stuart (USA), Lee Yearwood (Trinidad & Tobago), Luis Lanz (Venezuela) and Nik Jimenez (USA).

Six of the ten new faces would advance into the competition heats, eliminating some experienced drivers in the process. They joined Tommy Lemaire (Canada), who also qualified his XPN Carbon-Kevlar Nissan S14.9. Finishing third in the 2021 PROSPEC Championship, Lemaire took a sabbatical in 2023 and had to return to competition via the Seeding Bracket. His early success would be a hint of what was to come the next day…


In an flawless return to Formula DRIFT, Lemaire turned hiatus into high-fives by sweeping to victory at the opening round of the 2024 Link ECU PROSPEC Championship. This would be his first Round win since joining the series in 2021 when he claimed a second-place podium in his rookie year.

It was a busy day for the Canadian, who beat Geoff Donati (USA) in a close Top 32 battle against the Tuner Tools E46 BMW driver. Lemaire then dashed the hopes of Jayden Martorana (Canada) on his 16th birthday with two clean runs. 

In the Top 8, Nate Chen (USA) put up a strong challenge in the NCR STEK / Moroso Performance / Fuelab Toyota 86, but Lemaire’s superior chase performance tipped the balance. 

It was an even closer call in the Top 4 against Josh Love (USA). The driver of the Josh Loves Drifting / ASM E46 BMW appeared to match Lemaire in almost every sector, but the judges saw fewer mistakes from the Canadian, who advanced to the Final to meet Alex Jagger (USA).

Demanding everything of his XPN Carbon-Kevlar Nissan S14.9, Lemaire’s lead run forced Jagger’s Forsberg Racing / STEEL-IT Coatings / Racetreads / Nismo Parts Nissan Z into a number of mistakes as the driver wrestled to maintain proximity. Again, it came down to a narrow decision but Lemaire got the gold.

“It’s good to be back with a really good team who set up the car really well. It was certainly more reliable than in the past, which was a key factor for the win,” Lemaire explained from the podium. “This isn’t something I do by myself, so I really want to thank the team and my Dad who was with me today!”

Second place represented Jagger’s best result since also joining the Link ECU PROSPEC Championship in 2021. Third place Love actually won his first ever PROSPEC Rookie event in 2020, finishing third in the Championship that year. After moving up to PRO in 2022, he returned to PROSPEC last year, and this Road Atlanta podium represents his best result since making that decision.

The top PROSPEC Rookie was Brian Wills (USA), who placed 25th by virtue of his starting position drawn at random. He battled through the Seeding Bracket with fellow 2024 Rookies Jayce Habich (USA), Josh Stuart (USA), Lee Yearwood (Trinidad & Tobago), Luis Lanz (Venezuela) and Nik Jimenez (USA). All were eliminated from their Top 32 heats but each received points to cement the start of their Formula DRIFT careers.

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