Formula Drift

Taguchi scores first win at Formula Drift

Despite high temperatures all weekend, the K&N Qualifying session for the Formula DRIFT PRO Championship started amid light rainfall. And while the conditions weren’t immediately apparent, the 2022 FD PRO points leader Matt Field (USA) discover=d the slippery conditions in his Corvette.

Running first, he hit the wall in Outside Zone 2, pushing him off the track and resulting in an incomplete run. However, with the following four drivers allowed a sighting lap to assess the damp conditions, Field was granted a second run and scored 85 points, placing him fourth.

The surprise winner of qualification was Kazuya Taguchi (Japan) who scored 91 points in his Scion FRS. He claimed the top position for the first time since joining the series in 2018 with a dazzling run.

Taguchi’s closest competitor was Justin “JTP” Pawlak (USA) who scored 90 points in the 2022 Falken Tire Ford Mustang. Never afraid to commit to a run, Pawlak displayed both aggression and precision. 

With both Taguchi and Pawlak outside the top ten, third place Dylan Hughes (USA) repeated his Round 4 qualifying position. In doing so he maintained his title push after the Round 3 win at the wheel of BMW.

Many of the other top ten contenders fared poorly, including Fredric Aasbo (Norway) in 11th, Chelsea DeNofa (USA) in 22nd, Chris Forsberg (USA) in 23rd and Aurimas Bakchis (Lithuania) in 29th. The results would lead to some interesting Top 32 matchups, including Aasbo versus DeNofa, which would have significant Championship implications.


In a stroke of serendipity, the 2022 Formula DRIFT PRO Championship mirrored PROSPEC by celebrating a first-time winner. This was the second time it had happened this season after Travis Reeder (USA) won Round 4. Furthermore, Japanese driver Kazuya Taguchi was the fifth winner in five rounds and celebrated a perfect weekend after qualifying first. And like PROSPEC, a number of the leading contenders were banished early, leaving the third place finisher, Matt Field, to take advantage by extending his title lead.

It’s impossible to say whether it was a combination of the new course layout or changing track conditions but FD STL will be remembered for both Taguchi’s breakout win and the number of collisions that played a significant role in the proceedings. Whatever the reason, the drama continued from the first heats to the Final, keeping fans on the edge of their seat.

NOS Energy Drink Nissan Z on GT Radials to prepare the car for its first match against Jonathan Hurst (USA). In the chase position, Forsberg slid into Hurst in OZ2 and shut down the Nissan because of serious engine problems.

Similarly, DeNofa (fifth in the Championship) qualified 22nd and faced second-placed Aasbo in the Top 32. After a hard-fought first run, DeNofa over-rotated in OZ1 and ran off the track before he could transition into OZ2.

Bakchis, eighth in the table end qualified 29th, was knocked out of the Top 16 by Rookie Nick Noback (USA). In the chase position, Bakchis made a big correction in OZ2 and ran off the track in OZ3, which put him in trouble through OZ4. Noback made less mistakes in his KoruWorks E46 BMW and advanced.

The intense battle was decided by a collision as Aasbo swarmed all over Tuerck. Unfortunately, he didn’t give Tuerck enough room to transition into OZ4 and the contact sent Tuerck into the dirt.

Tuerck would dispatch Dylan Hughes (USA) in the Top 8 heats. Sitting sixth in the title race, Hughes drove hard on both runs but span into the dirt in OZ4 in the chase position. It was a similar story in the Top 4 when Toyota teammate Ken Gushi (Japan) also spun his Toyota Gazoo Racing NA Supra in OZ4. With Tuerck in close proximity, he hit the rotating Supra, requiring repairs before the Final against Taguchi.

RAD Industries / GearWrench / GT Radial MkIV Toyota Supra. Both would battle the 100˚F air and 145˚F track temperatures but a scrappy chase run by Burkett ended his day.

Power Racing Nissan Silvia. Sacrificing his line through each of the outer zones to gain proximity to Taguchi sealed his fate.

In the Top 8, Taguchi faced Federico Sceriffo (Italy) who enjoyed the best result in his Ferrari 599 GTB since joining the series in 2018. While in the chase position, Sceriffo ran off the course in OZ1 with power steering problems. Unable to repair the problem he attributed to a heavy collision after a previous run against Stuke had ended, the Ferrari was withdrawn but Sceriffo placed eighth overall.

Taguchi then advanced to the Top 4 to meet Championship leader Field for an epic battle that would again be defined by vehicular contact. The controversy began on the first run where Taguchi set a blistering lead but transitioned early for OZ and tapped the concrete wall, causing him to correct. With Field in close attendance, his Corvette nudged the ISR UpGarage / GT Radial Scion FRS as they crossed the line. With possible damage inflicted, the judges apportioned shared blame since they reasoned Field was traveling too fast to cross the line without impacting Taguchi. Therefore, both drivers needed to use their 5min Competition Time Out (CTO) to assess and repair the cars.

Returning to the starting line, the second run was almost a carbon copy, with Taguchi tagging the wall in OZ2 and then sliding into Field in OZ4 as he rushed to regain proximity. With mistakes form both drivers on both runs the judges called for One More Time (OMT) and the runs would be repeated.

At the second time of asking, Field piled on the pressure in the chase position but again collided with Taguchi as he transitioned into OZ4. With their only CTO previously utilized, Taguchi was judged the victim and awarded 10min to check his car for damage and effect any repairs. With the roles reversed and Taguchi in the chase position, he finished an imperfect run but had done enough to reach his very first FD PRO Final.

“Last year I was knocked out in St Louis by Matt Field and I didn’t want that to happen again,” Taguchi explained after the smoke cleared. “My car is a bit weak [referring to alignment issues] but my team has kept it going and I’m looking forward to my first Final.”

With the way the event had unfolded, there was a certain inevitability about how it would end. Body shop managers and vinyl wrappers around the country watched intently as the two somewhat battered Toyotas approached the starting line. When the red lights extinguished, Taguchi set a fast pace but lacked the finesse of earlier runs and he appeared to slow as he crossed the finish line. Similarly, Tuerck had to make a big correction in OZ2 and did the same in OZ4 finding himself off-line, he made a correction and powered across the line, clouting the Scion FRS as he spun to a halt.

Both cars were disabled: Taguchi had a broken rear subframe while Tuerck had damage to the front end and a de-beaded rear tire. With his CTO intact, Tuerck hit the pits for 5min repairs but his opponent would remain on the flatbed tow truck.

With one vehicle no operable, the judges were required to apportion blame in order to resolve the Final. If Tuerck was at fault and had caused irreparable damage to his opponent, Taguchi would win by default. If Taguchi was to blame and unable to return to the track, Tuerck was the round winner.

Without disclosing the decision to the Japanese driver, event staff shuttled Taguchi to the winner’s circle and revealed the decision. Unaware of the ruling, assuming he’d lost the final and apologizing to the fans for not delivering a thrilling Final, Taguchi was on the verge of tears when his victory was announced. Second place Tuerck and third place Field had to assure him it happened as a tearful Taguchi struggled to comprehend the fruit of his labor.

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