Formula Drift

DeNofa becomes sixth winner in six rounds as 2022 PRO Championship keeps everybody guessing

Vašingtono valstijoje įvyko jau šeštasis šių metų Formula Drift etapas. Prieš varžybas Evergreen Speedway trasoje, čempionate pirmavo Matt Field (415 taškų), antras – pernai

After the carnage of St Louis, the Formula DRIFT PRO Championship teams seemed relieved to arrive at Evergreen Speedway in Monroe, WA for Round 6: Throwdown.

With five different drivers claiming victories in the first five rounds (three of them for the first time in their careers), points leader Matt Field (USA) had reached the top thanks to consistency rather than wins. And with a 32-point lead off his nearest rival, Fredric Aasbo (Norway), may students of drift have been recalling Chris Forsberg’s 2016 Championship title (his third), which he achieved without ever standing on the top step of the podium.

Would Field maintain his lead? Would he be the sixth driver to win a round in 2022? Or could=his closest rivals reorganize and mount a determined challenge with only three rounds left?

Regardless of the result, it would take place in front of a sellout crowd, which was treated some incredible action under blue skies.

QUALIFYING

If Kazuya Taguchi (Japan) surprised fans in St Louis with his first ever top qualifying position, imagine how the Seattle crowd responded to him repeating the feat.

As always, qualifying order is determined by the Formula DRIFT PRO Championship points table. In previous years, the top driver went last, putting pressure on him to perform. However, the script was flipped in 2022, meaning Field would set the benchmark. His 90-point run was warmly received as he seeded to do everything right. However, he’d be one of five drivers to be awarded the same score. When this happens, position is determined by the individual scores for style, angle and line. With style being the first differentiator, Chelsea DeNofa (USA) claimed second place thanks to a 28-point style score in his Pennzoil / BC Racing Ford Mustang RTR Spec 5-FD. Third went to Forsberg who resolved the terminal engine/nitrous problems he experienced in St Louis that saw him eliminated from the Top 32. He scored 27 style points in the NOS Energy Drink Nissan Z on GT Radials while Field to placed fourth in the Drift Cave / Falken Tire C6 Corvette with 26 style points.

It wasn’t until Taguchi, running tenth in the K&N Qualifying session, received 93-point score that the siege ended. With an almost perfect score for his line through the four Outside Zones and single Inside Clip, the Japanese driver again showed what he’s capable of behind the wheel of his Scion FRS.

Most of the top seeds qualified well, but defending Champion and second-placed Aasbo could only manage 11th; a position Aurimas “Odi” Bakchis (Lithuania) would have gratefully accepted. However, repeating his misfortune from St Louis, Bakchis again experienced technical problems on his first run in the Falken Tire / Feal Suspension Nissan S15. With an incomplete run, Bakchis was relegated to the Knockout Qualifying Format (KQF), which sees the bottom eight drivers run a second time. And with thirty six drivers attempting to qualify for the Top 32 competition heats, four would be eliminated in KQF.

Bakchis was among the fortunate four who would compete on Saturday, but the best he could hope for was 29th, which meant he faced Field in the Top 32 competition heats. While far bellow Bakchis’ potential, it was preferable to the fate that befell leading Rookie Daniel Stuke (USA), Darren Kelly (New Zealand), Ola Jaeger (Norway) and Trenton Beechum (USA). All scored insufficient points to continue and checked out early.

With Stuke out, it gave the other series rookies a chance to catch him in the 2022 Rookie title chase. Nick Noback (USA) scored 83 qualifying points in the KoruWorks E46 BMW, placing him 24th overall. He’d need to fight hard to make up the points difference in Stuke’s absence.

COMPETITION


Sadly, Taguchi’s fairy tale came to an abrupt end in the very first tandem run of the Top 32 competition heats. After a copybook lead run, he got lost in the tire smoke created by the RAD Industries / GearWrench / GT Radial MkIV Toyota Supra of Dan Burkett (USA) on the chase run. Running wide in Outside Zone 2 (OZ2), Taguchi ran off-track and later admitted to a mistake. “I should have been more chill but wanted to give the spectators a good battle, he explained. “I had no vision in his smoke but I’m still learning and I’ll come back stronger for the next round.”

The Top 32 was also challenging for a number of title contenders. Notably, Bakchis was eliminated by Field after a One More Time battle when the judges asked them to repeat both runs. Even after the second turn, Field won on a split decision following a titanic battle among the Falken Tire teammates.

Ryan Tuerck (USA), who sat third in the FD PRO Championship coming into FD SEA, had to use his only 5min Competition Time Out (CTO) before his Top 32 battle against Kyle Mohan (USA). The driver of the Rain-X / Nitto Tire Toyota GR Corolla suffered a massive oil leak while warming his tires in the burnout box. Fortunately, it was a loose oil pipe from the turbo, possibly the consequence of an engine change after practice. Tuerck was able to put it behind him and win the heat but would be handicapped if the car encountered further problems during the event.

And it happened when Tuerck snapped an axle in his Top 8 battle against DeNofa. With both combatants showing no mercy, Tuerck was tight to the Mustang’s door, tapping both the wall and DeNofa before spinning out. With no time to make repairs, Tuerck was the final Toyota to be eliminated.

Dylan Hughes (USA), fifth in the standings after St Louis, incurred significant damage during his Top 32 run against Simen Olsen (Norway). The driver of the Boost Racefuel / Toyota GR Supra was slow to transition into OZ4 and gave Hughes nowhere to place his DHR / Royal Purple / Falken Tire BMW. The inevitable collision threw the BMW into the air but fortunately there were several hours before the Top 16 heats to effect repairs.

Hughes would reach the Top 8, eliminated by Field after a dramatic heat that saw them run six times before the judges could separate them. Showing tremendous respect for each other, Hughes and Field held a masterclass in zone-filling and proximity. The confrontation was finally decided in Field’s favor after Hughes tapped the wall in OZ1. His subsequent throttle lift gave the Corvette driver no escape route and his spinning car was the inevitable consequence. Despite an appeal from the team and vocal fan support for the local driver, Hughes placed fifth, dropping to fifth in the title race.

Field dispatched Burkett in the Top 4, but this was the Supra driver’s best FD PRO result to date end reflected his new approach this season. Field advanced to the Final to meet DeNofa, who had already beaten two previous round winners and three-time Champion Forsberg.

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