Formula Drift: ProSpec Round 1 - Scorched
It’s now Thursday, five days after our rookie debut in Formula Drift and yet we are still riding the high from this event.
The journey started about 6 weeks ago when the car first crossed the US border. The ride home from the border was off to a bad start as my truck had some issues, but little did I know how many other issues we would find! The car is an ex-Pro machine, but had been sitting for about 5 years. I brought the car to Freedom Motorsportz and we quickly started disassembling and identifying areas for improvement. Loaded with multiple print-outs of the FD rulebook we quickly built a multi-page list of items that needed to be changed and refreshed.
The car needed MUCH more work than ever expected and it was apparent that my original target budget would be nowhere near enough. At this phase, we were fully committed and it was time to break out the credit cards and forget about getting sleep. To keep the list short, we changed it all! Front to back... every single nut and bolt was removed, every wire repinned, many areas of the cage/tube work were removed and redone, a full new drivetrain with a built 1.5j and GSR, etc. The car was completely built in less than 5 weeks, but the tricky part is that we all have day jobs! Waking up at 3am to start work, and then rushing straight to the shop until midnight every night was routine. My Fitbit can attest to the long hours as my average sleep was 2 hours and 40 minutes for nearly 6 weeks straight.. not to mention I lost 26lbs (what a great weight loss system!).
Most importantly, despite all of the issues, sleepless nights, blood, and four letter words – we still made it! We actually finished the car with a brand new fuel system on Tuesday in the pits at Orlando Speedworld. I expected the car to immediately break during practice but it just kept going. Sure, it needed more tweaks and dialing but it worked!.. and it worked damn well! Throughout the weekend we made almost no changes. No gearing changes, never touched the tune, no swaybars, etc. We simply dialed in the coilovers and alignment, and kept turning laps.
The morning of Qualifying I knew we had to place high in order to set the pace. While I always want to qualify high, I actually prefer to chase first so it is a bit of a crutch at times. Our qualifying was not bad, but I left plenty of points on the table. Fortunately we qualified 6th which brought proof that the car is capable of hanging with the ProSpec field!
Fast forward to competition day and our first battle would be a tough one. Going against Derek Madison we knew we had to give it the beans.. he is a proven driver who podiumed in Pro2 last year and has a super fast LSx S14. We got the win and it was actually one of the first real tandems with the car but the battles just began. When crossing the finish line I noticed the car had very little brake pedal left so we went back to the pits and started bleeding. The seals had blown out on the calipers and we didn’t have time to fix it, so it was time to change driving styles.
Next in Top 16 we were up against Kelsey Rowlings. A veteran in FD with lots of seat time at Orlando we again had to lay down a solid lead in order to have any chance. On the bank Kelsey had an issue and it gave us a great advantage. All I had to do was run a normal chase and we’d be ok!.. so what did I do?? I almost ruined it! On entry I clutch kicked and hit the brakes and throttle at the same. The car quickly dove down the bank and my heart sank. I tried to walk the car back up the bank and catch up to Kelsey but I had concerns that it was too little too late. Luck was in our favor and we got the win, but my spotter made it very clear that I was lucky with some reassuring words.. “Don’t do that again!”.
Now we are in the Great 8. Never expected to make it this far and we are lined up against Tommy (a.k.a. TLO). Potentially the fastest and most skilled driver in the field with multiple Canadian championships we felt a bit outgunned. Tommy qualified 3rd so I finally get to chase first and run with some fresh tires. Still lacking brakes I wasn’t able to do much left-foot braking so the chase would be tricky. We put down a decent chase with most of the proximity on the bank, but lost some ground on infield.. did I mention that Tommy is FAST!? In the lead I did my best to enter high and fast to outrun him a little bit. Luck was on our side again as Tommy misshifted and opened up a gap. He caught me in the infield and gave us a nice tap, but the boat JZX handled it fine and we kept the throttle down for another win.
Final 4.. how the hell did we get this far?! Up against my buddy Blake in what could be the most badass car in the field, again we felt outgunned. I chased first and did my best to stay close but held about a 1 car gap the whole lap. Switch spots and Blake chased at about the same pace, but he was smoother. The judges gave Blake the win, but the coolest thing about drifting is that even when you lose, one of your friends wins so its not as painful!
The competition was over and we finished 4th, just shy of a carbon trophy that we all wanted badly! After hundreds of hours of labor, the weekend was over in a blur and summed up in 16 laps. The amount of work from the Freedom Motorsportz team and the help from all of our partners is amazing. I greatly underestimated the amount of time, money, and effort required to compete at this level. None of it would be possible without the full team, but we are now out for blood! Next up is Englishtown where our car is not ideal, but with some aggressive car changes and driving we can seal the deal on the carbon trophy!
Photo Credit: Techflex (@techflex_inc), Jeremy David (@jeremy_z), Barry Allen (@digital.adrenaline), Scott Paul (@swooshtatimages), Rob Goodwin (@robgoodwinphotos).
Sponsors: Freedom Motorsportz, Techflex Inc, Eneos, Fortune Auto, Tire Stacks, GT Radial, Link ECU, Thrash Racing, VP Racing Fuels, Fantastic Voyages, Fuel Injector Clinic, East Coast Drift School, Smile Factory, Nitrous Express, Pyrotect, Faction Motorsports, Taylord Wraps