Formula Drift needs to change, out of all of the FD events I’ve attended and watched on the livestream, this one has by far been the worst. I’ve started to notice a trend in the fan base that saddens me; the fans just aren’t into it anymore. When the judges don’t abide by their own rules, everyone notices. But the judges aren’t entirely at fault here. The drivers are also to blame.
I’ve said for a few years now that Formula Drift is in a “Group B” era with the extreme horsepower and restricted grip allowed. Competitors are blowing drivetrain parts left and right, and I’m sure that the bill for a blown 1000 horsepower engine, or a quick change racing differential isn’t cheap. That being said, the cars in competition are more exciting than ever. When you’ve got a field this unique, it creates exciting racing, engines often designed to be run in NASCAR or endurance racing are being put to use, and the noises they create are bone chilling. All of this being said, when you attend a Formula Drift event you should expect to see door to door, smoke filled, tire shredding drifting. Not what we saw at FD Orlando.
Frederick Aasbo is likely who you think I’m referring to if you watched the event, and you’d be right. Aasbo showed some of the worst driving I have ever seen out of him at Orlando, he wasn’t engaged in the chase, and he did the bare minimum to get by. Now, all of this usually equals being knocked out in the Top 32 round, and based on the Formula Drift rules, rookie Andrew Gray should have knocked him out hands down. However for reasons unknown to all of us, the trio of judges pushed him through. It didn’t end there however, in his next run he debeaded against Kyle Mohan. In the 2016 series a debead is no longer a zero, however the judges are supposed to take that into consideration on scoring. Yet again Kyle Mohan out drove Aasbo, giving a great chase and a near textbook run when he led, but for some reason the judges pushed Aasbo through yet again. At this point in the event the crowd was irate, the noises of disappointment rang out across the oval track. I could go on and on about things the negative of the event, but let’s focus on some of the good.
Mad Mike looked better than ever, due to an unfortunate new rule that FD started to enforce at Orlando, he was not allowed to finish competition due to a de-bead. But the run he did make was the best he’s ever made in his US FD career, and I’m excited to see him carry momentum into New Jersey this weekend. Kristaps Bluss was the big surprise, the 2nd year competitor from Latvia made a big ripple in the charts. Taking second place under Frederick Aasbo, the e46 threw down hard and Bluss earned his second place victory.
Now let’s talk about the elephant in the room, the venue itself. Formula Drift appears to be becoming the equivalent of figure skating in the Olympics. With the judges seemingly biased to big name drivers and sponsors, leaving the little guys fending for themselves, we’re not surprised to see drivers start to explore other venues worldwide to get their fill of driving in. If there are rules set in place for competition, they need to be followed. When Justin Pawlak was racing Chris Forsberg they made contact just before the first run ended, and while JTP didn’t de-bead his tire, he did lose all of the air in it. The safety stewards let JTP run anyway with no tire pressure, an extremely risky move. Formula Drift was extremely strict about not changing tires when they de-bead, claiming that driver safety was at risk and it gave them an unfair advantage to change tires, now rather than punishing driver’s by disqualifying them, why can’t they impose a minimum tire pressure rule to prevent the mass amounts of de-beads?
As for the drivers sandbagging, there’s no real way to prevent that, but fair judging, or even getting rid of the judging system all together would push drivers to perform at their best, every single event. D1 is all based on sensors placed on the track and on the cars, determining the proximity, speed, and angle of every car. Removing the human element would bring back the diehard fans that have been around since the Sam Hubinette days. Drifting is one of the fastest growing automotive sports in the world, and until FD changes, the US fans are going to continue to be disappointed. A change is needed and it needs to happen soon. D1 isn’t coming back to the states anytime soon, and a change in FD is our only hope at action and excitement in drifting.
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