Our stop in Palm Beach for Round 3 of the Formula Drift season was a lot of things, but arguably most important among them was Tony Angelo’s return to form. A rough start to the season left Tony and the team with a pretty sizeable chip on their respective shoulders, but they were able to channel that into an outstanding qualifying performance on Friday – good for 9th on the day, and the best of any Scion in the field.
We can’t say that Tony’s exceptional driving during qualifying came as a surprise to us, because it was something we’ve known he’s had in him all along. Nonetheless, we were stoked to see him back in Top 32, hanging the tail end of the TAngelo Racing Scion FR-S out against some of the best pro drifters in the world.
Fredric Aasbo, conversely, has been busy treating drift fans to some of the greatest runs ever through the first leg of the season, by way of a few memorable battles against Daigo Saito and Vaughn Gittin Jr. Fredric has obviously grown as a driver since earning the 2010 Rookie of the Year award, but both the extent and the speed at which it’s happened has blown away even the most optimistic of forecasts.
Fredric ended up qualifying 18th overall, pitting him against Chelsea DeNofa in the Top 32. Most drivers would consider that an unenviable matchup, and for good reason, but the Papadakis Racing team has shown that both Fredric and the Hankook Tire Scion Racing tC are capable of hanging with anyone on any given day.
The GReddy Racing Scion FR-S was looking solid during the FDPB practice sessions, and Ken Gushi appeared ready to get the season back on track. Unforunately, the car once again fell victim to some engine demons, leaving the car heavily down on power. Ken did an amazing job completing the course, especially considering the circumstances, but ultimately the mechanical issues were just too much to overcome.
The nature of the sport sometimes means that things just won’t go your way, regardless of how much time you spend preparing. Ken and the GReddy Racing team have had more than their fair share of bad luck already this season, but to their credit, they’ve been able to roll with the punches and keep a positive attitude. That said, it’s a pretty safe bet to say that we’ll be seeing Ken back in the main event sooner rather than later.
Tony’s first matchup in the Top 32 put him against Joon Maeng, a teammate of Tony’s through their Drift Alliance connection. As the higher qualifier, Tony began as the lead car, laying down a solid run that seemed to give him a pretty clear advantage going into the second half of the battle.
While things got a little messier during Tony’s turn as the chase car, he came away with a unanimous win from the judges. That gave him a hard earned trip to the Top 16 for the first time this season, and had the 2AZ powered TAngelo Racing Scion FR-S on course for a matchup with Dave Briggs.
The battle between Aasbo and Chelsea DeNofa was cut much more cleanly, as a few minor mistakes from Chelsea combined with generally flawless driving from Fredric earned Fredric a unanimous win. With the victory, Fredric would move on to the Top 16 for a Formula Drift Road Atlanta rematch against his fellow Norwegian countryman, Kenny Moen.
Kenny and Fredric have seen a number of battles against one another over the years, dating all the way back to their time competing in Norway. The intimate knowledge they have of each other’s driving styles tends to lead to exciting tandem runs, and their run in Palm Beach was no exception. After Fredric hung tight during his chase run, he took a bump to the Hankook Tire Scion Racing tC during his turn to lead that sent Moen into the wall, and Fredric into the Top 8.
Tony’s matchup with Dave Briggs was far tougher, as they went One More Time twice, for a total of 3 battles. They both put together a solid set of runs during the first battle, which lead to the judges’ first OMT call. Their second run, on the other hand, was far messier.
During Tony’s turn as the chase car, he went in too aggressively around one of the turns and spun out in the TAngelo Racing Scion FR-S. Fortunately, Briggs also lost drift and straightened out during Tony’s lead run, which lead to a 0 for both drivers and yet another OMT battle.
The repeated runs eventually just became too much for the TAngelo Racing Scion FR-S to handle, forcing Tony to shut it down during his third chase lap. Tony would end the night there, earning a Top 16 finish to put him back in the points chase. The TAngelo Racing team has gotten the car running stronger with each subsequent race, giving us high hopes for Tony and the team when we return to Wall Speedway in just a few weeks.
A rematch with Vaughn Gittin Jr. awaited Aasbo in the Top 8. Their last matchup at Road Atlanta saw JR getting the win in one of the most controversial runs we’ve seen in recent memory, which gave the Papadakis Racing team more motivation to pull out a win in Palm Beach.
While Fredric held close during his chase run and followed with another strong lead run, the call eventually went to JR as Fredric’s night ended in the Top 8. Though the finish wasn’t as high as he had hoped, the points he earned moved him up to 5th in the Formula Drift Pro Championship standings, giving him a huge leg up on his quest for the top spot.
With three rounds in the books, Scion Racing is now sitting at 4th place in the Manufacturer’s Cup, though we remain only 47.5 points out of first place. The quick turnaround between Palm Beach for Round 3, and Wall Speedway for Round 4 should help us carry some of our momentum forward, as we look to move up in the standings.
There’s still a lot more drifting action to come the rest of the season, and we’re looking forward to being a part of it as it all unfolds. We’ll see you in 17 days when Formula Drift returns to New Jersey!