At times, last year’s Formula Drift Championship Round feels like it took place only last week. Thanks to an insanely busy offseason filled with new builds, new friends, new series, and of course, lots of practice, we’ve barely had time to stop and take in everything that’s been going on around us. It almost seems impossible that Irwindale was half a year ago.
By the same token, we’ve seen just how much work the Papadakis Racing, TAngelo Racing, and GReddy Racing teams have put in over the last six months, so it would a massive understatement to say that we were eager to see how it would all pay off. When it finally came time to roll the cars onto the Streets of Long Beach track, it seemed like Friday’s qualifying rounds couldn’t start soon enough.
As you’ve likely heard by now, that long-awaited qualifying round came with a twist for the 2013 season, with the old format being replaced by new knockout-style rules that lock in the top 16 drivers after the first run. The new rules may take some getting used to, but both Fredric and Ken looked at home off the bat, securing the 9th and 14th seeds respectively.
Tony’s running a brand new car for the 2013 season, and as is prone to happen with new builds, he ran into a few unfortunate issues that prevented him from qualifying. A boost leak during his first run kept him from getting the angle that the judges were looking for, while a fuse failure made his second one a non-starter.
In spite of the problems, Tony was in relatively good spirits. The entire TAngelo Racing team worked tirelessly for weeks on end putting the car together, and with a little more time to get things ironed out, it’s going to be one of the most competitive cars on the grid this season.
The second qualifying runs finalized the second half of the Top 32 bracket, which ended up pairing Fredric Aasbo against former RS-R driver Toshiki Yoshioka, and Ken Gushi against veteran driver Kyle Mohan. Their competition put up a great fight, but both Ken and Fredric advanced to the Top 16, where the real fun began.
To an outside observer, a Top 16 matchup with 2012 Champion Daigo Saito and his 2JZ powered Lexus SC430 would be a recipe for an early exit. However, as Fredric proved by knocking out Daigo last year at Road Atlanta, he’s not one to follow recipes.
In a battle that became an instant classic, Fredric and Daigo went toe to toe, again and again, as they threw their cars all over Turns 9, 10, and 11 of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach course. The Hankook Tire Scion Racing tC built by Papadakis Racing came through with a slight angle advantage through their first run, but the matchup was called a One More Time.
Their second run almost perfectly mirrored the first, right down to the spacing, or lack thereof, between the two cars. Another One More Time was called, as both Fredric and Daigo seemingly laid out everything they had in the tank.
By the time the tire smoke had cleared after their third, conclusive run, the matchup was unanimously called in Fredric’s favor thanks to a cleaner line through Turn 10. Fredric has been one of Formula Drift’s best drivers since his rookie season, but he somehow manages to improve even further with each passing year.
Luckily for the Hankook tires on the GReddy Racing Scion FR-S, Ken’s Top 16 matchup was slightly more favorable, as he knocked out Mike Essa without having to go One More Time. Much of that credit can be attributed to the GReddy Racing team, as their work revamping the car helped keep it more balanced for Ken’s aggressive drifts.
2013 is the 10th anniversary of Formula Drift, but what’s much less publicized is the fact that it’s also Ken’s 10th year competing in the series. We’ve been lucky enough to call him our factory driver for about half that time, and this year looks like it just might be his best yet as part of the Scion Racing team.
The Scion FR-S platform wasn’t just new to Ken when he campaigned it in 2012, it was new to the entire motorsports community. It’s a fantastic platform, and one that we’re very proud of, but at the time, it was also one with zero data behind it. Despite that, Ken and the GReddy team came away with 8th place last season, and are already looking like sure bets to improve upon that finish this year.
Long Beach also marked the start of Formula Drift’s new Manufacturers Championship series. Fredric and Ken have both earned Scion quite a few points, thanks to their matching Top 8 finishes. Ryan Tuerck also finished in the Top 8 behind the wheel of a 2JZ powered FR-S, which further boosted our tally. We wish Ryan and his team the best of luck this year.
It’s going to be an eventful season, and Scion Racing is already off to a fantastic start. We’ll be back with our Long Beach recap episode of Driven 2 Drift later this week, so be sure to check back in for even more highlights!