Part of the appeal of Formula Drift is the series’ relative unpredictability – during any given battle over the course of any given event, it seems like anyone in the field is capable of taking down anyone else. The best drivers have a tendency to float to the top more often than not, but which route they take to get there is anyone’s guess.
One of the few things that does remain consistent in the series is the fact that, to get to the top, you have to be willing to lay everything out on the track, putting everything you have into every single one of your drives. Each of the three Scion Racing drivers have proven time and again that they’re willing to do just that, and deal with the consequences for better or worse.
Tony Angelo’s hard-charging driving style put him face to face with exactly that at FDATL, as his team worked to get the TAngelo Racing Scion FR-S dialed in for the event. Coming off a break between rounds where they tore down the engine and reworked the car’s suspension, the car was looking good and ready to make noise at Road Atlanta. However, the newly built car meant that Tony needed to get a feel for how it responded to his inputs.
While the car was mostly sound mechanically, the team loss their differential during practice for the event, severely cutting Tony’s ability to get the TAngelo Racing Scion FR-S sideways. As a result, they had to cut their weekend short despite the immense effort they put in to get to the event.
Despite the setback, the TAngelo Racing team are already back at work getting the car ready for FDFL in just 17 more days. It’s going to be a busy few weeks for the team, but if there’s anything they’ve shown over the last three seasons, it’s that they have the ability to rebound from whatever’s thrown their way and find themselves back in the mix and ready to go.
On the other side of the coin, Ken Gushi and the GReddy Racing team seemed to have nearly everything fall into place for them at FDATL, for the first time in what seemingly feels like two full seasons. Beyond sheer power numbers, part of the team’s motivation for switching to a Toyota sourced 2JZ power plant was for reliability – the EJ25 they had been running the last few seasons generally served its purpose, though mechanical issues and a low power ceiling generally made it more trouble than it was worth.
With the straight-six under the hood, the car has been running far better than any of Ken’s previous drift cars, and to that end, Ken managed to secure the 7th best qualifying score of the weekend and the highest of any Scion Racing driver. The result had him due for a matchup against Ryan Kado – who Ken last faced in 2011 at Palm Beach.
Though Ken and the GReddy Racing Scion FR-S were ready to go head to head, Ken ended up moving on in a bye thanks to a broken rear axle on Ryan’s car, and setting him up for a match against Dean Kearney in the Top 16.
The match started off relatively straight forward, as Ken laid down a solid lead run that gave him a slight advantage in the matchup. Ken’s chase run is where things began to get weird, as rain began falling and the damp track changed the drivers’ approach to the course. Ken followed closely behind Dean through the initiation and around the keyhole, but as they approached the finish line, Dean’s viper fell out of drift and caused Ken to over correct and go off track.
By a narrow margin, Ken avoided doing any major damage to the GReddy Racing Scion FR-S, and was awarded a trip to the Great 8 against his friend and Lexus driver, Robbie Nishida. With the momentum behind Ken going into the battle, he laid down a solid chase run that gave him a solid advantage going into the second half of their matchup. With just the chase left to go, however, Ken pushed hard around the first turn and dropped a tire into the dirt, which ultimately gave Robbie the win.
Though we would’ve liked to have seen Ken move on, his Great 8 finish is a huge step forward for both him and the GReddy team as they just begin to scratch the surface of what the car is capable of. A few more rounds under their belt and we should see them back among the top teams and drivers in Formula Drift.
And finally, we come to Fredric Aasbo, who has developed a particular habit of stealing the show at Road Atlanta. Two years ago at the track, he earned his 2nd podium finish ever. Last season, he and Vaughn Gittin Jr. put together a memorable battle that involved some monster trucking, and this year, he pulled out one of the most impressive drives we’ve ever seen from any driver.
It began on Saturday, when he filled the track with smoke on the way to earning the 8th highest qualifying score of the event, and a battle with Matt Field. As one of the series’ better drivers, Matt put up a solid fight, though not enough to prevent Fredric from moving on to a Top 16 matchup against Conrad Grunewald.
Conrad’s a great driver who’s improved every year that he’s been in the series, and showed some of his skill off his a reverse entry during his lead run against Fredric. Despite the impressive move, Fredric managed to stay close throughout, and combined with his flawless lead run, Fredric moved on to the Great 8.
That had him set for a Great 8 matchup against Daigo Saito, a former champion who Fredric Aasbo has run into more than a few times. Their previous battle at FD Long Beach in 2013 has been called the greatest drift battle ever, but due to an engine failure in Daigo’s Lexus SC430, they weren’t able to reenact it. As a result, Fredric was given the win, and moved on to the Final 4 where he was placed against Tony Angelo’s Drift Alliance teammate, Chris Forsberg.
Starting off in the chase position, Fredric initiated with Chris, but as Chris’ car began to run wide, Fredric took the opportunity to overtake him, drawing cheers from everyone in the crowd in the process. Overtakes don’t happen very often in Formula Drift, let alone clean ones, so with the move, Fredric has put himself on an extremely short list of drivers who have managed to pull off the feat during competition.
Though Forsberg put up a strong chase, Fredric took the victory on the strength of that overtake, and moved into the finals for a rematch against Vaughn Gittin Jr. With the stage set, Fredric stayed close during his chase, though some minor corrections left the door slightly open for Vaughn. That door was promptly shut during Fredric’s turn as the lead driver, as he pulled well ahead and earned a OMT call from the judges.
And while the final call for the OMT battle ultimately went Vaughn’s way, Fredric’s 2nd Place podium finish gained him the points he needed to slingshot himself near the top of the FD Pro Championship standings as he now sits at 3rd overall in the series. Similarly, thanks to the work of both Fredric and Ken, Scion is now at 2nd in the Manufacturer’s Championship, while our tire supplier, Hankook holds onto 1st place in the Tire Championship.
Overall, it was an extremely solid event for our teams, and their performance at FDATL puts us in solid position for the rest of the season going forward. As always, we’ll be bringing you a Road Atlanta episode of Driven 2 Drift soon, so be sure to check back often!