On the surface, it looks like there’s a lot of glamour in being involved with a pro racing program – millions of people worldwide tune in every month to see you go to work, and when they’re not doing that, they’re reading about you online or watching clips of your highlights on YouTube.
What that discounts though, are the hours spent working in the garage and travelling in between events that have a way of taking its toll on even the most hardened teams competing in Formula Drift. While those short moments out on the track almost always end up making it worthwhile, they have a way of being interspersed with difficulties that threaten to make all that work go to waste.
During Formula Drift’s inaugural stop at Miami-Homestead Speedway, all three of the Scion Racing drift teams found themselves facing mechanical troubles, some more serious than others. In the case of Fredric Aasbo and the Papadakis Racing team, that came to them in the form of a blown motor in the Hankook Tire Scion Racing tC just moments before Friday’s qualifying was set to begin.
Thanks to some amazing work by the Papadakis team (as well as a borrowed engine lift from the guys at Falken Tire camp), they were able to switch in the new 2AR unit in time to make qualifying at the expense of using their one competition time out of the weekend. From there, Fredric went to work and scored an 84 during his run, earning him the 7th seed for Top 32 competition.
Tony and the TAngelo Racing team fought through a similar rush to get the TAngelo Racing Scion FR-S ready for competition. Tony’s usual setup for the car includes nitrous as a power adder, and the amount of grip that its Hankook tires give are designed around the extra boost. During qualifying, Tony was running without nitrous as the tank had gone empty the day before, and without that power, the strain from the increased grip went directly to the car’s axles, breaking its bolts in the process.
Still, Tony and his team managed to get the car back together with enough time for him to head out for his 2nd qualifying run, where he scored a solid 68 and squeezed into Top 32 competition. With a spot in the main event secured, that gave the TAngelo Racing team enough breathing room to get the car back to the pit for some extra repairs.
Ken and the GReddy Racing Scion FR-S were also temporarily down with a suspension issue during qualifying, though with some elbow grease from the team assisted by Portland Speed Industries, Coffman Racing, and the Papadakis Racing crew, the car was back in order when Ken’s number came up. From there, he laid down a score of 81, good for the 9th seed in Top 32 competition.
When Saturday’s elimination rounds rolled up, Tony was scheduled to go first against his Drift Alliance teammate, Chris Forsberg. Thanks to years of throwing their missile cars around Englishtown Raceway Park, Tony is as familiar with Chris’ driving style as any other driver on the grid, which gave him a good chance during their matchup. However, due to more engine problems, the TAngelo Racing team had to call their weekend with a finish in the Top 32.
Running a small team is no easy task, but the way that Tony and his crew manage to make it to every event and give it their all shows a dedication to the sport that not many others can claim. With the series heading up to Wall Speedway in New Jersey for Round 4, the extra rest and short travel should help give them a running start on the competition.
Further down the bracket, Ken and the GReddy Racing team found themselves matched up against Robbie Nishida – a close friend of Ken’s and one of the toughest outs on the grid. As Ken sped down the runway for his lead run, he hit all the clipping points on the nose, getting Robbie to waiver and miss the driving line at several points on the track.
And though Ken followed his excellent lead run with a solid overall chase lap, Robbie managed to pull a gap which the judges favored over the strong line that Ken ran in the GReddy Racing Scion FR-S. As a result, the team’s weekend came to an end in the Top 32, though not without putting Robbie against the ropes.
The 2JZ powered GReddy Racing Scion FR-S continues to look better and better with each successive event, and with better matchups likely to come, Ken should be a lock to find himself closer to podium contention. Some extra development time between rounds will go a long way in getting the car an extra edge as the team prepares for New Jersey, a track that should be well suited to the layout of the GReddy FR-S.
Fredric’s weekend started off with a relatively easier battle, as he was matched up with 2014 Rookie of the Year candidate Matt Coffman. Though Coffman has already proven himself early in his career, the vast experience that Fredric’s acquired throughout the years helped him take the matchup, and earn a spot in the Top 16.
The victory put him up against Carl Rydquist – a fellow European driver who also cut his teeth driving on unforgiving Scandinavian roads. Despite some solid driving from Carl, Fredric advanced past the battle, which had him set for a rematch against Vaughn Gittin Jr., who has become something of a rival for Fredric.
Fredric and Vaughn lined up side by side on the grid, and once the signal was given, Vaughn took off and created a gap between his car and Fredric’s Hankook Tire Scion Racing tC. Fredric, with his skill, was able to close off the gap near the end, and end his chase run with a good finish.
During his lead run, Fredric laid out another strong lap, as Vaughn sacrificed both line and angle in order to maintain proximity with Fredric. Ultimately, the judges ruled the matchup in Vaughn’s favor, which ended Fredric’s weekend with a Great 8 finish.
As we alluded to in our last post featuring photos from FDMIA, Fredric is now running on a streak of 10 straight finishes in the Great 8, an amazing streak of consistency that no driver has actively been able to match. His hard charging driving style has made him both a fan favorite and perennial title contender, with an unmatched ability to improve year in and year out.
Thanks to the work of all the teams and drivers, Scion is currently sitting in 3rd in the OEM Championship, while our tire supplier Hankook remains first in the Tire Championship standings. With over half the season left to go, all the championship races are just beginning to heat up.
Until FDNJ rolls around, we’ll be back in the garage getting ready for the rest of the season. In the meantime, keep an eye out for our Formula Drift Miami episode of Driven 2 Drift – coming soon!