Formula Drift Round 4 was held at Wall Speedway in New Jersey. The chosen course layout was the usual 3/8 oval bank which transitions into a figure 8 around the inside area. The bank is similar to the 3/8 at Evergreen except much steeper, with a guard rail wrapping around the entire oval.
During practice I acclimated to the track and found my line. The car performed flawlessly, even with the harsh transition from the bank to the flat inner area.
Everything felt great as I chased Patrick Mordaunt around the bank. By the end of practice I still wasn't quite scraping the wall the whole way but my line was solid and I was confident going into qualifying.
My first run started off great; I entered the bank hard and knew it would be a good run. Sadly, the car decided it had been through enough and one of the axles gave out as I came down off the bank. I drove back to the pit and the crew did a great job, swapping the broken axle for a fresh one with loads of time to spare before my second run. Then the rain started.
At first it was only a light sprinkle, but the harmless drizzle quickly increased and turned the track into an ice rink. During my second run I fought the lack of traction throughout the course, correcting a couple times but not spinning once; I was given a 0 and was done for the weekend.
Keep watching for posts about local events and Round 5 at Evergreen Speedway!
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I noticed something of note when I arrived at PBIR. The asphalt ( including the track surface ) was much lighter than the dark gray stuff I'm used to. It was almost white. When I walked on to the track to check out the course layout, I realized why: it's made with seashells.
I apologize if you've experienced this before and are thinking "yes Andrew, seashell asphalt. DUH. Seriously, it's not that crazy", but I don't think I've seen it before and it tripped me out! What's really cool is that it seems grippier than normal asphalt, so it works really well as a track surface. Anyway, on to the event.
Once again the field was quite large; in the last few years Formula Drift has grown considerably in both driver and fan numbers. In past years there have been events with barely enough drivers for a top 32, but nearly 70 drivers have driven in at least one event this year. The bar is constantly raising due to car builds and the growing pool of driving talent.
Being the newest venue on the circuit, the FD officials weren't decided on which course layout to use. We tried two layouts during the first hour of practice; the original design provided the best looking entry and transition, while the alternate layout provided more options for the drivers. In the end it was the original course we were told to run.
Above: following Chris Ward during practice.
During the practice session on Thursday I pulled off some solid runs, both tandem and solo. I was feeling pretty good about the overall course, but toward the end of the day we knew it was my entry which needed the most work. If I could throw the car harder in Qualifying we were confident I would make it into the top 32.
I felt pretty good during Friday's practice but couldn't quite get the entry down like I needed to. On my first qualifying run I came in too hot and went off course, earning a 0 and packing a tire full of dirt in the process.
Once again it all came down to my second run. I decided to do exacly what I did in practice and hope for the best. I ran up to the first corner at full speed and initiated but somehow bobbled and had to re-initiate before the transfer. I was able to put the rest of the run together in good form but it wasn't quite enough. My final score was 57; a mere eight points from the cutoff.
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Three Formula Drift rounds have passed since my last post. Three hot, smokey, fast, sweaty, difficult, insane, fun and eye-opening events have gone by, and I haven't posted a thing. "My bad" doesn't even cover it. I'm sorry, and I won't waste your time offering up any excuses. Let's just cut to the chase; you want to see some media and read about what East coast FD was like. Here you go. I'll be posting the three rounds in quick succession so come back for the rest!
Round 2: Atlanta
Going into round 2 I had a pretty good idea what to expect. During the week leading up to the event I jumped on Forza 4 every chance I got; I knew it was going to be a fast, technical entry and making it up the hill would be line-dependant. The rest wouldn't be too difficult, just be sure to get the first half right so the rest will follow. While this was all correct, I was seriously underestimating how crucial the entry is.
During practice I picked up the general course quickly but I was barely linking it with almost no tire smoke at all. The new LSD gave me enough grip to keep the car going but any mistake and I would either spin or go straight for a bit.
I missed my first qualifying run due to a battery malfunction, which was quickly remedied by my crew. This meant I had one run to make it into the top 32 or I was done for the weekend. I left the line, raced up to the first corner and yanked my ebrake... and everything went wrong. I bobbled on initiation, messed up my line toward the uphill section, straightened going up toward the horseshoe, re-initiated and got back on line, came down the hill and spun out on my final transition leaving the course. It was a dissappointing weekend but we learned a lot and now I know what to expect next year!