words Carlos Cano Estrella
photos eDRIFT staff photographers
Good evening drift fans, well, it’s very much out of Frederic Aasbo’s hands at this point. We would have had to see James Deane’s car in a similar situation to this (in other words broken) during qualifying. He currently sits 96 points ahead of Aasbo at 582. With a score of 94 in today’s qualifying session “The Machine” secures, not only a bye run for tomorrow’s main event, the 2017 Formula DRIFT championship!
Aasbo currently sits on 486 points and is fighting to stave off the hungry drivers who currently sit underneath him in the standings.
Perhaps the most important agenda on any competitive team’s mind is closing the gap to Dean “The Machine.” Chris Forsberg has made a huge recovery since his season looked dismal at Long Beach and I expect him to come out swinging tomorrow night.
He sits in the top 10 along with four other active champions which make Formula D one of the few motorsports leagues with this many active champions. The standout was of course Formula 1 when they boasted 7 active champions! FD is headed toward six next season. And yes, as anticlimactic as Deane’s post qualifying celebration might be, perhaps the most compelling reason to be at Irwindale is the tight battle for third place in the championship. The following is a rundown of each driver with a chance at third:
Odi Bakchis sits third now with a 367 points; his lead is a marginal one as Kristaps Bluss sits fourth, only two points behind at 365. For Bakchis, taking third would earn him his best finish in the championship and solidify him as a front running contender for the 2018 championship and if he runs with the fire in the belly he harnessed in previous rounds the sky is the limit for a man who came from the bottom. Sorry I had to go there, not really a Drake fan, though 🙂
Bluss, whose style echoes of wildmen of the past (think of Alex Pfeiffer and Bill Sherman) comes into Irwindale already having surpassed most of the expectations laid on him at the beginning of the season. If this reckless Latvian could surpass the calculated Lithuanian it would not only legitimize Bluss as a mainstay among a revolving door of competitors but perhaps hint at robotic drivers that if they don’t risk they won’t gain. We would look for him to put it all on the line at Irwindale and either make it or break it in an all out display of go big or go home (sorry couldn’t help it again!); however, without his main car he is now in a backup for tomorrow’s show.
Speaking about guys who live by checkers or wreckers, behind Bluss sits our first American, Vaughn Gittin Jr., at fifth with 332 points he holds a very uncomfortable one point lead ahead of sixth place Michael Essa. Gittin Jr. has nothing to prove but the resurgence of the Mustang after years of stagnating results and his battle to put the red, white, and blue among the top 3 are more than enough to juice up a man who needs no extra boosts of adrenaline or motivation. Also, look for Vaughn’s teammate Chelsea DeNofa, pictured above, to be the dark horse of the main event as he killed it in qualifying with an incredible run that secured him the top spot for tomorrow’s top 32.
Sitting sixth is a driver who was probably kicking himself after Texas; Essa looked poised enough to challenge for the victory and close that gap to Deane but he ran wide behind Forsberg after a killer lead and ended his weekend in an extravagant fashion against the tire barrier. For Essa, 2017 has been the first year he has been on the hunt for podiums and top finishes since his championship year; he’s back in his trusty E46 and after a post Long Beach refresh he has ripped through the rest of the season in hopes of redeeming his championship level.
Ryan Tuerck in seventh is probably the last driver with a realistic chance at third overall, he sits 46 points behind Bakchis with 321. Of all the Toyota backed 86s Tuerck is far ahead out of the reach of Ken Gushi and Jhonnattan Castro but I can guarantee he wants to put his car in the top 3 as well as fight off the other ZN chassis behind him. We’ll have to see if he can have his 2JZ ready by tomorrow’s main event as it let go at the end of his last qualifying lap.
Daijiro Yoshihara sits in ninth at 309 points. He would need key losses and a huge night in order to slide into the higher ranges of the standings. For him, and for many people tuning their ZN chassis; the battle for 86 supremacy between Dai and Tuerck would perhaps steer people toward the LS swap vs. the 2JZ or vice versa. Being King 86 is a big deal, trust me, back when I was competing I always wanted to beat everyone but it was a cherry on top if I looked at the standings and saw that I was the top AE86.
Matt Coffman sits 10th and his juxtaposed battle with Forsberg: young guy in old car vs. veteran in new car; will also be one of the highlights of Irwindale. Look for him to hang it all out and hold nothing back as the dust settles at the House of Drift for the last time.