Formula D Irwindale: Behind the Lens
There is something special that surrounds Formula D Irwindale. For some, it marks the end of a long fought season full of questionable calls, for others it is a chance to make their dreams come true. For this enthusiast turned media, it was the most incredible weekend of the entire season!
Each Thursday has always been the same until this year when I had the unbelievable opportunity to ride along with the soon to be champion, Michael Essa. When I got the news while driving over to the track I nearly crashed; this has been something I had wanted to do since my very first Formula D event and now it was finally time to get in the passenger seat. Crews and staff were already busy running around setting up paddocks and preparing cars for practice when Essa informed me that within the next hour we would run. (Thank you Justin Garnett for the shot!)
After the hour had passed we walked the grid to his car that was waiting for him towards the start line.
On the walk over I asked, “do you still get those butterflies in your stomach right before you run?”
“Yeah I do, but I try not to think about it too much and just drive”.
I believe that is what keeps the spirit of driving alive; when the nerves and excitement are constantly present. After getting strapped into the snug harness and taking a few Instagram photos, I am shook up by the intensity and power of the car when Essa warms up his tires. After a quick closed toe shoe check and a thumbs up, we were finally off. OH MY GOODNESS! Just on the straight away was intense; I was instantly pressed into the bucket seat and pulled which ever direction we transitioned to. Right on the first initiation my helmet felt like it was about to slip off and just barely hovered off my hair the entire time. I’ve been in many ride alongs and actually with Essa in the Z4 last winter at Horse Thief Mile, and the same smoothness and demonstration of talent have only gotten better. Transitioning while facing the grand stands was a surreal blur that was replaced with the K rails quickly approaching and a split second later, roaring past them. Throughout the ride you don’t really smell the murdered tires, rather taste those Yokohamas; the smoke is almost liquid like in there. And yes, I admit it, I screamed like twice, you would squeal the same too, but hey! You’d have the biggest smile plastered on your face the rest of the day. Michael Essa is not only a talented driver, but a humble and sweet person who truly drives from the heart.
The remainder of practice was spent with my good buddies on Jeff Jones’ crew that included lots of dancing around, shenanigans, tire changing, putting out a small car fire, staring at Daigo next door, and some more shenanigans. On the ride back, Dean Kearney decided to drift right around the corner that led off the track, and seeing that from just 15 feet away on the back of Jeff’s truck only amped my excitement for the weekend that much more. After socializing, it was time to head out to Pomona with my family for the night and get ready for the next day.