Practice went smoothly then it was time to qualify for Top 16 where the driving gloves were starting to come off and some great battles took place. One of my favorite battles in qualifying went to Slide Assassin brothers Luke Pakula in the green ae86 and Michael Esssa in the GSR E46. This was my favorite just like Luke’s wife put it, Michael and Luke were “driving together just like old times”. Surprisingly, Essa blew his motor and was out (driving wise) for the rest of the evening but the judges gave him the win over Pakula. His fate of winning the championship depended on the later battle of Forsberg and Saito.
After qualifying wrapped up it was the half time break for about an hour and a half which meant it was time to mingle with everyone that could be found in the ocean of spectators. Every year the crowd feels a little trickier to walk through, however it does serve as a clear sign that Drifting isn’t a fad going away any time soon.
Top 16 was about to start so photo buddy and I got to the track early to get a good spot on the main photo island as well as a good spot to shoot the driver introductions. We were told please stay in front of the drivers rather than behind and would see why shortly. Sponsor Go Pro dropped off paragliders to swiftly fly in right behind the line up and at the very end, there was an amazing firework show that felt like the 4th of July. Toothy smiles and few burnouts later the battles of the season began.