Formula Drift Mid-Season Report: Is It Really The Tires?


Tony Angelo, Technical Manager for Formula Drift, responded to an email correspondence I had with him about the changes to the tire rules. Why the decrease to two tire sizes instead of one? “We were a bit conservative with our tire limit numbers initially, and this was an adjustment that we deemed necessary after evaluating the effectiveness of the first set of tire sizes. We intend for this rule to affect only the fastest 5 to 10% of cars running in FD. This new weight/tire size set should get us pretty close to our goal.” If that is so, why the increase in ballast weight? “By changing the tire size that a certain car could use, we wanted to be sure that teams that had already purchased/already been supplied tires for the year could ballast their cars up to the new weights, so that no teams would be without tires due to the change in the rule.”

Tony Angelo
Tony Angelo, Technical Manager for Formula Drift, feels that the rules will provide impact and better tandem runs.

It also comes at the mid-point of the 2011 season, which could really hamper some smaller teams, but Tony responded, “We aim to be proactive with our technical rules, and we are trying to address trends/safety issues as we become aware of them. In the past there was a rather long reaction time to on and off-track issues in FD, and we are working to become quicker in our judgements and adjustments to the rules.” While some fans may see the rule as a joke, especially the hardcore, tight-pant, hipster fans, it does seem that teams and drivers are responding very well to the change. Tony points out, “I think that generally teams are happy with the change. The tire rule should now have more of an impact and work in the manner in which it was originally intended. I’m not exactly sure about fan response, but I would assume that anything that works towards drivers being able to tandem closer, in a more exciting fashion would be welcomed by any educated fans of Formula D.”

Formula Drift Officials
While there are fans who think otherwise, Formula Drift has been here since 2002 because of the staff involved in the sport. They have smart guys who are listening and will react in the interest of Drifting in America!

So, what is my take? When I first heard about the change, I thought it was a positive step and many engineers and drivers agreed about the change being positive, but as I listened to them, something more needs to change if there is to be a level field. The reason why I have somewhat changed my mind is because no one will really have to change. I do like that they are trying to bring the cars closer together, but honestly, even with the new tire rule I still feel that there are teams who were not going to keep up. The biggest single problem is the horsepower and weights of the cars, not the tires. Drifting, as it has evolved here in the United States, is now a series where the judges are looking for big angle with little loss of speed. From what I can see and what I do know about how vehicles react, it’s all about forward bite, come in with a huge angle and drive yourself to the clipping point and to stay on line. This is where the high horsepower cars come in, you can keep the tires spinning with torque and focus on getting a car out of the corner with forward bite. It’s almost like driving a 800 horsepower stock car on a short track, where you try to keep your momentum going through the corner and using the throttle to keep enough of a slip angle to power through and the sooner you can get on the throttle, the better.

Ryan Kado
Because the changes will not be drastic, Privateers like Ryan Kado will not have to make major, expensive changes to stay legal in Formula Drift for the 2011 season. Less expense is the best expense!

Now, is that to say I am finally against Formula Drift, big horsepower, or American Muscle in Japanese Metal? No, I still like big engines, still like noise, and I still have a pulse! This will not effect the teams for the rest of this season like the hammer of Thor and that’s a very good thing! A teams’ budget for 2011 will have already been spent and there would be no way to get more funding if you had to drastically change your chassis. That’s not the goal of the mid-season adjustments and never was the goal at this time. Next year, that could be a different story and rumors are starting to fly as we speak. I can’t say much on them and we’ll have to wait and see what really happens for 2012, but just know Formula Drift knows what it’s doing and hasn’t been here as long as it has without some knowledgeable folks behind the scenes. 2011 is still here and still shaping up to be a very good and memorable year and I can’t wait for more!

See Y’all at Seattle!

Jim Guthrie and Doug at Formula Drift
Yes, they are listening!
Otto Graven


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