Formula Drift Round 3: Palm Beach International Raceway


Ken Gushi was consistently getting inverted in practice.
Dennis Mertzanis

With qualifying set, it was now time for the Top 32 Eliminations and first up was the NOS Energy Drink 370Z of Chris Forsberg and the GSR Autosport Z4 of Mike Essa. Knowing that he needed a solid run in order to beat Forsberg, Essa came in hot and spun his car into the second clipping point. This gave Essa the zero and with a simple, but good following run, Forsberg went on to the the Top 16. Pulling up to the line next were the Falken Tire S15 Silvia of Ross Petty and the Discount Tire Direct Challenger of Samuel Hubinette.

Sam and Ross wreck
While Ross Petty did lose the run, the Contour cameras survived the impact along with Sam Hubinette.

This was the first Top 32 for Samuel in 2011, as engine problems had put the Challenger on the sidelines even before qualifying at the first two events, but Sam was able to overcome them and qualify 16th. Ross was looking to overcome engine problems from round two at Road Atlanta that were caused by oil starvation. After adding an oil accumulator, the oil starvation problems have gone away and his LS-powered S15 was ready to throw down. Did they ever, and after battling it out a One More Time was called. As Ross was coming to the line after his OMT lead run, he felt like he needed to change tires, but decided against it for the sake of time. That decision proved to be wrong as his Falken Tire S15 got too greasy and spun in front of Sam, collecting him but the only damage was losing two Contour cameras on Sam’s car and he moved on to the Top 16.

ross petty
Ross Petty was looking stronger than ever all weekend long.

While Jeff Jones in the CX Racing 240SX had a great entry getting right up on the Falken Tire 350Z of Tyler McQuarrie, McQuarrie was able to pull away from Jones in the latter part of the course. Jeff Jones was able to gap Tyler at the first clipping point, at point two onwards, Tyler closed the gap and was right on the door of Jones, giving Tyler the win and entry into the Top 16. What should have been a easy win for Joon Maeng and his Nitto RX-8, going up against Charles Ng and the Evasive RX-7 turned out to be a disaster! While being able to pull off great, inverted entries all weekend, Maeng stalled out on his lead run against Ng and this was weighted against Maeng. With the better lead run, Charles Ng moved on to the Top 32.

Joon Maeng had insane inverted entry’s all weekend long.
Joon Maeng vs Charles Ng.
Charles Ng
Charles Ng proving that going inverted won’t always give you the win.

John Russakoff and his K24A powered Megan Racing Toyota Corolla faced off against the Monster Energy Falken Tire Mustang of Vaughn Gittin, Jr. After becoming the Sampson of Road Atlanta, Russakoff did not have such an easy time at Palm Beach. Having cracked an exhaust manifold prior to practice, John’s day did not start out right and ended just as bad after not being able to produce the results we saw at Round 2. Vaughn Gittin, Jr., on the other hand, was making the best of his situation and continuing forward as he always does one event at a time. Despite the heart breaking loss at Road Atlanta, Vaughn was still in great spirits at PBIR. That spirit lead to his win against Russakoff and placing in the Top 16. “Definitely got back on the horse,” said Vaughn earlier that day, “you know, we had a rough start and that happens in motorsports… we’re working hard to try to make an epic come back this year.”

Matt Walden was eliminated by South African Otto Graven.

South Africa’s own, Otto Graven and his Monster Mob 350Z was able to take out Matt Waldin and his Helix Energy 350Z. This made Otto’s first appearance for the Top 16 this year. Rhys Millen in his Red Bull Hyundai Genesis faced off against Aurimas Bakchis in his Forged Motorsport S14 240SX. The Genesis wasn’t able to make the show at Road Atlanta so a Top 32 was welcomed by Millen. “Atlanta was very disappointing,” said Millen, “and we’re not doing a full championship this year with Rallycross conflicts that have taken precedent over drift and we won’t be at New Jersey so that took us out of the hunt for the championship, but I still felt that we had a good car.” His win over Bakchis allowed him to make up some points for this year and get into the Top 16.

Dai Yoshihara’s lead run against Kyle Mohan was strong but in following, things fell apart for the ex series points leader.

Next up was Round Two winner, Daijiro Yoshihara in his Discount Tire S13 240SX and Kyle Mohan, in his Nexen Tire/Mazdatrix RX-8. Daijiro had a great lead run against Kyle, but Kyle was right on his tail and Dai felt that he needed more. Suddenly, that siren’s song began to play. Dai is known for trying to out flair the lead driver on a follow run if he thinks he needs to and, after having radio trouble for most of the weekend and not being able to talk to his spotter, Mike Kojima, Dai miscalculated what he needed to win. As he entered into the first clipping point, Dai carried too much speed and hit Mohan, causing both cars to spin and Dai’s proverbial ship hit the rocks. The judges needed to review the tape, but the damage on Dai’s car made it clear, Dai hit Mohan and was at fault. That gave Dai a zero and Kyle Mohan went on to the Top 16. The SPD Metalworks team began to have visions of Irwindale from 2010, where Dai was leading the points and lost in the first round. His only  hope would be that Justin T. Pawlak would not go past Round One, either.

Dai Yoshihara in an attempt to out style lead driver Kyle Mohan went inverted and hit Mohan’s car with his rear quarter causing both cars to spin.  The bobble cost Dai dearly.

Darren McNamara in the Falken Tire Saturn Sky went up against Mike Feiock in the Xowii Energy Mazda FC3S RX-7. The Indiana native put up as good as a fight as he could, but this low budget driver wasn’t able to over come the better funded Saturn Sky. While he lost to McNamara, Feiock can say he can drive his car to work as the Indiana plate on his car is not only real, but the RX-7 is street legal. Sadly, this may be the final event for the Xowii car as funding is limiting Feiock’s ability to make more events in Formula Drift. The Nexen Tire/Megan Racing battle of Taka Aono and a very sore Alex Pfieffer took place next. Taka put up his best lead and follow runs and was rewarded with moving on to the Top 16 in the little Hasselgren Powered Toyota Corolla. Alex Pfieffer should be commended on the fact that not only did he have a banged Nissan 350Z, but was not at 100 percent while driving.

Justin universal white guy Pawlak defeated Luke Lonberger in what was getting to be Luke’s best FD weekend all season.

The rear bumper-less Gardella Racing Pontiac Solstice of Eric O’Sullivan ran up against the Hankook Tire Chevrolet Camaro of Conrad Grunewald. The Retaks winner put up a great run and EOS was not able to surpass Grunewald. Pat Cyr in the HSD Suspensions Toyota Corolla Coupe faced off against Retaks S13 240LS with Toshiki Yoshioka. The little Honda powered ‘yota couldn’t keep up with the GM powered 240LS and Toshiki moved on to the Top 16. Next up was the battle that the SPD Metalworks crew and Daijiro Yoshihara were dreading, Justin T. Pawlak in the Falken Mustang going against Luke Lonberger in the Hankook Tire/Blu808 Corvette. Dai’s best chance would be for Lonberger to defeat JTP here, but while Lonberger was able to put up a good run, it wasn’t enough and JTP would move on to the Top 16. Dai could only watch as his points dwindled away as JTP kept climbing the ladder. Could he be stopped in Round 2?

Ryan Tuerck
Ryan Tuerck defeats Walker Wilkerson

Ryan Tuerck in his Red Bull Chevrolet Camaro faced Walker Wilkerson in his Fatlace S13 240SX coupe. As Walker tried his best, it wasn’t enough to defeat the V8 powered Chevy of Tuerck and he moved on to the Top 16. With equally disappointing qualifying runs, the Need for Speed teammates of Fedrick Aasbo in the Scion tC and Matt Powers in the Nissan S14 240SX faced each other in the first round. Aasbo and Powers put on a tandem clinic with each giving the best runs they could give, but it wasn’t enough for Aasbo and the judges declared that Powers put on the better show and went on to the Top 16. The Final Battle of the 32 drivers was first time in the Top 32, Ryan Kado in his 2005 Nissan 350Z going up against Ken Gushi in his Scion Racing tC. While in practice prior to the top 32, Ken did make some contact with the wall and lost a tail light and had some body damage. Ryan Kado and his family were still celebrating that he made it in to the Top 32. Most everyone was dismissing the young man, but boy was that a mistake, as Kado put on the run of his life and out drove Ken Gushi to go on to the Top 16. Ryan Kado is proving that he will be the next talent to have an eye out for in 2012.

Matt Powers eliminated fellow Team Need For Speed driver Fredric Aasbo.
Rookie Ryan Kado upset veteran Ken Gushi


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