Formula Drift: The Road to the Championship – Round 2 Road Atlanta
By Justin Banner
The hype for Road Atlanta was started back at round one at Long Beach, Justin Pawlak taking the win with Matt Powers coming in second, Vaughn Gittin, Jr. not qualifing, and having a record breaking crowd. Hopes were high for some and the dimming chance of a repeat champion for 2011 started to take shape. However, Road Atlanta is not a track to take lightly. Despite how open it may seem, the natural terrain and the high speeds it creates make this track difficult to get perfect. You get your setup wrong, enter wrong, or even sneeze wrong and you have the potential for disastrous results, though the speed coming down the hill does make for some very interesting entries for the first turn. So, did Road Atlanta pave the Road to the Championship with Gold or red Georgia Clay? Continue reading to find out!
|Matt Powers sits ready for a qualification run. Matt was obsessed with getting the perfect backwards entry all weekend and it might have done him better to work at putting together an overall smoother performance. His spectacular crowd pleasing antics ended up damaging his car in practice and perhaps resulted in some sloppy driving around the keyhole and reduced his scores.
After taking the win at Long Beach, Justin “JTP” Pawlak in the Falken Tire Mustang started Road Atlanta on the wrecker. In Thursday practice, he crashed his car hard into the wall at the first corner in what most believed was an attempt to push the car hard. His team, Auto Sport Dynamics, got the car put back together overnight and part of Friday morning and he was able to qualify in 15th place. A very impressive effort on the part of ASD and their Chief, Ian Stewart.
|New privater Walker Wilkerson had strong performances at Long Beach and Atlanta. It is refreshing to see a lot of new blood coming into the sport. Walker is proving that the SR20DET isn't exactly dead yet. Walker is only 21 years old so expect to see some major things from this young man in the future.
With reverse entry being rewarded last year with big points, it shouldn't come as a surprise that many driver's were pushing the limits of traction and sanity. Matt Powers, driver of the Need For Speed Nissan 240SX, was not so lucky and, on his second qualifying run, clipped the inside rumble strip on 10a where there was a deep rut built up and broke either his right front ball joint or control arm. Mike Essa, of GSR Autosport, had an impressive entry last year, spun on his attempt at an even more insane angle.
|The Need For Speed/Papadakis Racing Scion TC driven by Fredric Aasbo looked a lot stronger at Atlanta than during its debut at Long Beach. Aasbo probably would have pressed Dai Yoshihara into a one more time if he hadn't dropped wheels.
Ryan Tuerck, in his first event in the new Chevrolet Camaro, was also able to get the car dialed in for a reverse entry, with his qualifying run placing him 2nd seed. Many more drivers had attempts at reverse entry with some success, but 2010 Retaks Insane Entry Award winner, Conrad Grunewald, was a repeat winner of that prize with his insane entry during qualifying and nearly bringing the Hankook Tire Chevrolet Camaro into a true reverse entry. He and the build team, Blu808, have this Camaro figured out and his butt first entry gained him top seed for the Top 32 Tandem eliminations and this number one seed is his second in two events.
|Gardella Racing debuted their all new Camaro at Atlanta. Driven by Ryan Tuerck, the big car did surprisingly well. Gary Gardella told us that the car had never turned a wheel in anger before it showed up at the track!
Bad luck continued for the Swedish Slider, Sam Hubinette in his Dodge Challenger sponsored by Discount Tire. During Saturday Open Practice, his car would sputter as he would go wide open throttle but would act fine otherwise. On his way back up for Qualifying, it sounded like he had it figured out, until he got to the starting line. As he brought his engine up to launch RPM, it began to sputter and pop, hard! Hoping it would clear up, he constantly rev'ed and hammered on the Dodge 410 Cubic Inch Sprint Car engine. All of the noise and bad sounds did nothing as he began to climb up the hill, a loud bang was heard and he rolled to a stop. Sam Hubinette, for the second event in a row, did not qualify.
|Our favorite guy Joon Maeng was incredible all weekend. A faulty gearbox took him out of the action.