The Drift League Round 3 Coverage – Irwindale

After the battle between Rome and Carlos, #2 Qualifier Dan Stuke and #10 Qualifier George Kilada took to the starting line. After the launch, Kilada faced wheelspin in multiple gears whilst Stuke put the power down, costing the S13 hatch distance on the S13 coupe before the first initiation. To make matters worse, Kilada’s car bogged down as he turned into the bank, lagging further behind and straightening out just before the transition to the infield. Stuke kept the pressure on from up ahead; maintaining the distance Kilada had lost on the bank throughout the infield, and even the last bank.

Watching from the flag tower, I personally thought this one was already in the bag for Stuke. I was wrong.

Kilada’s lead run saw more wheelspin and Stuke close in on the first bank, a gap of no more than a length that Stuke wasn’t about to let widen on his watch. However, a stroke of lucks oon appeared for Kilada. Upon entering the second corner, Stuke ran wide, and dropped a tire out of bounds towards the last clipping point, bringing some cones out with him onto the track. This resulted in a one more time for their battle; giving Kilada time to plan something out.

Stuke (rear) puts the pressure on Kilada (front) as they turn onto the final corner.

As standard fashion in Formula Drift style events, the next run group goes in between the prior’s one-more-time run. #3 Qualifier Micah Diaz took to the start line next to #11 Qualifier Pablo Cabrera. Last time these two ran against eachother was in Round 2, where Micah lost control of his car and shunted it into the wall, snapping his wheel off the hub in dramatic fashion and retiring due to the excessive damage.

To say there was unfinished business was an understatement.

Micah led first, doing his best to break away from Pablo on the bank. However, Micah’s E46 and Pablo’s S13 make roughly even power, putting the cars on a level playing field. Micah again attempted to run away from Pablo, yet by the halfway point of the second corner, the green S13 was back on his door and got no more than three lengths away throughout the rest of the infield, even closing it in to just a yard or two on the final third of the last corner.

Diaz (front) tries to put tarmac between himself and Pablo (rear) coming into the transition.

The hairs on the back of my neck stood up as they left on their second run; huge displacement V8s echoing off the walls as they slid into the bank. Micah kept high while Pablo opted to go low; gaining distance at the cost of preparedness for the transition at the end of the bank. Pablo ran a tighter line through the transition, keeping to the inside until swinging out wide. In this, Diaz caught up and nearly hit Pablo as he crossed over through the smoke; cars missing by inches, if not an inch. This clearly took Micah by surprise. As they dove into the second corner, Micah became lost in the smoke again, and left foot braked when unnecessary, giving Pablo a huge amount of distance that Micah couldn’t make up until well into the final corner.

Pablo (front) swings out to cut the inside as Diaz (rear) already started his cut in.

After both cars shot past the finish line, they lined up in front of a staff member, anxiously awaiting the judge’s call. Despite the smell of burnt rubber and race gas floating in the air, I found myself breathing deep in anticipation, only for chills to run down my spine at the judges’ call.

One. More. Time.

As both Pablo and Micah drove away to the hot pits, Stuke and Kilada lined up to solve unfinished business of their own.

Stuke took the lead first, gaining ground against Kilada on the bank, yet losing it through the second corner thanks to Stuke running a wider line; allowing Kilada to sneak up underneath. However, to make the shorter, sharper line, Kilada let off the gas upon exiting the corner, forcing his car to regain grip. To Kilada’s horror, he came out of the smoke and cut the corner short, dropping all four tires out of bounds.

It was then Kilada’s turn to lead. Thanks to wheelspin from Stuke has he put the power down in second gear, Kilada was afforded a few extra lengths through the bank, only to lose it upon entering the second corner; Stuke diving in in a similar fashion, yet also holding more angle throughout the apex. A gap widened once more for a moment, but it was soon closed by the S13 coupe as they charged into the final corner, Stuke getting as close as a yard to Kilada’s door by the finish line.

Kilada (front) tries to break away from Stuke (rear). Stuke’s not having it

The win went to Stuke, the judges announced. As both cars drove away, I let out a breath I didn’t know I was holding.

A breath I soon held again as Micah and Pablo lined back up onto the start line. Both cars shot off the line, wheelspin and minor slides on the bank aplenty as they charged into the bank. Pablo bit at Micah’s heels as they went through the bank, getting as close as three lengths before the first transition. The distance only grew smaller and smaller as they went through the course; almost as if Pablo wanted to deliver a message saying, ‘no matter how much power you put down, I’ll be there’. As Micah kept the throttle controlled on the bank, Pablo had no issues with pushing the limits, gaining precious distance through the last corner; yet carrying so much momentum he had to correct a slide after the finish line.

Micah Diaz puts the power down in the final corner, using his passenger window to navigate.

My heart was beating in my throat as they lined up again. Both cars shot off in a similar manner, however, I noticed something was amiss even before the first transition: Micah didn’t gain as much distance as Pablo did in the bank section of the first run. Chewing on my cheek, I leveled my camera, yet kept my other eye open to watch just what was going on. Throughout the course, Pablo kept stealing yards of distance away from the white E46: entries, apexes, exits; they all belonged to the green S13.

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