Formula Drift is like a college party. It starts out a bit slow; people start showing up slowly; there is the smell of anticipation in the air. Then almost in an instant there's a smoke machine, light show, and people dancing to the raging music. Everyone is intoxicated from something and then some how you wake up at your house on your floor covered in sweat, crumbs in your hair, and suffocating on your own dry mouth. This is what the 3 days of Formula Drift were like for me. This was my first time being on the other side of the fence as a member of the esteemed media brigade. 3 days of: 7am starts; 100+ degree heat; fire smoke from Canada; 1000hp screaming engines; shredded tire smoke and rubber chunks covering you from head to toe. And I loved every second of it! (Except for the 100+ degree it. Even my farmer's sun hat and cool towel couldn't save me from that misery).
In the media trenches, it's hard to view the overall lay of the land and gain a clear image of the drivers' runs as a whole like you might get from being high up in the stands. But what you do get is one of the most visceral experiences of your life. Tucked away behind our concrete barriers we were able to get experience the rush of wind and smoke storming off the cars as they slid by just feet from where we stood. Our ears rang (even with ear plugs). And rubber crumbs stuck to our faces and our lenses. I have been close to racing cars before, thanks to my time spent at DirtFish. But this was on another level. Think what you will of Drifting as a motorsport, this experience proved to me why Formula Drift and drifting as motorsport is becoming one of the most popular spectator events in America.
Formula Drift Seattle at Evergreen Speedway in Monroe is round 6 of the Pro series and round 3 of the Pro 2 series. Without a doubt, this stop proved to showcase the highest level of driving from the Pro drivers and Pro 2 drivers alike. Dare I say, the Pro 2 competition eclipsed the Pro competition in terms of exciting battles. It's a shame more people didn't fill the stands for the Pro 2 main event. Regardless, Pro 2 at FD Seattle proved why the series needs Pro 2 and why more fans need to start paying attention to these well-deserved drivers.
A majority of the top drivers in Pro 2 call this venue their home track. They felt the pressure to defend their home turf. Travis Reeder, Matt Vankirk, Brody Goble, and Brandon Schmidt are the home town heroes. He may have been a newcomer to Formula Drift Pro 2, but Dylan Hughes is a familiar face in the community having won the US Drift ProAm Championship and crewing for Chris Forsberg. He was the wild card of this event. Dirk Stratton was the other wild card of the event being the outsider and having qualified 1st. His 'driftvette' was a beast on the track, prompting Kristaps Bluss to comment that it had to be the best drift car in the Pro2 field. Given the pseudo spec class of Pro 2 and the less developed programs of the drivers, the battles were daunting and thrashed. Almost every driver had to fight through a One More Time. Dylan Hughes ran the equivalent of two events having a One More Time almost every battle of his event. All these One More Times speak to the level of driving skill that Pro 2 has now risen to. When the smoke had finally settled late in the night, Matt Vankirk earned 1st beating out Dylan Hughes. Dylan had ran out of tires after so many OMT battles forcing him to borrow tires he had never driven on from Travis Reeder. Dirk Stratton qualifying 1st earned himself 3rd place.
The main event was more surgical but that's not to say there weren't surprises and upsets. One of the funnest battles and biggest surprises was between Jhonnattan Castro and Chris Forsberg. Castro has earned a reptuation of knocking on doors and slaying giants this season. That's just what he did after a One More Time with Forsberg.
Pacific Northwest local star, Matt Coffman went to war against Latvian tank, Kristaps Bluss. Their battle was a dichotomy of styles that clashed with explosive nature. Bluss is a tank, if a tank could drive at 80mph+ sideways. Aggresive, provocative, and intimidating. Coffman is smoother and more precise. Their unique styles clashed multiple times in a showcase the fans loved. Not to be out done, arguably the most anticipated battle of the night was between professional fun haver, Vaughn Gittin Jr, and his padawan, Chelsea DeNofa. With their cars being virtually identical, it was down to their individual skills and who was willing to push that 'X Factor.' I have to admit, these two mustangs are probably my favorite builds out there (and not just because they haven't fixed their suspesion 3-wheeling it all the time). They're rowdy! I have never seen a crowd get as electric as they did for this battle. I'm pretty sure the whole stadium was on their feet. The Ballet of DeNofa versus Gittin Jr. Like a choreographed dance, their slides, transitions, and proximity were in precise harmony. After a One More Time, DeNofa, who was once but the learner, had become the master defeating his boss man.
The final battle was a familiar story. (Familiar, not boring). James Deane battled the Norwegian Hammer, Fredric Aasbo. Their battle featured the tenacity and precision that we have come to expect from them. It was thrilling to finally witness Deane's ferocious skills first hand. The battle was so close that even the judges couldn't be unanimous in their decision. Ultimately, Deane solidified his domination of the series taking the win here in Seattle. Your top 3 winners were James Deane, Fredric Aasbo, and Odi Bakchis.
Despite the apocalyptic temperatures (for Seattle) and the hazy smoke from Canada, Formula Drift Seattle was a massive spectacle, a showcase of driver talent and relentless persistence in the face of worthy adversaries. After 3 days of competition, just like those college parties of years ago, you could tell every one had a wild cracking good time but were hung over as shit from the exhaustion of battle and heat. Nothing a cold one at the end of the day can't fix, mind you.
Gallery of Photos from the Event Below: