Formula Drift has returned to the great northwest!
The early morning of the day one of Formula Drift Seattle was overcast and chilly in typical northwest fashion. This gave the track and pits the kind of peace and stillness that a foggy morning on a meadow has. This was until the roaring sounds of 1000 horsepower beasts engulfed the pits. The first day of FD is typically a much slower-paced day than the main event. It’s just practice and qualifying itself followed by the autograph session.
The morning practice session went off mostly without incident. The top guys looked strong from the start – putting their rear bumpers nearly to the wall of the 5/8th’s bank all the way around. A few were brave enough to put them literally on the touch and go middle clip during practice. It seemed that the recently paved inner section of the Evergreen Speedway track was giving a few drivers some challenge since there was a noticeable difference in grip between the old tarmac of the bank and the new inner section. The only major incident of practice came when Justin Pawlak over-rotated at this clipping point which caused Alec Hohnadell to spin backwards into the K-Rail blocks. This definitely woke up the media standing in the path. His car appeared to only have body damage but was still towed off track. Hohnadell was able to get his car repaired in time for qualifying.
The judges must have put extra emphasis on the bank this year. When qualifying competition came around, it seemed like every driver was pushing harder and harder to stick their car’s bumper on the wall for as long as possible. This meant that their initial line extended well into the beer garden location at the end of the bank before the transition to the infield. This extra effort got the best of some drivers as it pushed some them off track, caused them to drop tires, or impact the wall. Matt Field had a sizeable impact that tore off most of the rear bodywork of his Corvette. Luckily, he had already received a good enough score on his first run to qualify 12th.
32 drivers were competing in qualifying. This meant that if each driver finished qualifying with a clean run, they would be in the Top 32 tomorrow. Unfortunately, Forest Wang received an incomplete due to engine issues and Austin Meeks zeroed out by going off track.
Kristaps Blušs, ever the crowd pleaser, drove two amazing runs earning him a second place finish in qualifying. With the precision we’ve come to expect, Piotr Więcek and James Deane earned impressive scores of 96 and 93 on their first runs. Amazingly, Piotr tapped the wall coming off the bank in his second run and I thought he was going to stall out. Fortunately, he was able to hold onto his drift and complete the rest of the run. And in a very un-robotic-like fashion, Deane smashed his trunk into the touch and go clipping point. This must have impressed the judges though, since they awarded him a 94, besting his first run and earning him a 4th place qualifying spot.
When the smoke settled, the top qualifiers were:
Piotr Więcek: 96
Kristaps Blušs: 95
Justin Pawlak: 95
James Deane: 94
Walking back through the pits to the autograph session, I was met with a cacophony of sounds. From the buzzing of tools, revving of engines, laughter of children, energy drinks cracking open, and Michael Jackson’s ‘Bad‘ playing in one of the pits, I couldn’t help but smile. What a silly AWESOME sport. I can’t wait to see what shenanigans are in store for tomorrow at Throwdown at Formula Drift Seattle 2018.
See below for the official Top 32 bracket.