Formula Drift Seattle: Automotive Heaven

Walking passed a sea of beautifully and not-so-beautifully modified cars with owners that only wished they could be out on the track drifting right now, my excitement bubbled. This was my first live Formula Drift event. As I neared the gates, the sounds of the tires screaming and roaring engines rose out from the stadium like the muffled cheers of a Roman Coliseum. Crossing the dim stadium threshold and emerging trackside, I was instantly and aggressively greeted by two howling, turbo charged, AND nitrous boosted V8s sliding passed the stands transforming rubber into clouds. It was a maxium attack on my senses. My ears barraged by the sounds of the cars, the cheering fans, and the announcer on the loudspeaker. My nose infiltrated by the bittersweet aroma of shredded rubber, burnt gasoline, and that hot dog stand over there. My body pounding from the reverbating thunder of 1,800 horsepowers charging around the track. This was automotive heaven. 

The most memorable thing about the event was the atmosphere. I had watched drifting many times on TV or on Youtube videos, so I more or less knew what to expect from the actual drifting. But what you don't get watching it on a screen is the pungent smells, the saturation of sounds, the buzzing crowds, and the thunder thumping you in your chest. It's fantastically overwhelming. I remembering jokingly saying that "This is what a nature documentary would sound like if car guys made it instead of David Attenborough, just screeching tires and screaming engines."  

Despite the rave like setting, the drift community can be surprisingly intiment. You are free to walk around the paddock area, getting up close with the crews as they frantically hustle in controlled chaos to prepare (or repair) the car for the next run. More often than not, someone on the crew was happy to stop for a moment and chat with you about the car, the run, how the day was going overall -- or if you were lucky, give out a free piece of broken car or a spent bald tire. How many other motorsports allow you to get this close with the drivers and crews? Maybe just Rally Racing and that's about it. Being able to hear and smell the cars drifting around the track at ridiculous angles and proximities to the track walls while being in the paddock and vendor areas simply added to the entire atmosphere of the event. 

This dynamic is what made this event feel so special. This huge collective of people was brought together for one soul purpose: the love of cars. Yes, there were the bros, the racers, the engineers, the gamers, the rednecks, and yes even women (who probably dragged their boyfriend to this event). And yet there was no animosity, not judgment; just a tire shredding celebration of speed and style. It was automotive heaven.

(And let's face it, what's cooler than the racing world equivalent of sychronized figure skating?) 

((And yes, it's Seattle after all. But that wasn't until the very end, so good ol' mother nature was looking out for our sideway hoonery.))

Evergreen Drift Pro Am Round 1

It's spring time in the Northwest and the sweet smell of burnt rubber and tire slaying smoke is in the air. April 19th marked Round 1 of the Pro Am Drift series, which saw as drivers compete for points towards a coveted license into the Formula Drift Pro 2 series.

The final battle came down to grassroots driver, Tyler Campbell, and Pro Am driver, Brandon Schmidt. Tyler had been the favorite all day having placed 1st  in qualifying with his V8 powered Toyota Corolla AE86. Brandon's minor bobble in his V8 powered Nissan 240sx during qualifying landed him in 7th for the start of the competition. Undeterred, Brandon fought hard climbing the ranks back up to the final battle for 1st.

In the end, Tyler came out on top after laying down an impressive leading run. With his 2nd place podium at his first Pro Am Drift event, Brandon now sits as points leader in the chase for the Formula Drift Pro 2 license. 

I caught up with Brandon after the event. He had this to say about how Round 1 unfolded. 

"It was a great start to the season absolutely! I came into things hoping to go as far as I could in the competition with my sights set on a podium finish. And that ended up being exactly what I got. I finished second with a close battle keeping me from first. Overall, I am pleased with the day and the result. It was a fun day with a ton of great battles and great driving from all the drivers. It's a long season but it's definitely a great start to it. I'm excited to try to carry this momentum and see where it goes!" - Brandon

There was amazing talent on display for this sunny first round of the Pro Am season. Best of luck to Tyler, Brandon and  all the drivers!

Click through the gallery below for photos of all the action. Video coverage will be up shortly.