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Formula Drift Long Beach Recap

Category : Events

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I was pretty excited to start the 2013 season and especially to go to Long Beach for the first time since I missed this round in 2012. Unfortunately, there’s no Thursday practice at Long Beach, and I wouldn’t be allowed to drive at Media Day, so it was somewhat stressful having to learn the course in 1.5 hours of practice and qualify for top 32 on the same day. I flew in on Tuesday night to get the car through tech early and make sure there was time to fix any issues. The car didn’t get to the track until Wednesday night, so Wednesday was spent relaxing and checking out the track. The car went through tech inspection on Thursday morning without any issues, so we were set to go for Friday practice and qualifying.

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In my first lap on the track, I was surprised how much grip it had for a parking lot. I went a lot faster on my next few laps and started getting the rhythm of the course. I guess with everyone always talking about the walls and how scary the track is, I was kind of nervous about it, but it turned out to be a lot more straightforward than what I expected. The tough part was just having the right line and speed under the bridge to make it out to the main outer zone in front of the judges without any corrections or e-braking. There’s also a temptation to transition too early under the bridge, which messes up your line, so I worked on forcing myself to transition late. I kept it conservative in practice so I wouldn’t damage the car. I had no spare parts due to some shipping complications so I was focused on staying off the walls.

Formula D Rd.1 Streets of Long Beach 2013

At the end of practice, I was feeling pretty good about qualifying. The car’s grip/power/gearing was matched well for the track also, so I could floor it all the way from the first turn to the bridge, then lift for a second, then full throttle all the way to the hairpin, which was helping make some smoke and keep the speed up. It’s kind of fun when you’re at full throttle and all you have to worry about is steering! From my experience last year, I learned that I need to just run 100% in both qualifying runs and hope one of them is good enough. There’s no point in trying a conservative run.

Formula D Rd.1 Streets of Long Beach 2013

Waiting for my first run, I could see that Dennis Mertzanis just hit the tire wall in the run before mine, and maybe that got in my head a little, wondering if there was possibly something on the track. I ended up taking it a bit too easy into the first turn and didn’t make it out to the first wall, which probably hurt my score a lot. I concentrated on transitioning late under the bridge but actually did it too late. I had half the car outside of the groove but got on throttle and just barely missed the tire wall filling up the outer zone in front of the judges pretty well. I finished out the rest of the course with no problems. The crowd was into it because it looked like I was going to wreck, but it wasn’t what the judges were looking for, so I scored a 63.8.

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At the end of everyone’s first run, I think I was sitting around 20th, so I would have to make another run. On the second run, I just flicked it too hard under the bridge and basically stopped, trying not to spin. I tried to keep it going but couldn’t get the motor revved up fast enough to make it look fluid so pretty much straightened out in the middle of the course. Somehow, I scored slightly higher on that run with a 65, or at least that’s what I was told. At the end of the session, that put me in 28th. I would be going against Kenny Moen in top 32.

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That night, I got more comfortable with the track in the top 32 practice. Unfortunately, Moen had an issue with his car, so I didn’t get to practice with him, and I had no idea how fast he was. The practice went alright but seemed like everyone I followed was either ridiculously fast or so slow that I couldn’t follow them. There was a huge variance in speeds, and I didn’t get any decent follow runs.

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The next morning, there was another top 32 practice. It was overcast and was drizzling slightly. I had much less grip than the previous day, and we went down on air pressures a decent amount to get some grip back. I still didn’t get a chance to practice with Moen, so we were basically left to guess how much grip to put in the car. We left it at a medium level, hopefully fast enough to keep up but also loose enough not to straighten everywhere in case Moen was slower than I expected.

Formula D Rd.1 Streets of Long Beach 2013

I warmed up my tires for the top 32 run and noticed some brake fluid on the floor of the car leaking from the clutch master. So I was hoping we could hurry up a bit! We lined up at the light, and I left the line just a bit ahead of Moen. It was looking good halfway down the straight until we got into the next gear and he pulled about a car-length lead on me. At that point, I was just trying to catch up, but the car didn’t have enough grip to gain any ground, so he had a big lead on me the whole time. On my lead run, I knew I wouldn’t get a gap on him so I went slow and used more angle than usual to see if I could cause him to make a mistake. He almost straightened but managed to hold it together, and the judges gave him the win.

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Overall, the weekend wasn’t too bad. I was somewhat worried that I would be pretty rusty driving because I haven’t driven the car in about 6 months, but it all came back, and I had a blast!

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