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Formula Drift Atlanta Recap

Category : Events

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After a decent start to the season, qualifying for Top 32 in my first visit to Long Beach, I was looking forward to going to Atlanta. I drove in Atlanta in 2012, so it was nice returning to a track where I’ve competed before. Unfortunately, things didn’t get off to a good start on Thursday. My car arrived to the track just as practice was starting, and we were in a hurry to get everything unloaded and prepare the car to go out on track because I wanted to get as much practice as possible. I finally made it on track about 20 minutes into the session. I guess I wasn’t in the right mindset to drive after rushing to get stuff ready. On my first lap, I was following and decided it was a good idea to drive through a bunch of smoke on the last turn of the track. I ended up going too wide and into the grass tapping the wall on the exit. It wasn’t that hard of a hit, and I kept the front of the car out of the wall, but the rear got pretty bent up. Since it was all cosmetic and didn’t damage any suspension parts, I just kept driving.

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I got better throughout the practice session and was feeling relatively comfortable. I was just working on getting a more aggressive flick into the first turn, getting closer on the outside clipping zones at the top of the hill, and trying to make some more smoke.

On Friday, there was another practice session before qualifying. I tried to run the first two practice laps as if they were mock qualifying runs, but they turned out shaky. I was running well by the end of practice but wasn’t feeling too confident on throwing down a perfect run right off the bat.

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Qualifying came around. We raised the tire pressures a bit since the track seemed grippier as the sun went down. The first run was looking pretty good, but I was struggling to stay sideways in some spots since the track had even more grip than I anticipated. As I was coming out of the horseshoe, I shifted up to fourth gear. Unfortunately, lifting off the throttle to make the shift caused me to straighten for a second, which gave me a zero score for the first run. The second run was pretty similar to the first except I made the upshift clean and completed the course. I got a 72.4 for the second run, which put me in 21st place.

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I would be going against Forrest Wang in top 32. In Friday night top 32 practice, I was noticing it was getting harder to disengage the clutch. I had installed a new master cylinder before this event, and it seemed like it wasn’t bled completely. I drove through it since it was a short practice and managed to put down a few decent runs.

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On Saturday morning, we bled the clutch, and it was feeling a lot better. In top 32 practice, my crew helped me line up with Forrest on the grid so I could practice following him. Forrest was running consistent and pretty quick. I rolled off the line at the same time as him in practice, and he got 1-2 car lengths on me by the initiation point, so I knew I would have to jump the start in top 32 to keep up. Due to a lot of breakdowns and track sweeping, I only got a few runs in that practice session, so it wasn’t too helpful.

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In top 32, Forrest and I were waiting on grid for our turn to run, and about one battle before ours, it started drizzling. By the time we were on the line to run, my windshield was covered with drops, but it didn’t seem like it would be wet enough to affect grip significantly. I would be following first, so I jumped the light a split second before Forrest left. Things got weird, and he hadn’t passed me halfway down the straight, so I had to breathe the throttle a bit to let him go by. He initiated a bit too late and ended up going way wide on the first inner clip and almost going off track. I initiated normally and was on the clip properly, but I had to wait for him to get going because he slowed down significantly to keep from going off track. By the time he got going again, I was going way too slow and couldn’t light up the tires in fourth gear to make it up the hill. I had to straighten and re-initiate.

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I thought I would have a big advantage at this point since Forrest made a significant mistake and caused me to straighten. When we lined up for the second run, Forrest gave me a hand signal that he washed out wide, so I was feeling even more confident that it was an obvious mistake, and I should have the advantage. My lead run was normal, nothing exciting but no mistakes. From what I was told, Forrest was a little way back most of the run except closing in at the horseshoe.

I thought I should have the win, or at least a one more time since I didn’t know how Forrest did following me. We waited for what seemed like five minutes to get the decision, and they gave Forrest the win.

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We protested the decision and went to talk to the judges. Basically, they were saying that Forrest was good on the first clip and washed out a little wide, so it wasn’t that big of a mistake, and I should have been able to follow. After watching the replay, we confirmed that Forrest was actually way off the clip. But they said there was enough gap between us that I should have been able to adjust and not lose drift. After going back and forth with the judges and Ryan for about 20 minutes, it was clear that the arguing was pointless. So we packed up and watched the rest of the show. I’m happy with the progress we have made from last year. I was able to qualify solidly in the top 32 this time and put up a good fight in tandem competition.

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