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Formula Drift Seattle Recap

Category : Events

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(Special thanks to Chris Campbell for the photos in this post.)

Evergreen Speedway is probably my favorite track in the Formula D schedule, so I was looking forward to heading out to round 5. Evergreen demands the fastest speeds, in drift, of any other track I’ve ever driven on, so every run is exciting and challenging. Since my car will be staying out west for the remainder of the season, extra preparation was necessary in terms of maintenance and packing spares. In addition to the maintenance, I adjusted the alignment and suspension to what we ended up with last year at Seattle. Other than that and repairs to the rear crash bar, there were no changes to the car after round 4.

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After arriving to the track on Thursday, we cleaned up the car and unpacked in preparation for the 4-hour paid practice session. The plan in practice was to get comfortable with the track again for qualifying the next day but keep the car clean and free of damage. The practice session was a bit frustrating. At first, I couldn’t find a good reference point for coming off the bank. It’s hard to see the outer course line in the power alley while speeding through the bank, so it’s difficult to know when to back off the throttle.

After several runs, I had a good feel where to come off, but since the practice was held in the evening, the sun was starting to come down and obstructing my view. There’s basically about a second of blindness coming into the power alley where the sun is in your eyes, so I was just guessing at where the outer course line was located until I was out of the sun and able to see it. It didn’t help that the starter was sending cars rapidly, which was keeping a lot of smoke on the track and making it dangerous with cars spinning out and stopping on the track. I got through practice and had a clear idea of what I needed to improve for Friday to get a good qualifying run.

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On Friday, I had a great practice session, worked my way up high on the bank wall, and really nailed the course on my last two runs. With the sun directly overhead and extra banners/course markers added at the end of the bank, it was much easier to find reference points to use. I was feeling confident for qualifying. In my first qualifying run, I initiated into the bank and everything felt good, but as I started to come off the bank, it felt like the track had lost a lot of grip. My car washed out wider than normal, and I was just trying to hold on to it and not hit the wall. I managed to keep it together, but I dropped my left rear tire over the off-course line, which was a big deduction. The rest of the run was decent, and I scored a 76.5.

At the end of the first round of qualifying, I was sitting in 17th place, just barely missing the cutoff to lock myself into the first 16 spots. Therefore, I would need to make a second run. On the next run, I tried to do the same thing but backed off a little early coming off the bank to avoid going wide like my first run. It wasn’t an amazing run but was clean with no mistakes. I scored 83, which placed me in 22nd position after everyone had finished their second runs. I would be going against Chris Forsberg in Top 32.

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After watching videos of some of my runs and thinking about the behavior of the car, I was questioning whether the differential was locking properly. It just seemed like it was going to rev limiter a bit too easy and overall just didn’t feel stable on the bank. We jacked the car up and tried to spin the rear wheels in opposite directions. While there was some resistance, it felt like it was way easier than it should be, although we had no way to tell how it was actually locking under torque. We decided to stick with it unless it got worse and try to make the car feel more natural on the bank with suspension adjustments.

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Since we would be battling one of the fastest cars, the plan was just to add as much grip to the car as I could stand without straightening on the bank. Throughout Friday night practice and Saturday Top 32 practice, we continuously made changes to make the car faster. We adjusted the camber, toe, tire pressures, and ended up removing the rear sway bar. The car was pretty difficult to drive on the bank at this point because it was right on the edge of straightening, but we had to do that to have a chance at keeping up with Forsberg.

In the top 32 battle, I was following first. Forsberg rolled off the line, and I tried to time my acceleration to be able to keep up with him when he went full throttle. We got to full throttle at about the same time, but of course, he made a car length gap toward the end of the straight as we initiated due to the power difference. I tried to initiate as late as possible to keep the gap to a minimum. I followed him relatively well and maintained the gap with no mistakes except for a bit of a correction around the last clipping point.

The second run was pretty straightforward. I just did my best, entered as fast as possible, had a slight correction on entry but didn’t straighten, tapped the wall coming off the bank, and completed the run. It was probably one of my better lead runs of the weekend, so I was happy with that. However, Forsberg was able to follow pretty well, so he got the win.

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Overall, it was a good weekend. I drove well, and I was happy with the team being able to adjust the car to get it near its limit. I’m looking forward to Texas as it’s a flat track, and low power should not be as big of a handicap.

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