Posted by Armin H. Ausejo
After what seemed like a rather long and dreary winter hiatus, Formula DRIFT made its triumphant return to the Streets of Long Beach last weekend. The sold-out, standing room only crowd cheered on Formula DRIFT’s largest driver pool to date, including 19 rookies, the largest rook field of any season as well.
Written by Armin H. Ausejo – Photos by Kyle Pope and Andy Krzyzanowski
The anticipation and excitement was very high for all of the Formula DRIFT drivers representing the Northwest: Kyle Pollard, Mike Phillips, Roland Gallagher, Ian Fournier, Peter Funatake, Andrew Coomes, and of course last year’s fan favorite Walker Wilkerson. The sheer number of Northwest-rooted drivers speaks volumes for the local drift scene and the overall quality of drivers from the area.
Unfortunately, despite very good efforts from each of the local drivers, none of them were able to qualify into the Top 32. Walker Wilkerson had a new car and motor to get used to, which ultimately prevented him from running at 100%. Mike Phillips was involved in the first major crash of the season, where his front wheels were described as going in “two different directions on initiation.” To add to the first race jitters and random anomalies, freshly paved areas of the Long Beach course this year provided a challenging change in grip levels for nearly all drivers, resulting in what was described by some drivers as switching from ice to sandpaper.
After all of the smoke cleared, Justin Pawlak in the Falken Tire Ford Mustang stood atop Long Beach’s podium for the second year in a row, edging out Daijiro Yoshihara in the America’s Tire / Falken Nissan 240SX, and Formula DRIFT rookie Daigo Saito took the last podium spot in the Achilles Tires / Bridges Racing Lexus SC430. We hoped for better luck from the Northwest drivers in the season opener, but hopefully all the kinks will be worked out before Round 2 at Road Atlanta on May 11-12. Until then, please enjoy our great coverage by NWMotiv photographers Kyle Pope and Andy Krzyzanowski and videographer Loren Haleston (coming soon!).