With round-4 of the Formula Drift Pro-2 Championship behind us, I’m flying back off to work tonight reflecting on the “season that could have been”. I know you’re supposed to only look forward but I think you have to recognize both the good and the bad of the past season so that you can grow as both a person and as a team.
After missing Texas due to mechanical/oiling failure before we even left the shop, with the continued great support of Comp Turbo, we got our drivers-side turbo back in A-1 condition and triple-checked everything related to the induction/oil system to make sure there would not be a repeat “offenders”. The amazing staff at 42 Autosports again came to the rescue with some long hours and top-quality expertise to help get the car back and ready for more dyno-tests and tuning.
Our tuners Adam and Steven of 42 Autosports got the car working even better that it had run all year and we loaded it up bound for Southwestern dessert. With my very busy work schedule still in full swing, I flew in from California, drove straight to the shop where Devin and I got the trailer packed as full as possible carrying everything but the kitchen sink.
Leaving out of Charlotte early Tuesday morning gave me 2 ½ days to make it to Chandler, AZ and the Wild Horse Pass Raceway. Not exactly the kind of trip you want to make by yourself but I knew that it was doable as long as I didn’t sleep too much along the way and I didn’t have any truck or trailer issues. Lol, yeah right!
The first day went pretty well as I was able to knock down just over 1000-miles putting me somewhere in western Oklahoma. The second day however started off with a bang, literally. I lost 1-trailer tire in the early morning, had to stop and get a full set of brake pads on the truck in Amarillo, TX (I hate metal to metal sounds) and blew another trailer tire at approx.. 10pm somewhere near Albuqurque, NM… Fun day!
With the second blown tire, I had to call it quits for the night and knew if I got an early start, I’d still be ok getting to Chandler by noon. The morning rain figured to help keep the tires cool and things were going good as I made the scenic mountainous run from Holbrook down towards Phoenix. By mid morning the rain had stopped, my new truck brakes did their job keeping me from flying off a cliff through the mountain passes and all was good… right up until I got down to the valley floor and “bang”, another trailer tire up in smoke! Now I had about 40-minutes let to go and I was down to my very last spare tire. What stress? So now at a blazing speed of 50mph, I crawled ever so slowly into the racetrack, 5-mins ahead of schedule.
This would be Formula D’s first visit to Wild Horse and everyone was excited to check out the track layout. At first glance, it didn’t look like much in terms of corners but the speed of the track was going to be pretty high. That and unfortunately, the pavement was as rough as a cheese-grader so all the teams were questioning as to weather they brought enough tires or not?
All questions were quickly answered as our first practice session got underway. Yes the track was fast, yes it was going to be really hard on tires and yes, it would be far more challenging than first thought. For us and our DVM Cobra Mustang, the track seemed to work pretty well. The engine was running great with Steven keeping his eye on it’s every move and I tried to remember how to drift a 900+HP car on a narrow track with a tire-wall just begging to grab ahold of you. I could tell I was more than a little rusty haven’t not driven a healthy drift-car since May but I kept working things out lap by lap and by the end of the second practice session, was beginning to feel better about things.
We had one more practice session on Friday afternoon and for the most part, I was feeling good about my lines. I knew I had to keep my entry-speed into turn-1 up and if I did that, the rest of the track flowed pretty well for me. Devin kept an eye on the tires, Steven was watching over the engine data and my (new for this event) spotter Kevin White was trying to help me work out the kinks in my lines. I made one last practice run, figured ok that should do it and got myself ready for the 2 separate laps of Qualifying.
Again, knowing I had to really charge turn-1, when I pulled to the start line, I focused on getting a lightening start. I guess I really did because I got down to turn-1 faster than I had in any of my practice laps and nearly ran off the track on the outside of the left hand-sweep. This unfortunately put me in a bad spot for the first inside clip, that now in retrospect I should have blown-off but I tried my best to get down to it. This move then put me late for the next clip and way too far to the left as I went down into the “power alley”. As I came around the corner, I “soft-pedaled” the throttle to try and regain my placement on the track but my super-sticky Achilles tires hooked-up (like they’re supposed to do) and pointed the car straight towards the outside wall. At that point, it was absolutely everything I could do to get the car pointed back left and away from the tire-wall that would collect more than a few cars over the weekend. This major “save” turned out to be pretty ugly and though I’ve not seen any video of it yet, I guess, gave the judges no choice but to “zero out” that run.
Now for those of you that are avid followers of drifting know, all the cars line up 1-by-1 to make their first qualifying run. Then once everyone has gone, you line back up to take your second shot at it. Normally, if you get your first pass into the books with a decent score, this isn’t really a big deal. You go at your second lap a little harder and whichever lap scores higher, that’s the one that counts. If however, you mess up your first lap (as I did), the time between your first and second attempt feels like an eternity and now you pull to the line with a thousand thoughts racing through your head knowing this next single lap has to be good or your event and weekend is over right then and there. Oh but wait, there’s more. With us missing Orlando due to the engine laying-down and then the car not making it out of pre-event testing for Texas, that meant I was in a really bad points position for the year and this last lap here in Arizona would be a make or break situation for my entire year… Yeah, no big deal…
Well, I wish there was a happy ending to this story but like the Football Field Goal Kicker that gets a “time out” called on him by the opposing team right before he attempts to kick the ball with the entire game on the line. I effectively “iced” myself with that first bad lap and while I managed to get through the second lap and score a 71, it took a score of 74 to make the show and we were out… Basically, I just got “tight”, ran too conservatively and didn’t let the car do its job, In drifting, you simply cannot drive conservatively, that’s not this sport. It’s wide-a#% open, foot to the floor, hang on for dear life and pray you’re going to make it all the way around the track without sticking the car through the fence! As hard as it is to say here, I just didn’t drive my best and I missed my marks.
Our sport of drifting, even at the Pro-2 level has gotten to the point where you can’t show up to an event without being 100% in the car’s preparation or in your own “freshness” as a driver. As I’ve said in earlier posts, these last two seasons have been a real struggle for us at DVM and unfortunately, I simply haven’t been able to “drift” as much as I need too to stay in front of the other teams like in years past. Every team/driver in the Formula Drift paddock has gotten exponentially better and for a variety of reasons, we just have not been able to keep up and this week it bit us really hard. This week, we finally had the car running at full-song thanks to it being mechanically healthy and by being able to give our engine tuner Steven the proper amount of time to really work his “magic” on the dyno. The car was the fastest it has ever been and though it’s hard to admit, I was simply too rusty to be able to take advantage of its amazing capabilities. This one is on me and no one else. My team did an amazing job and gave me a car that was fully capable of getting it done!
So now what you ask? Well, that’s a fair question. My friend asked me last night, this very thing adding, why do I put myself though all of this effort and sacrifice? What’s my “end game”? My answer was quick as it’s really an easy one… I simply love drifting! Sure, “proper road racing” and other forms of motorsport are fun too but I’m telling you, there is nothing like launching a car this powerful down into a corner that you know you might not make it through, grabbing a hand-full of E-brake, pitching the car completely sideways and then burying the Throttle so hard that your spinning rear tires are the only thing that is keeping you from knocking the outside wall down! In a way, it really is a bit un-nerving and yet when you get it just right, is as simple as walking across the street. A crowded NY City street at rush-hour mind you but a street non the less…
So between now and the end of the year, we’ll try and find some “fun events” to go to, so that I can truly remind myself how much fun this car is to drive. Like all the other sports teams in the world that haven’t had the season they wanted, we’ll regroup, work on future marketing plans that will get our group of amazing supporters and sponsors the ROI they need and look forward to 2017 with anxious anticipation. Right now I’ve got a bit of a black eye but that too will fade. We know in our heart-of-hearts, we’ve won before and we can win again. I just have to make sure we have all of the tools we need to succeed in 2017. That means a busy trade-show season and a lot of effort to find the funding we need to keep up with the other teams in the paddock.
Motorsports at any level is a tough business and if you’re going to be in it for the long-haul, you have to know that some season’s you’re going to be The Champ and some season’s you’re going to want to forget… Today I’m feeling like all those other teams did the years I won so many events and championships. Like you have to do, I’ll keep my head up, take comfort in knowing we ended the season with an amazingly fast car, be eternally grateful to my sponsors that have stuck with me through thick and thin and focus on bringing this program back to the front of the pack where DVM belongs…
Thanks for taking the time to read this and I’ll talk to you again real soon…