Continuing on the “multi-part” theme, we pick-up the season as the team prepped itself for Atlanta, Georgia….
After the test at VIR the DVM Mustang was back in the shop where the boys completed the updates needed for their next event, which would be the second round of the Formula D championship at Road Atlanta Raceway. This would be Doug’s third “crack” at this hilly circuit and with mixed experiences the past two year’s, the team was determined to get a good result. The team would be tested once more. After a good day and a half of testing, a drivetrain “gremlin” would pop-up and force Doug to use only 2nd gear for his qualifying run. “I normally shift up to 3rd gear coming back down the hill but I just couldn’t risk it under these circumstances.” VDB said. “I hate to have the turn the motor as hard as we did, but luckily our Kenny Troutman built engine that’s Pro-Dyno tuned, once again survived the abuse and we were able to qualify 18th today”. Doug added. Right after qualifying Friday the team spent the evening on their collective backs replacing the offending components and by 9PM Doug was back in his seat running the car through it’s gears.
After a good nights rest, the team was back at it Saturday morning double checking their “in the dark” handy-work from the night before. Being that Atlanta is so close to home, the DVM crew had a lot of support from fans and friends that came down from North Carolina for the event. “This year we seemed to quadruple our support up in the grandstands”. Doug said. “It was really cool seeing everyone there and I was truly overwhelmed by the amount of well-wishers we had this year. They really did inspire me to push harder and give them something to cheer about. It’s a very humbling experience to have so many people pulling for you. I’ve never felt that level of positive energy from the crowd before and I can tell you I was really taken aback….” VDB concluded.
Once Saturday morning practice concluded, Doug lined up for (what most people didn’t know) his first Formula Drift tandem competition and from the qualifying order on Friday, he would be paired up against fellow “privateer” Joon Maeng. One of the interesting things about drifting is that for the most part, the competitors are truly friends with each other. So much so that while the battle was set between Doug and Joon, the two drivers (who have shared hotel rooms while at other events) were more focused on doing there best for their teams, not trying to hinder each other like you would in other motorsports events.
The two up and coming drivers were very well matched with Joon having slightly more experience. On the first run Joon led with Doug latching onto his rear bumper. Through turns 1, 2 and 3 there was less than half a car separating the two drivers. Going up into the “P” section of the track Joon threw his Nissan a little too hard and as he gathered it up his car unfortunately lost some of it’s forward momentum. This “stall” in forward progress forced Doug to make a split second decision: a) run into the back of Joon (bad option), b) turn underneath Joon and maintain his own momentum or c) check-up just enough to give Joon the extra time he needed while at the same time scrub just enough speed off the Mustang so he could fall-in behind Joon as they came down the hill. Now most everyone who knows Doug, knows that he has made a career of winning races by driving underneath other drivers if they mistakenly slipped high up into a corner. So when Joon slipped, Doug’s instincts took over and he filled the hole that Joon had left open up his inside. The crowd went crazy as the two drivers approached the apex of the “P” literally door to door. Unfortunately, there was not quite enough room and the two cars touched ever so lightly. This caused Joon to slide out wide and Doug passed him remembering that passing the other driver is not necessarily the goal in drifting.
“This years event in ATL was good for us all I think”. Doug said. “It was good that the car worked well and it was good that I drove the car very close to its potential. I believe this performance is simply further proof to what I’ve been saying all along; you’ve simply got to be in the car on a regular basis and be fresh and well rested come time for the event. The demos that I’ve been doing for Ford, the tests at VIR, even the laps in Skip Barbers Formula and MX5 cars I did a couple of weeks ago at VIR all contributed to me being properly prepared this weekend. Add to that the help I got getting the car ready from Jason, Darrell and Ira back at the shop. It all helped. Now I just have to find a way to keep all this moving forward so we can build on this success.” Van Den Brink concluded.
On the second run, Doug laid down a smoke screen of Falken rubber that would make any “crop-duster” proud. Joon did his best to hold onto the Mustang and while he had a few minor bobbles, did a pretty good job of keeping up with Doug’s superior speed. In the end the judges felt that while Doug ran an amazing and near flawless second run, his “instinct” of charging up underneath Joon and “taking his line away” was more than they could bare and awarded Joon the win over Doug and his Mustang. After this oh-so-close battle, Joon went on to finish 4th place overall in the competition with Doug being one of the first to congratulate his former “room-mate”.
As one of drifting’s more seasoned participants later told Doug, if nothing else this weekend in Atlanta should be looked upon as a “moral victory” for him. Remember that most people around the drifting world have never seen Doug “race” they really have no idea that this laid-back, easy-going guy is one of the most aggressive and motivated drivers they have ever seen. His many victories and championships are a testament to that. Once Doug starts becoming a regular participant in the “tandem portions” of the Formula D events, people are going to start to know the Doug Van Den Brink that his “long-time followers” have known for years…
Next up for DVM would be round three of the Formula Drift Championship in Wall Township, New Jersey…. Please stay tuned as there is more to come….