Just when you think there’s no light at the end of the tunnel, somebody shows-up with a spotlight… With only 1 week before the New Jersey round of the Formula Drift championship, things weren’t lookin’ too good for the DVM crew. Then out of nowhere comes a call from a group of folks that are starting a very ambitious project in Charlotte, NC. After a very brief afternoon meeting, the deal was set and Doug and the boys were again “off to the races”.
The “players” in this game were the Metrolina Speed and Sport Center and Streetwise Drift. The Metrolina SSC is a new $50M multi-use motorsports facility being put together in North Charlotte. The project, headed up by Simon Weber and Charlotte based drift event organizers, Brian & Todd Phillips of Streetwise Drift..
“I’m very excited about this association for many different reasons.” DVM driver Van Den Brink said. “First-off, we now have the financial backing to go and compete at Wall Stadium. Secondly, the two groups involved in making this happen are really doing some exciting things here in the Charlotte area.” Doug added.
After a good test-day on Thursday, the DVM crew (along with the rest of the Formula Drift contingent) spent Friday watching the rainfall. For the first time in FD history, the day’s events had to be postponed not because of the rain but because of the racetracks inability to shed the water and the deep puddles that formed on it’s infield portions. The series normally runs “rain or shine” but when a couple of cars tried taking to the track, the puddles simply made it unsafe to continue and the FD officials wisely called an end to the day’s activities.
Saturday was a different story as the sun showed up and the air was again filled with more tire smoke than raindrops. What the Friday rain showers did do though was condense the entire weekend event schedule into one day. This meant the teams would not get their normal 2 hours “tandem-practice” session that they usually get Friday night. This loss of practice was really a detriment to Doug since that 2hr “happy hour” session was really his only opportunity to run in close proximity with the other drivers. This New Jersey event was the teams third of the season but with a disappointing result in Long Beach, the driveline failure in Atlanta (that kept the team from being a part of “happy hour”) and now the rain in NJ, Doug’s total opportunity to measure his pace with his fellow competitors came down to only the two laps he ran in the Atlanta “Top-32 eliminations”.
The way the schedule played out, the teams would basically go straight from “Top-32 qualifying” to “Top-32 eliminations”. This change made it great for the fans that got a great, action-packed show but for the teams it meant fast work and a super quick turn-around for the cars and drivers. In qualifying, Doug didn’t quite get the lap he had hoped for but still made it safely into the show in 23rd position. According to the judges, his lines were not bad, but his transitions, from one side to the other were not as “snappy” as they were wanting. He also slid a touch high in the flat sections so his overall speed wasn’t as high as it could be. “On the first lap, I was really high on the banking, right up next to the wall but I then went too deep into the “flats”, Doug said. On the second lap, I didn’t get up the banking like I wanted so my rhythm into the first half of the track was a little “jacked”. Luckily, I ran a good second half of the lap so I was able to recover a little and get a slightly higher score than on the first,” Doug concluded…
As in other sports that use a “bracket tree” to set their fields, Doug’s 23rd qualifying position would put him up against the #7 qualifier… Those of you that follow Formula D closely will recall the driver that came away from the Road Atlanta round victorious, none other than one of Formula Drifts “OG’s” Chris Forsberg. Like Doug, Chris didn’t quite get the qualifying run he was looking for but it’s pretty fair to say that currently, he is at the top of his game. When questioned right before their battle, Doug said, “Drawing Chris is both good and bad. The good news is that he’s a super clean driver and you know he’s going to run hard. The bad news is, he rarely makes mistakes and has a ton more experience at this deal than I do. I think this is going to be fun”….
With Forsberg being the higher qualifier, he lead-off on the first lap. Doug dropped in behind but he gave Chris a little too much gap into the banking falling about 2-car lengths behind. That gap would remain the entire lap as Doug did a great job of carrying good angle and speed but just not closing-up on Chris like the judges like to see. Chris’s textbook run gave him the advantage going into the second lap.
With Doug now leading, he laid down a better lap with even more speed than the first. Unfortunately Forsberg was on his bumper the entire way and showed why he is one of the very best in the business. In the end, Forsberg would go on to advance and the DVM Mustang would be done for the day. After the runs Doug had this to say, “That was pretty much what I expected. Chris ran a great couple of laps and taught us a thing or two. I think our car was really good today, I just need to get more tandem experience at this level and we as a team have to do a better job of recognizing and communicating what I need to do during and between runs. Sure it’s disappointing that we didn’t do better but I also need to be honest with myself and recognize where I need to improve. We’ve got the tools we need to be here (Formula D), we just need to be here more often so we’re sharper as a group.”
All and all it was a reasonably successful weekend for the North Carolina based crew and one that they can build from. A HUGE THANK YOU must go out to Streetwise Drift and The Metrolina Speed and Sport Center for whom without their support, this weekend would not have been possible. Also our regular crew had some great additional help from Brian Phillips and Brandon Weber, both of whom were a great help over the weekend…
This association of Weber, Phillips and Van Den Brink (though only for this one event) hope to work together again sometime down the road but only time will tell. For this reason, the next Formula D event in Las Vegas, NV on July 10-11 will more than likely have to go on without the DVM Mustang. With any luck, funding will be put together that will allow Doug to return to FD competition soon. What we do know however is that next up for Doug and his Mustang will be another Ford Racing drift demo up at one of Doug’s favorite tracks, Wisconsin’s Road America where he and Vaughn Gittin, Jr. will be adding a little “smoke” to the Brian Redmond Vintage Invitational weekend… Lookout “cheese-heads”, here it comes…