Cornelius, NC (May 16, 2012)- After a long Winter break, Doug Van Den Brink and his D’Vanz Motorsports team got their 2012 drifting season off to a good start at the first Formula Drift Pro-Am event in Georgia on May 11th. The event marked the biggest East coast event on the Formula Drift schedule with attendance figures well over 10,000 strong.
The Pro-Am field of 32-drivers took to the Road Atlanta course with a level of uncertainty, as the 2012 version of the track would be run in a slightly different direction than in previous years. The drivers would come down the starting hill the same way as before but instead of turning into “the P” at the first opportunity and going through the top portion in a counter-clockwise fashion, they would go all the way to the top of the track and going around the upper loop in a clockwise direction.
Friday’s practice session went well for the DVM crew. Their Mustang ran great, they made some good adjustments to the car and Doug seemed to start getting used to the track’s new configuration. When asked about the new track configuration, DVM driver Doug Van Den Brink said, “Well, I thought we would come into this event with a bit of an advantage having run this track a few times but with this new layout, everyone is on the same learning curve so I guess we’re back at square one… That said, I do like it this way. It allows you to carry more speed through turn-2 and it’s a real challenge to keep the car “in yaw” (sideways) all the way up the hill. I think it’s going to make for some interesting tandem-runs”.
Later on Friday afternoon, it was time to qualify. As is customary with the Pro-Am format, by the end of the session, the 32-car field would be chopped in half with only the Top-16 drivers advancing on to the Tandem Competition. This limited-time format gave the drivers only 1-practice session to get their cars ready and their heads around the 2012 track layout. After all the cars had made their runs, our DVM team wound up in the 7th position. “I’m happy we achieved our 1st goal (that of making the show) but I’m a little disappointed with our effort.” Doug said after the session. “I think I needed to carry a bit more speed up the hill to get me closer to the rear-zone. That’s something we’ll need to work on in the competition.”
To condense the event even further, series officials decided to run the competition late Friday night giving the Pro-Am drivers a third type of track conditions to deal with. By qualifying 7th, Doug’s first tandem battle would against JJ Alfano in his Nissan 240sx. Doug led the first lap driving a fairly good line. JJ followed well, but lost a bit of ground to the Mustang driver giving Doug the clear advantage. On the second lap, JJ struggled with the added grip in the track due to the night’s cooler and grippier track surface. JJ’s lower speeds also made it challenging for Van Den Brink to maintain “drift” but with his proximity to JJ’s rear bumper, it gave the judges an easy choice in declaring Doug the winner.
For the Great-8 Doug would meet Dan Savage in his Chevy V8 powered Nissan 240. Dan is always a strong competitor and Doug knew he’d have to run strong if he were to get by the Maryland driver. On the pair’s 1st lap, DV followed as Dan was the higher qualifier. Dan’s line was slightly shallow (more straight than sideways) as he tried to distance himself from the red Mustang. DV maintained proximity through the top of the “P” and closed in a bit as the pair sped down the hill. Dan continued his more shallow line though the bottom of the course and in doing so was able to pull-back-out on Van Den Brink slightly at the finish line. On the second lap with DV leading, Dan stayed close through the first part of the course but then was unable to match Doug’s tighter line past the 2nd Clipping-point. This was all the break that Doug needed as he pulled away from the Nissan driver through the rest of the course. The decision was close, but the judges awarded DV the win, moving him on to the Final-4.
In the Semi’s, Doug was pitted up against Bill Stenger in his white Nissan 240sx who’s conservative but steady approach has him making great strides this season. On the first lap, Doug followed Bill, who ran a clean line with mid-level speed. Doug was able to maintain reasonable proximity to Bill throughout the lap but neither driver showed much of an advantage. On lap-2, the Mustang driver pulled-out a huge gap through the first part of the course. Stenger’s car being less powerful than the Ford ran his traditional clean line but was unable to run with DV’s pace. As Doug left the top portion of the “P”, he transitioned his car too aggressively and uncharacteristically, spun the car. This “sin of sins” in all intensive purposes handed the win to Bill on a silver-platter and sent him on to the Finals.
Now, trying his best to mentally put this “spin” behind him, Doug had to immediately line up against Jason Jiovani to decide the 3rd-place winner. On the first lap, Jason led and ran a very clean line. For his part, Doug followed also with a pretty clean line but lost a good amount of distance to Jason at the start, thanks to a clutch that had seen a few too many laps. Going into turn-1, Jason held a 3-car-length advantage as Van Den Brink began to reel him in as best he could with his clutch slipping all the way. By the end of the course, the gap was down to 1½-car lengths but it really needed to be closer. On lap-2, Jason did a nice job of staying close to the Mustang’s rear bumper as the pair entered the course. By turn-2, Van Den Brink began to pull away. To mask this, Jiovani nearly straightened out completely going up the hill towards the “P”.
Unfortunately for Doug, his slipping clutch appeared to cost him in terms of speed, as he was unable to get the car deep into the “P’s” rear clipping zone. Not a big deduction but not really what the Judges wanted to see either. As they proceeded down the hill, Doug pulled out a little bit more of a gap to where he had about a 4-5 car-length lead to the Finish line. Running short on time, the Judges awarded Jason the win and after watching the video, one could argue the point, but things don’t always go your way in Drifting so….
“Well that’s not exactly how I was hoping tonight would go.” A disappointed Van Den Brink said after climbing from his car. “Don’t get me wrong, naturally I’m pleased to have finished as well as we did (4th) but I feel terrible for my guys that I made that mistake of spinning. I just “flicked-it” too hard and I knew right away that I was in trouble, but it was too late. In Drifting you have to drive your car so over-the-edge to score well and occasionally it bites you, and tonight it bit me… In the Consolation round, I’d say I don’t agree with the Judges decision, but I’m sure they did their best and I know their job is not easy. I think we won that round fairly and if nothing else (if they had doubt) I think it should have gone to a “one-more-time” but I think they might have been under pressure to get our competition finished by a certain time. So what can you do? Sometimes, that’s Drifting….”
So the first event of the season is in the books and DVM finished 4th-place. Not what they were shooting for, but a good finish nonetheless. Please continue to look for future event recaps as Doug and the DVM Crew head into the meat of the summer drifting schedule….
Wicked Shadows Photography