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DVM Heads Back To NJ For Formula Drift Round #3 With A New Look:

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…

DVM Catches Up on Season Activities: Pt. 2

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….

DVM Catches Up on Season Activities: Pt. 1

To date, 2009 has been a blur for Doug Van Den Brink and his D’Vanz Motorsports crew. It’s only May, but already they’ve had their turbocharged Mustang out of its stall 5 times this year at various events. The car has a new look thanks to John Yu and his crew at AIT Racing. Gone are the factory steel body panels as the car now sports an all new full composite body giving it a wider and lighter stance. The recognizable red & black colors are held over from 08’ but everything else is all-new for 09’.

After a brief pre-season “shake-down”, the Doug Nagy lead crew headed off to Long Beach for the Formula D season opener in April. This year the famed Grand Prix street circuit would not be kind to Doug as the teams new bodywork received a bit harder “break-in” period than they would have liked.

“I’m normally not one to make excuses but we really had the deck stacked against us at Long Beach this year.” DVM’s driver Doug Van Den Brink said. “With some very late arriving parts and some atlernate rule interpretations by the new Formula D tech officials, we had just enough time to get everything done, except sleep. I don’t think I’ve ever been more exhausted getting into a race car. At Long Beach you have to be razor sharp and thread the needle between all the concrete walls and unfortunately, I was anything but…. and the end result was proof of that….”

The team’s premature exit from “the beach” gave them an early start making repairs (in no small part “again” from the crew at AIT Racing) and readying the car for it’s long, yet speedy trip back east. Not only did the car’s “cosmetics” need a bit of freshening but Doug, doubling as the “truck driver” had to have the car in Birmingham Alabama by the following Wednesday, so he could join his fellow-Mustang driver Vaughn Gittin, Jr. as the two were slated to be the first drivers ever to drift on the pristine Barber Motorsports track for the 45th Anniversary Mustang bash.

With over 3500 Mustangs and their owners in attendance, the 4-day event exposed a new group of folks to the exciting sport of drifting. Similar to the “demo’s that Doug and “JR” perform at the Barrett-Jackson Shows, the two drivers would again demonstrate their skills at maneuvering their “steeds” with amazing precision. This time, however, the 50-yd square “corral” that the two usually work in at Barrett-Jackson would give way to Barbers rolling 2.5-mile world-class road course. Gone would be the tight “skidpad” maneuvers and in came 100+mph slides that would leave the Alabama circuit in a haze of Falken rubber for 5-minutes after their two-lap runs were concluded. Click here for link to short video from the weekend.

“Drifting this race track was an amazing experience.” Doug said. “At first we had to prove to Mr. Barber that we could drift AND stay off his “country club” quality grass. Barber MS Park is without doubt one of the most beautiful racetracks I have ever seen and they are very keen to keep it that way (which we fully respect and understand). In fact, no one had ever been allowed to drift this circuit before. I think Mr. Barber thought drifting was just people doing donuts in old clapped-out cars. He now realizes that professional “drifters” are respectful drivers that appreciate a great race circuit as much as traditional racers and that the level of ability is only surpassed by the level of excitement they bring to the crowd. I’m not saying that Mr. Barber is going to put a drift car into his amazing “on site” museum but I do know how much he enjoyed the crowd excitement and the screams that erupted every time we came sliding by.” Doug added.

After a short, but well deserved rest, it was on to Virginia to one of Doug’s favorite practice spots. VIR is always a fun place and their Patriot circuit lends itself very well to drifting. Besides getting the opportunity to turn laps of his own, Doug was given the honor to help judge the “grassroots” US Drift competition. “It’s always fun to be at these events and judging for me, puts a new perspective on things.” Doug said.

Please see part two of this update for more info on DVM activities and to read how much fun Doug and the boys had down in Atlanta…

DVM Finishes The Season Strong at Red Bull Pro-Am:

The 2008 drifting season has finally come to a close and we’re happy to announce D’Vanz Motorsports finished on a high note. The event, billed as “The Red Bull Drifting World TrackChampionship”, was the biggest of it’s kind in which there were two events in one massive weekend. One portion of the weekend pitted the drivers from the American Formula Drift series that ended their season in the top 16 points positions vs. 16 of the best drivers from series outside the United States. The second part of the weekend, and the one DVM was focused on, was the “Pro-Am” competition.  For this event, drivers looking to gain access into the Formula D Championship had to battle current FD drivers that for a myriad of reasons, still needed to earn a few more points to hold onto their spot in the FD line-up for the 2009 campaign. Our driver, Doug Van Den Brink, having only competed in a couple of Formula D events in 2008, was one looking to fight-off those hoping to take his spot.

The event was held at a special venue on a massive harbor-side dock in the Port of Long Beach. A purpose built drifting track, highlighted by a very fast entry, followed by 4 technical turns. The track proved to be challenging with many drivers falling victim to the walls and barricades and other drivers stepping up to show off their total car control. The level of competition was at an all-time high and created one of the most exciting events in drifting history.

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