What’s that old saying about “When the going gets tough….”?. This past weekend, Doug Van Den Brink and his “extended” D’Vanz Motorsports team proved that when their backs are against the wall, they can be as tough as anyone. They fought through enough adversity that would make others just head-to-the-house, grab a spot on the porch and crack-open a “cold one”…
In a story that (in all fairness) is true for many “privateer” racers, getting their Mustang to the first event of the 2011 season was a huge challenge for this North Carolina group. Not being satisfied with the “status-quo”, DVM took on the challenge of making some significant upgrades to their car over the off-season. Adding new parts from companies such as Stack, Vibrant, STS, Goodridge & Aeromotive just to name a few, the team put in a ton of hours looking into the car’s overall performance.
With another trailer-tire melting to the ground on the way down (too much equipment in too small of a trailer), the team made their way into Palm Beach Raceway on Thursday afternoon for Rnd.-2 of the Formula Drift Pro-Am Series Presented by Streetwise Drift, unloaded the car and got straight to work finishing-up a few loose-ends.
Friday morning Practice was Doug’s first time back in the car on a proper track since last Oct. “The track isn’t too hard, but with the speed you’re entering Turn-1, timing is super important. With me being just a bit “rusty” (shall we say) I can tell you my timing through the course isn’t as good as it needs to be just yet” Doug said after the session had finished. As usual, the DVM Mustang was one of the fastest cars through the track but Doug’s angle and line would need to improve if he was going to be towards the front of the field.
Doug’s 2nd session on the track AND in the car was the single elimination Qualifying. Sticking to their plan, DV put in a conservative first pass that was good enough to safely get him into the show. With that “in the bank” he pushed even harder on his second lap moving him up the grid into the 5th position. After the session DV added, “Naturally I always would like to qualify “on Pole” but I have to be realistic and it has been nearly 8-months since I’ve driven this car. With only one practice session we have to be pleased with 5th knowing we’ll only get better as the weekend progresses.”
After qualifying, the 29-car field was cut to 16-drivers which meant the 1-hr. practice session on Saturday would allow for plenty of passes. With the track layout such that it was, each driver got over a mile of track to cool his car and tires down in between runs. DV used this to his advantage as his crew made quick changes to the car. He made lap after lap after lap knocking the rest of “the rust” off himself to the point of making some of his best career “follows” towards the end of the session. “I feel really good and warmed-up now. It’s time to battle!!” Van Den Brink was heard to say after he climbed from his car.
For DV’s first tandem battle, he would go up against the Formula Drift Pro seasoned driver, Bill Sherman driving an older Toyota Supra. Doug lead the first lap driving a fairly good lap with Bill trying his best to keep up with the higher-powered Ford. On lap-2, Sherman showed his experience by laying down a solid lead-run. Our man DV following Bill would have his one-glitch show it’s head as his throttle cable slipped during the pass giving his Mustang only 2/3rd’s it’s normal power. This one tiny slip nearly cost our guys their shot at victory for without it’s normal power, the car very nearly lost ALL of its drift-angle which would have immediately given the win to Sherman. Luckily Doug was able to “clutch-kick” the car hard enough at the last possible mil-a-second to somewhat save his pass but in the meantime handing the advantage to Sherman on a silver platter. As customary in drifting (regardless of the reason), when one drivers does better on one lap and the other driver does better on the second laps, the judges call for “On More Time”. The first two runs are erased and the drivers line up again for a fresh 2-lap battle. Knowing he needed time to assess the situation, DV called for a “5-minute” pause to fix the problem if he could. The DVM crew jumped to action, Doug was able to adjust the cable under the dash and back into the action they went.
This time, Van Den Brink was on-point leaving the Toyota driver in a cloud of Falken smoke on Lap-1 and nearly chewing on his rear bumper during lap-2 easily advancing to the next round, the “Great 8”.
Next up for Doug was Bill Stenger in his Nissan s14. Running with him in practice, DV knew what he had to do. On lap-1, he followed pretty well, but Bill lead him with more angle giving the Nissan driver a slight advantage. Well that was all Doug needed to hear, for when it came time for him to lead he busted out his cleanest, fastest lap of the weekend with more angle than ever before. While Stenger tried to hold on, his Nissan was no match for the Mustang handing the advantage and the round-win over to Van Den Brink.
Doug’s third battle of the day would be Charles Thompson in his Nissan s13 Hatch who was the #16 qualifier. By running smooth, consistent lines Charles had made it past two cars with considerably more power than his. On lap-1 DV gave the Nissan driver nearly a full car length at the “pace-cone” before he leaned on his STS Turbo. With a clean line, DV hit all of his marks and pulled a clear advantage over Thompson. With Charles’ previous competitors, his slightly slower pace through the course had proved their undoing as it threw off their own timing. DV had seen this situation before so after a quick discussion with his spotter, Dan Willie, they agreed to give Thompson just a little extra room in Turn-1 so the Mustang could maintain it’s own momentum. Once they got into the second “clip” area, Doug pulled in on the Nissans door and poured on the coals as he mirrored Thompson’s line through the rest of the course giving DV the win and moving him into the finals.
In the Finals, Doug went up against Ryan Kaufman driving his Chevy V8 powered Mazda RX-7. With DV leading Lap-1 he knew Kaufman’s car was fast enough to run with him down the entry-ramp. Once they entered the course however, the Mustang’s superior handling took over, the Mazda ran wide in Turn-1 and Van Den Brink was able to pull away while staying right on-line and with good angle giving the Mustang driver an advantage. Lap two was almost a disaster for the Ford driver, “The Staring-Girl gave us a hurried sign to take-off, then Hold… And then she said Go again. While I should have just stayed put and made them start us properly, I took off too aggressively and spun my rear tires. As Ryan began to pull away from me I shifted into 2nd and again spun my tires and then again in 3rd I spun them trying to catch-up. I was so frustrated as I knew I wanted to be right on him going into Turn-1 but instead I was playing “catch-up” through the whole course which totally threw-off my timing.” Doug said later. Luckily for Doug, his follow wasn’t as off as Ryan’s follow so the advantage stayed with the Mustang driver and he was awarded the overall Victory!
“This was a real struggle to get down here and let alone to win the event is just unbelievable. After all the hard work that was put in by everyone affiliated with DVM, it really feels great”, Doug said afterwards. “Over the past few weeks a good many friends have pitched-in when they could to help get this car finished and without those late-night wrenching sessions, we wouldn’t be here. So to all the boys back home I owe a huge “Thank You”. Andy and Gabe did a great job managing the car this weekend and all of the new parts we put on the car worked perfectly. I also have to thank the guys at ASD Motorsports, FNO PowderCoating and of course CIN for their invaluable help in achieving this victory.”Now that their season has officially started, the DVM crew will be back in action on June 17-18 at the XDC HyperFest event at Summit Point, WV where DV will be looking to notch another victory at one of his favorite tracks…