Words by Justin Banner / Photos by David Karey
When it comes to tracks on the Formula Drift schedule, there are none better than Road Atlanta. Automotive action happens the entire time you’re there from nearly sun up to sun down, and well into the night. It’s why fans always look forward to it and it makes for an amazing, party-like atmosphere. It also helps that, despite not being an oval track, fans can see nearly everything thanks to the bowl structure of the turn 10/keyhole complex. This is Road Atlanta and here is what you missed by not being there.
Drifting is a sport of the senses û the sight of cars getting sideways, the smell of burnt rubber, the sound of cars pushing maximum horsepower, and sometimes even the taste of spent race gas. It’s quick, it’s dirty, and it just pulls you in even if you try to resist. It’s why it works so well in a confined environment like most of the oval tracks Formula Drift visits. It’s the same reasons people love monster trucks and that’s not a knock on the series. The fans are there for the entertainment of automotive action.
However, why does Road Atlanta bring out the best in not only these drivers, but the fans as well? First, there is the speed. The fans love to see cars barrel down the back straight and get sideways early, and backwards. Drivers love it because it allows them to push their cars with minimal worry of hitting a wall, so they drive faster and go harder here. Second, the part of course that is used couldnÆt be better for fans and drivers alike.
Turn 10a, 10b, and the keyhole are all within the sight of every fan sitting in there despite the sea of people. The elevation changes nearly takes out the horsepower factor after 10a, so there are tons of opportunity for drivers to pull up on each other and stay door-to-door. Finally û though there are many other reasons beyond this û food, drink, and entertainment are well within reach as spectator parking is right behind the entire area meaning walking back to grab a cold drink isnÆt difficult to do.
The first part of the drifting weekend started off with Pro2. A surprise number one went to Danny George and his Shango BMW. After a dismal weekend at Orlando, this number one seed was a welcome sight for the Las Vegas native. However, he would be knocked out in the Top 16 by Alec Robbins in the KoruWorks Nissan 350Z. After turning his car into a rocket ship, Brody Goble and Austin Meeks would meet again in the Great Eight.
What could have been an awesome battle turned out to not come true as Matt VankirkÆs car wouldnÆt be able to make it past the first run between the two Nissan drivers and allowed Reeder to take the win. ôIÆm overwhelmed,ö he commented to Formula Drift after the round was over, ôMy team did awesomeà IÆm feeling really blessed right now and am going try to keep it consistent into the next round to keep the momentum going.ö
With two podiums in two events, Reeder now holds the points lead heading into Texas Motor Speedway by seventy-eight points over Brody Goble and Randall Waters. Vankirk isnÆt far behind with only eighty points separating him from Reeder while Kevin Lawrence holds down fifth despite not qualifying for Round Two and is only eighty-two points behind.
Over on the Pro side, the weekend was far more exciting that most anticipated. While number one to number four seeds were given bye-runs, it still wouldnÆt be a cakewalk for those drivers in the end. The surprise, though, was Fredric Aasbo and Kyle Mohan, as Aasbo make major mistakes on his lead run including contact with MohanÆs car. He was deemed at fault and Mohan would move on to the Top 16. When it came down to the Final Four, the battle to watch was Dean Kearney in the Oracle/Achilles Viper and Kristaps Bluss in the HGK/Achilles BMW. It wasnÆt just for the action on track as it was the now legendary five-minute timeout where he had to make repairs to his BMW.
It was beyond a team effort as Chris Forsberg and Ryan Tuerck both pitched in to get his car repaired in time. However, while many would applaud this heroic effort, we should also point out that it ended up with a slightly dangerous situation with Kirstaps rolling off his jackstands to get back to the line before the timeout was over. Sadly, despite the efforts of the HGK, Forsberg, and Tuerck team-up it would be for not as the lug nuts on the rear wheels were too loose and there was no more time on the clock.
The finals, though, were still one for the Formula Drift record books and one of deep Irish pride as it came down to James Deane in the Worthouse/Falken Nissan Silvia and Dean Kearney. It was a true slugfest as both drivers pushed each other in each run. Door-to-door, these drivers looked like they were back at the Irish Drift Championships in their early years. Contact and rubbing, Kearney and Deane ran each other down with nothing held back. It came down to who made the least mistakes on their runs and the judges made the decision that James Deane would take Road Atlanta.
“The two of us just gave it 110%,” said Deane after the round was over to Formula Drift, ôno messing around, and thatÆs how to have a battle. I’m super happy and thanks to everyone who made this possible.” Deane now leads the Formula Drift Championship by only fifty-nine points. Dean Kearney is right behind him while Fredric Aasbo is still in shooting distance at only sixty-seven points between himself and first. Ryan Tuerck is only seventy-two points back and Vaughn Gittin, Jr. is only eighty-five points back in fifth place heading to Wall Speedway in Wall Township, NJ.
Words by Justin Banner
Photos by David Karey