Formula Drift round 3 took place at Palm Beach International Raceway this past weekend where Michael Essa, driver of the GSR Yokohama Tire BMW E46, took the number one spot. Rain was expected throughout the weekend but only really came down during Friday night’s practice session – other than a few sprinkles off and on, the track was pretty much dry. Michael Essa might have only qualified in the 21st position but he came to win for Saturday’s main event. It was Essa’s first ever Formula Drift podium finish and it was a good one – winning first place! A breakdown of Essa’s winning night after the jump.
Hachi Roku (AE86) faithful Taka Aono was Essa’s first battle in Top 32 competition. Taka Aono who qualified 12th the previous day put in a good lead run with Essa following close in the second half of the run.
Unfortunately for Taka, he straightened out a couple of times when chasing Essa and Essa moved on to Top 16 Competition.
Coming off a Top 32 victory against Canadian driver Mats Baribeau, Tyler was next on the list for Essa.
Though Tyler had a good lead run, it wasn’t enough to make up for him almost straightening out during his chase run against Essa. Michael Essa would move on to the Great 8 and would be one step closer to his first ever podium finish.
Side note – Tyler’s GoPro Camaro was letting out an insane amount of smoke from his Hankook tires in this last run. We’re talking Daigo Saito status. ;)
After a top 32 win agains Odi Bakchis, 2009 champ Chris Forsberg would battle Essa in the Great 8.
Chris would have a good lead run against Essa. Forsberg was able to get some space between him and Essa in the first part of the run (pictured here) but Essa tightened it up substantially during the second half.
As you can see by this photo, Forsberg got a little too close for comfort during his chase run against Essa. He tapped/hit the side of Essa’s car but Essa keeps his foot on the throttle finishing his lead run with Forsberg only inches beside him. There was some contraversy on wether or not Forsberg knocked over a cone during his lead run – after the judges deliberated over the replay, it was decided he did in fact tip a cone over giving him a zero on his lead run and giving Essa the win. The verdict is still out on wether or not Forsberg made contact with the cone but Essa would move on to the Final 4.
Robbie Nishida would be next for Essa. Nishida had come off a win against Canadian driver Dave Briggs.
Side note: Dave Briggs did an awesome job this weekend. He not only qualified 8th but also made it to the Great 8 for the first time. This is only Brigg’s second year as a pro. Good work Dave!
Both Essa and Nishida went off course during Nishida’s lead run giving both drivers a zero. All either driver had to do was win the next run to be guaranteed at least the 3rd place spot.
Essa would take the win guaranteeing him his first podium finish. But Essa wasn’t finished.
But then things got interesting. Earlier in the event, during the Final 4, Vaughn Gittin JR battled Daigo Saito. Daigo has a decent lead run with Gittin following close. On vaughn’s lead, Vaughn drops a tire, Daigo Saito follows close. Not a perfect run for Daigo but he also never went off course. The judges are split – one for Gittin, one for a One More Time, and one for Daigo.
They go one more time. During Daigo’s lead one more time run, Gittin hits Daigo ripping his door off and causing some other damage to the rear end of his SC430. Since Gittin was at fault for the contact, Daigo was given all the time he needed to fix his car. Gittin’s car needed fixing as well. Daigo’s team got his car back running (after what seemed like an hour from the media box) but Gittin could not so he forfeited the win to Daigo. Gittin called for a 5 minute competition time out as he would need to fix his car to battle Robbie Nashida for third place before the final battle could take place. Gittin cannot make it to the line to run against Nishida giving Nishida the third place spot on the podium. Daigo would battle Michael Essa for 1st place. So it was crazy late, it was humid, cars were broken, no action on the track… needles to say, frustrations were running high with the judges, fans, and drivers. But I think it was the excitement of Essa, a privateer, possibly beating Daigo that kept most of the fans in their seats to see the final run for first and second place. I was definitely excited to see who would win.
Things finally got going again. Daigo had a decent lead run with Essa following close.
Essa had a fast entry and sick angle in his lead run. Daigo went in too shallow (as seen in this photo) and Essa would complete the run without errors. This gave Essa not only his first podium finish but also the 1st place spot!
Congratulations to Michael Essa, Daigo Saito and Robbie Nishida for their podium finishes. – Alex