Micheal Essa BMW E46 M3 Drifting Miami

Into the Pits of Formula Drift Miami

Formula Drift Miami. My title for Round 3 was crew for Nate Hamilton. My duties involved changing tires, mechanical work on the car, and working on pit lane ensuring that the car was ready to run. Due to the track layout, pit lane only offered a view of cars launching from grid, initiating drift, and quickly disappearing from view around the first corner. This means I would be seeing minimal drifting this weekend. Although this doesn't sound ideal, I have learned that grid is an exciting world of its own that not many get insight into. Words by Max Fuerst Photos by Corey Denomy

fdmia_2First thing I'll say is that grid is absolute madness. You are in a confined area with 60+ race teams, all with their own agenda. The roar of V8's dominates the air on grid but you still catch the sound of the lower displacement turbo cars every now and then. You can feel the breeze from cars a few feet behind you flying by while you're focused changing the tires on your teams car. A quick glance up an you'll see drivers weaving back and forth, warming up their front tires on the way to the burnout box. Grid is full of distractions. To the untrained eye it looks like chaos, but it's quite the opposite. Everyone that has the credentials to step foot on grid knows that when they do so, it is with open ears and open eyes. We all come on grid with a high respect to the rules and other teams. This allows everyone to fulfill their positions efficiently and safely. fdmia_3Like the drivers, their crew must adapt to the track at every round. The crew must asses their surroundings and be able to set themselves up for success in the provided area for the weekend. Using pit lane at an official NASCAR track like Homestead is always a best case scenario because unlike tracks like Road Atlanta, pits are equally sectioned off, the ground is level, and theirs more room to operate.You see various teams with different pit set-ups on grid. Each team varies, but they all have their preferred layout of their tools, tires, and equipment in order to reach everything quickly. Some have tow-able high-end Snap-On toolboxes and look like they are ready to do a complete tear down of the car if needed. Others have the minimal tools needed on grid to make the changes and adjustments that they need too. No matter what, as crew, your job is to set up your pits in an efficient manner for quick tire changes, adjustments, and repairs. This maximizes the seat time for your driver during practice and also makes sure he is completely ready to do battle during competition. fdmia_4As mentioned above, the crew members at Round 3 saw very minimal drifting due to the track layout. BUT....... we have front row seats to a show of our own in the pits. I am talking about the burnout box. I have developed a growing fascination with it. Most people see drivers just warming up their tires but I see much more than that. The burnout box is a limited space in which the driver has complete freedom to warm their tires any way they choose. Its the space that the drivers get total control of how they drive their cars before they pull up to the line and try and meet the strict criteria set by the judges on track. And my fascination is with how these drivers choose to use this moment of freedom before their run. After watching so many burnouts, you realize that every driver does it differently and it tells a lot about their driving style. Aasbo enters the burn out box. You will see very precise circles using up every inch of space allowed, much like his driving style. Vaughn pulls into the burnout box and you instantly hear full throttle commitment shortly followed by a massive cloud of smoke. A rookie may enter the box, do a burnout, and you will be able to sense the nervousness from him. He may have only done a short standing burn out or seemed very cautious when doing circles within the box. Seeing a confident burnout from a driver before a battle will give you a sense that he is ready. So although I didn't see much drifting this weekend, I was able to enjoy grid's best kept secret, the burnout box. fdmia_5If there is one thing you can take away from being on grid, it's that these teams are well oiled machines. A strong team is needed in order to get results in this sport, and it's proven to me every time I attend a Formula Drift event. So next time you are watching two drivers battle for 1st place at a Formula Drift event, remember that each of those drivers has a team that puts in the work together to make it to the top. - Max Fuerst

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