Written by Dave Bell - Photos by David Karey
The 2017 Formula Drift season is now well on the latter half of the championship now that Round 6 in Seattle has concluded. For 11 years FD has been visiting Evergreen Speedway in Monroe, Washington. Sitting just outside of Seattle, it is by far one of the favorites on the series schedule, given it has not only a high-speed bank after the initiation zone, but allows for several dramatic zones as the course wraps up. Evergreen Speedway already had smoke in the air from the nearby wildfires, and Round 6 surely wasn’t about to help the situation. Odi Bakchis won Seattle last year, would he repeat in front of the packed house? Let’s recap and find out.
Heading into Round 6, we’ve seen either Fredric Aasbo or James Deane place on the podium at every round, with the exception of Wall, NJ in Round 4. Kristaps Bluss has been on an absolute tear as well, placing on the podium in Rounds 3, 4, and 5. With the exception of Bluss, who lost an epic battle to Matt Coffman in Seattle, both Aasbo and Deane solidified their fight for the championship during Round 6.
The road to victory at Evergreen looked like another wrap-up after Deane placed 1st in qualifying. The remaining top 5 qualifiers included Ryan Tuerck qualifying 2nd, Odi Bakchis 3rd, Michael Essa 4th, and Kristaps Bluss in 5th. Two others just outside of top 5 would be Vaughn Gittin, Jr. in 6th, and Fredric Aasbo in 7th. There’s Aasbo, again.
Before discussing the outcome of Seattle, let’s first review a few notable mentions leading up to the finals. Chris Forsberg, Alec Hohnadell, Dan Burkett, Ryan Tuerck, Jhonnattan Castro, and Chelsea DeNofa all pushed a little too hard in their follow positions to take themselves out through the Top 32, 16, and into the Great 8. Coming off the Evergreen bank and into the power alley zones can be difficult to navigate while keeping up with the speed and proximity of the lead car.
Chelsea DeNofa and Vaugh Gittin, Jr.’s Top 16 battle was one of the best in recent memory, reminding us much of the way Castro took out Deane back in Orlando. DeNofa remains a very aggressive driver under the new team and was firing on all cylinders, keeping a near-perfect lead and follow run against Gittin, Jr. This allowed DeNofa to get passed his RTR teammate and head into the Great 8.
There were other drivers during Top 16 who have been consistently good lately but were also not able to make it further into the competition. Drivers such as Bluss lost to Matt Coffman, and Michael Essa lost to Dai Yoshihara. Generally, after Round 6, the championship picture becomes much clearer with the Top 5 in points having a good run at the championship, depending on how the remaining rounds finish out in Texas and Irwindale. Both Bluss and Essa made it much more difficult on themselves to contend for the championship after not making it into the Great 8.
Similar to the amazing battle between Mustang RTR teammates, we got to see Worthouse teammates James Deane and Piotr Wiecek go to battle during the Great 8. Seeing the S15 tandem was an amazing sight with Piotr really giving James a run for his money with championship implications hanging in the balance. Both drivers had excellent lead and follow runs, but ultimately the judges would move Deane into the Final 4.
James Deane would take on Dai Yoshihara during the first Final 4 battle. Deane had a great lead run with Dai following closely. James would make slight contact with Dai on the next run yet remained incredibly composed to send the battle into a brutal one-more-time (OMT). Deane would have his way with consistency during the OMT and kept on moving into the finals, opening the door for possibly another European battle for 1st and 2nd place.
On the other side of the Final 4 bracket, Odi Bakchis probably just wanted to forget Round 5 in Montreal, especially after his win in Round 4 at New Jersey. He would have his chance of redemption going against Fredric Aasbo in the Final 4. Odi started the battle with an excellent lead run only to spin out just before he crossed the finish line. Odi would need Fredric to make a huge mistake during the next run, but Aasbo would prove to be too much for Odi to gain an advantage, moving Aasbo into the finals against James Deane, and giving Odi a podium finish in 3rd place.
The final battle in Seattle started off with both Fredric Aasbo and James Deane laying down nearly identical lead and follow runs. James Deane had a slightly better wallride and tap heading into the power alley, yet not as close of proximity to Aasbo during his follow run. Neither driver really made any mistakes, so the battle would head into a OMT. You would need to watch the OMT replay several times to pick out the winner as both drivers had excellent lead and follow runs again. Judges Andy Yen and Brian Eggert would be split between Deane and Aasbo, with Ryan Lanteigne being the deciding factor sliding towards Deane for the victory, giving the Irish driver his third 1st place victory this year.
Heading into Texas September 8th abd 9th, the championship road map leans heavily towards the top 3 drivers (James Deane, Fredric Aasbo, and Kristaps Bluss), now that 177 and 180 points separates 1st place from 4th and 5th respectively. However, there are still a lot of points up for grab in Texas and Irwindale, so we absolutely do not have a sure thing yet. One thing is for sure though: James Deane and Fredric Aasbo’s consistency at the podium this year sure is paying off. Place your bets.