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Long Beach Formula Drift draws thousands

Fredric Aasbø wins season opener at the 15th annual event.

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Long Beach Formula Drift draws thousands

Federico Sceriffo watches as the flames from his Ferrari 599 GTB are extinguished.

Federico Sceriffo watches as the flames from his Ferrari 599 GTB are extinguished.

Colby Buchanan

Federico Sceriffo watches as the flames from his Ferrari 599 GTB are extinguished.

Colby Buchanan

Colby Buchanan

Federico Sceriffo watches as the flames from his Ferrari 599 GTB are extinguished.

Colby Buchanan, Contributing Writer

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Thousands of fans from all around the world poured into the stands of the Long Beach racetrack Saturday to watch professional drivers slide loud and powerful custom cars around the track, kicking off the 15th annual season of Formula DRIFT. The vehicles roaring around the track were judged by driving style and their ability to “drift” rather than which car completed the track first. Norwegian Fredric Aasbø claimed victory over the first calendar event. The site has been the starting course for the Formula DRIFT season since the inaugural race in 2004.

Defending champion, James Deane, had a slow start when he was forced to use his one and only timeout before he even made an official run.

Each driver is only allowed to work on their car once they have called for a timeout, and there are five five minutes provided for the driver to make any changes to their vehicle. Since the event had officially begun, Deane had no choice but to use his timeout or else he would have to forfeit his race. Announcers mentioned that the damage was likely due to one of his practice runs earlier that morning.

Dan Burkett was the first to crash his vehicle after hitting the wall too hard, causing his Toyota Supra to spin out. This is a fairly normal thing to see as judges are more likely to vote for the driver that gets closest to the wall, has the most wheel angle and mimics the lead car the best. However, this seemed like fairly minor damage compared to Federico Sceriffo. He was driving the first ever Ferrari to perform in the pro drift. During his second run against Chelsea Denofa he lost control of his twin-supercharged 599 nicknamed “Fiorella” sending him into a wall. The Ferrari was towed away after firefighters put out the fire. Sceriffo, who is considered a “rookie,” was able to escape unscathed.

“At least he’s okay,” said Geo Smith, an attendee who traveled from the San Francisco Bay area to watch the event. “At the end of the day it’s still just a car.”

Dirk Stratton lost to Justin Pawlak in his C6 Corvette after clipping the corner and ripping off his rear bumper. It was his first pro event and even though things didn’t go the way he planned he mentioned,

“it was an amazing experience and an honor to be racing with some of the best drivers out there,” Stratton said.

He later mentioned that his his goal for this season is to win rookie of the year.

Large angle from Piotr Wiecek (middle) as he battles Ryan Tuerck.

Colby Buchanan
Large angle from Piotr Wiecek (middle) as he battles Ryan Tuerck.

Both Deane and Chris Forsberg expressed that they were under pressure to perform well as they are both previous Formula DRIFT champions, Deane won 2017, and Forsberg won 2009, 2014 and 2016.

Deane had many technical obstacles to conquer and as for Forsberg, his Nissan 370z is now running a different engine setup than what he used to drive in the past. Forsberg talked about how he is still adjusting to the changes.

“Coming back is tough after winning the championship last year,” said Deane, “there are really high expectations that we now have to live up to so we are going to give it our best shot.”

Forsberg ended up losing to Forrest Wang in the quarterfinals after the judges voted to have them rerun not once, but twice in order to make their final call.

Moving into the semifinals Fredric Aasbø was able to beat Piotr Wiecek after he spun out trying to get as close to the wall as possible. Deane had to forfeit his run to Wang after taking damage in his previous race against Alec Hohnadell and not being able to get his Nissan S15 Silvia running in time.

Leading up to the finals the crowd seemed to be split evenly with those cheering for Aasbø and those for Wang, but ultimately it was Aasbø who was able to take home the victory in his 1,000-horsepower Toyota Corolla after two runs making him the point leader overall.

Round 2 will be held in Orlando, Florida from April 27 to 28 at the Orlando Speedway.

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