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Formula DRIFT takes over Long Beach streets

After a seven-year hiatus, James Deane took the top spot Saturday.

Angela Yim, Contributing Writer

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Long Beach — After the clouds of smoke dissipated and the sound of tires screeching subsided, James Deane was crowned the 2017 Formula DRIFT Round 1: Streets of Long Beach champion Saturday.

Deane, who had the second-best qualifying run, defeated three former Formula DRIFT champions before winning his tandem battle against Alex Heilbrunn to take the title. With the win, Deane is now the early-season points leader.

Heilbrunn, who defeated Frederic Aasbo and Odi Bakchis to reach his first final, took second place while Ryan Tuerck finished third.  

“That’s hard to get your head around — I think for any driver,” Deane said of beating the former champions. “Yesterday, [when I qualified] second — [that] was already the weekend done for me. I was happy with that.”

While Deane was triumphant in his return to the Formula DRIFT Pro Championship circuit after a seven-year hiatus, the Irishman is a five-time European Drift champion and five-time Irish Drift Champion.

Deane, who hadn’t competed in a Formula DRIFT event since 2010, quickly became a fan favorite as he pushed his car to the limit.

“The battles were crazy,” Deane said. “[When] leading, I just put it all out there and somehow it worked out.”

The drift event, which utilizes Turns 9 through 11 of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach course, served as a precursor to this weekend’s event that will take place April 7-9.

This year’s event saw the defending champion, Chelsea Denofa, lose in the round of 32 to Deane’s Worthouse teammate Piotr Wiecek.

Those who weren’t able to attend this weekend’s event will have a chance to see some drifting action when 16 drivers compete in the Motegi Racing Super Drift Challenge Friday and Saturday.

Formula DRIFT will return to its normal season schedule when it head to Orlando Speedway for the “Unchartered Territory” event April 28-29 where Frederic Aasbo is the defending champion.

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