Team ENEOS Claims Championship Title at Formula DRIFT Utah 2023
As the season winds down, the levels of competition intensifies as Team ENEOS hit multiple high notes at Round 7 of the 2023 Formula DRIFT season. Held amid the majestic setting of Utah Motorsports Campus in Grantsville, UT, PROSPEC sensation (and 33% of the Feal Race Team) Ben Hobson not only won the final round but the 2023 Championship title in the Pedal Commander / Feal Suspension / Koruworks / Motegi Racing Nissan S14. His Team Feal teammate Simen Olsen took third in the FD PRO competition after taking down team leader Odi Bakchis during the Top 16.
Faruk Kugay arrived in Utah with no experience on the challenging track configuration. Back behind the wheel of the ENEOS / Pedal Commander Nissan S14, he used every second of practice to learn the course and qualified 12th. However, he was unfortunately knocked out of competition in the Top 32 by Trevor Root. For the 2023 season, Kugay finished 13th overall with 128 total points.
“This season went better than I anticipated,” said Kugay. “The team worked really well together, and after a couple of years away from competition we found our stride. None of this would’ve been possible without the performance and protection that ENEOS lubricants provided all season for our powertrain. Finishing mid-pack is something we look forward to improving next year as we plan to return to PROSPEC with the same car and team. The final round was incredible because it was the first time my daughter Sabine had been to a competition round, so having her and my partner Rebeca there made our already tight knit team truly feel like a family.”
PROSPEC points leader Ben Hobson was ready to carry his momentum into the final round after his win at St Louis. Shockingly, he started off with his worst qualifying session of the season, a 76.3 point run placed him in P9 and against Rye O’Connor in the Top 32 heats.
Mathematically speaking, if Hobson lost to O’Connor, he’d still have a chance to win the Championship, but all he needed to do was reach the Great 8 in order to lock it in. As it happens, Hobson surged ahead on his lead and O’Connor went off-course after getting lost in Hobson’s smoke while making the transition from Outer Zone 1 (OZ1) to Outer Zone 2 (OZ2), resulting in an incomplete run. Swapping places, O’Connor again went off course at OZ2, allowing Hobson to advance into the Top 16, taking him one step closer to securing the PROSPEC Championship.
In the Top 16, Hobson faced Kasey Kohl, who managed to take down two-time PROSPEC Champion Dmitriy Brutskiy in the Top 32. Kohl led first based on his qualifying position, and Hobson applied pressure from the start. Kohl almost lost it at OZ2 but managed to save himself while Hobson maintained his line all the way to the finish line. With Hobson in the lead, all he had to do was keep it cool. The judges unanimously gave him a win that secured the 2023 PROSPEC Championship title!
From there, Hobson had the much needed boost to help fuel him through the remainder of the competition, where he faced a formidable opponent in Rudy Hansen in the Great 8 (who eventually took third place overall in the PROSPEC Championship), then Andy Hateley in the Final 4 (the eventual second place finisher in the PROSPEC Championship). Hobson won the Final battle against Rookie of the Year Cole Richards to claim the final round of the season as the icing on the cake.
“We did it! We showed up at Round 1 and said we were going to take the Championship, then we drove hard each round until we reached victory,” Hobson said. “I couldn’t be happier with the car, team, and most importantly, myself for not over-driving. Huge shoutout to ENEOS for keeping the car running flawlessly all weekend and the entire season up to the finals!”
Hobson finished the 2023 PROSPEC season in first place with 345 total points.
The second half of the Utah double-header event would determine the fate of many Team ENEOS drivers in the overall PRO standings, including Odi Bakchis and his teammate Simen Olsen, and reigning champion Fredric Aasbo.
Qualifying P13, Aasbo lined up his Rockstar Energy Toyota GR Supra to battle Kyle Mohan in the Top 32 and Travis Reeder in the Top 16, advancing to meet Toyota Racing teammate Ryan Tuerck in the Great 8. On his lead run, Aasbo initiated with huge angle as he transitioned into OZ1, dropped a tire at OZ2 but held a deep line against Tuerck to the finish. Tuerck himself had a solid lead run and a slight tire drop at OZ3. Afterwards, the judges unanimously agreed Tuerck was better by the slimmest margin for the advance into the Final 4. The loss dropped Aasbo down to fourth in the overall standings with 383 points and makes it extremely difficult to capture his fourth PRO title and three-peat at the Irwindale finals.
Bakchis didn’t have an easy climb to the top as he qualified P15, facing Vaughn Gittin Jr in their Top 32 battle between the Feal Suspension / GT Radial Nissan S15 and the 2023 Monster Energy Ford Mustang RTR Spec 5-FD. The two battled hard and the judges requested One More Time (OMT) on two occasions before Vaughn finally made an error in their third matchup, making a mistake on initiation while chasing Odi. Bakchis then had the misfortune of meeting teammate Olsen in the Top 16, which would inevitably send one of the Feal Race Team drivers home early.
With Bakchis’ S15 against Olsen’s Feal Suspension Nissan S14.9, the battle between Jedi master and apprentice was fierce. Olsen looked incredibly strong after qualifying second and gave it everything on his lead run. The two kept it tight until Bakchis made a slight twitch just outside OZ2 that caused him to lose proximity to Olsen. Swapping positions, they both kept it as close as the first run, except Olsen had better proximity where Bakchis twitched, giving him the win. Olsen carried his momentum and took third place on the podium, which also thrust him into third (with 387 points) in the overall standings!
Odi’s loss prevents him from mathematically winning the PRO Championship but allows him to retain fifth in the current standings.
“What a weekend! It’s crazy having to battle my own drivers in competition, but achieving the overall team goal is the bigger picture — and we did it again, and again,” said an excited Bakchis. “The Feal Race Team secured the PROSPEC Championship with Hobson, and Simen put it on the box in PRO! Eight podiums so far this season, let’s go to Irwindale!”
“Wow, taking third in Utah means I’m now third overall in the Championship,” Olsen exclaimed. “It’s been a rollercoaster ride; practice was difficult as we didn’t have the right setup but the team dialed it in and we made it happen! I’m stoked to have my third podium of the year, and I can’t wait for Irwindale. Thanks to ENEOS for keeping the car running smooth, it’s taken a beating but these lubricants help it perform.”
Team ENEOS faces the 2023 Formula DRIFT PRO season closer at the House of Drift, Irwindale Event Center on October 13-14, 2023.