Valuable Points Earned at 2020 Formula DRIFT Opening Rounds by Yoshihara
It’s been a long time coming, and after unavoidable delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 Formula DRIFT season finally got underway with the Crossroads opener at World Wide Technology Raceway on September 5-6, 2020. In FD’s effort to deliver eight PRO category rounds, the switch to a compressed format has each venue hosting a double-header PRO event on Saturday and Sunday, with PRO2 taking place on Friday.
Since more competition is squeezed into each weekend, FD eliminated qualifying sessions, with Thursday devoted entirely to practice. Because of this, driver match-ups are decided by a selection formula to ensure competitive battles during the competition heats.
To improve on the 2019 course layout, FD altered the clipping zones with the goal of creating better competition and flow at World Wide Technology Raceway, and ensured that teams had enough practice time on Thursday to achieve that.
With some major names missing because of COVID-19 travel restrictions, the series welcomed 29 drivers to the starting gate for the opening rounds of the 2020 Formula DRIFT PRO Championship. They represented eight different countries and included eight rookies who were cutting their teeth in the world’s top drift series.
Coming in hot from his Pikes Peak Unlimited Class victory the weekend prior, ENEOS-sponsored PRO Championship veteran Dai Yoshihara hopped back into his familiar Subaru BRZ drift car, hoping to carry his winning momentum forward.
In the Top 32, Dai went up against rookie Tyler Nelson, and delivered a smooth lead run that Nelson was unable to follow as precisely. Nelson took his lead run aggressively, but dropped a tire off the course in the beginning and lost angle; Dai kept his distance in anticipation of Nelson’s moves, which paid off when Nelson went off course at Outer Zone 4 (OZ4). Dai moved on to the Top 16 with a unanimous judge’s decision.
In the Top 16, Dai faced Falken teammate Odi Bakchis, where he performed another smooth lead run with Odi following closely. Dai went a little wide at OZ4, but it was a clean run from both drivers. On Odi’s lead, he created a gap at Inner Clip 1, causing Dai to charge harder to gain proximity throughout the rest of the course. This would lead to him making contact with Odi at the beginning of OZ4. This mistake ended Dai’s performance in Round One, and Odi would eventually finish in third place overall.
After a punishing Round One, the teams thrashed late into the night to fix battered cars before everything reset for Round Two the following day, with Dai determined to come back hard.
Sunday’s Top 32 match-up paired Dai up with the Brazilian, Joao “The Sheriff” Barion, who first hit Dai aggressively on his chase run (causing damage to the BRZ’s control arm). However, Barion straightened on his lead run after shutting down at Outer Zone 3, resulting in an incomplete run that sent Dai to the Top 16.
In the Top 16, Dai faced off once again with Odi Bakchis, and on his first chase run Dai followed tightly but adjusted a couple times, causing him to fall behind Odi and out of drift by the end of the course as he tried to catch up. Dai then had to use his Competition Timeout to repair a minor issue after two days of stress on the BRZ, something he noticed at OZ4 and may have been caused during his battle with Barion. When he returned for his lead run, Odi made slight corrections of his own but held good proximity without making any major mistakes and received a unanimous pass from the judges to the Top 8. Dai was eliminated and heads home to prepare for the next double-header.
The 2020 Formula DRIFT PRO and Link ECU PRO2 Championships continue on September 25-27 at Evergreen Speedway in Seattle, WA. Please visit formulad.com for 2020 event details, driver profiles, new content and livestream information.
Photos: Larry Chen