Round 4 – Top Drift ProAM

Coming into the finales of this Top Drift season we where 2nd in the championship fight by only a single point. With stiff competition throughout the entire field we knew that we couldn’t let our guard down and we would have to bring our best for Round 4.

The last round was held at the Willow Springs International Raceway facility, on the “Wall Stadium” track. This is a oval track that is lined with concrete walls that do not have any give. With that said we kept it conservative during practice. Mostly feeling out the track and car set up. After a few solid passes we where confident in our car set up and decided to call it a night, ready for competition day.

On competition day Top Drift always has a short practice before they start their qualifying rounds. At this round it’s always a little tricky because practice is earlier in the day with the sun beaming down and the temperatures high, and qualifying/ competition during the later evening/night, when temperatures and track grip both lower. We usually only do 2 to 3 passes before qualifying, mostly to get out and loosen up.

As soon as they announced that it was time for qualifying I jumped into the car and lined up right away. We wanted to be one of the first to run qualifying, this way we would have a clean track without tire clag on the high line, and so that we can watch the rest of the competitors and see how they would be running their competition line. I had put down what I thought was 2 very solid runs, and headed to the bleachers to enjoy the show.

Qualifying announcements are always nerve racking in Top Drift, as they do not announce scores or post them, so you don’t really know if you made it into the show. As they move from 16th position and higher, I always start to get more and more jittery. When they hit 5th and higher, that’s when you’re heart and mind start racing. When the judges had announce that we earned the number 1 spot in qualifying I couldn’t be more happy! After some quick pictures and a Top 16 driver’s meeting we where off to our cars and gridded up for battle.

My first pairing would be up against Nicholas Priyono and his 5.3 LS breathing e36. Nicholas had told me that this was his first time making it into the Top 16, but I had seen a few of his passes through out the weekend and knew that he would be no body to doubt. With that in mind I put down a solid lead run, and stuck to his door during the chase, and the judges had awarded us the win.

For Top 8 we would be paired against Pablo Cabrera in his ITB LS swapped S13. Pablo has been progressing through the year, getting better and better, and knew that his LS was able to put down some serious power. With that in mind I tired to use all the grip that we had from the ZestinoGredge 07R tire to pull a gap during the drift. My spotter had let me know that we put a good gap on Pablo, but that I had nicked a cone coming off the second bank. With that in mind I tried to apply as much pressure as possible and keep good proximity during the follow run. At the end of the course it looks like it had paid off because Pablo hit the wall with his rear, straighten out the car and swung his front into the wall as well.

The judges had ruled that his mistakes out weighed the cone hit and awarded us the win to continue into the Top 4 where we would be facing Kyle Cameron in his v8 s14. Both the lead run and follow run felt great, and when the call came over the radio that we where awarded the win I couldn’t be any happier to now be battling for either the 1st or 2nd podium spot.
After getting out of the car to wait for who we would be lined up against I saw one of my pit crew guys running over smiling. When he gets to me, he let me know that with that finish we wrapped up the overall points lead and we are the Top Drift 2016 season champions! A flood of emotions ran through my head, but they had to be quickly subdued as I would be hopping back into the car to face my good friend Sean Adriano and his borrowed 1jz S13. I was pumped to be driving up against Sean because I knew for sure he wouldn’t play any weird games and just drive all out. Sean has been one of the faster car’s through out the weekend so I knew I would have to keep close to him and try to pull a gap during the lead. On the lead run Sean ended up straightening up and hitting some cones giving us the advantage. On my follow run I was a little more shallow on the bank than he was, but the cones he had taken out would be too much of a defecate for him, and when the smoke had settled we where awarded the win!

There where more hugs and high fives than I think I’ll be able to recall, and a smile that was too big to fit on my face. What a way to finish off the year with a grand slam! 1st place qualifier, 1st for the round, and 1st for the overall season!

With that we have eared our Formula Drift license and will be off to compete in the 2017 Pro 2 series. Next year will creep up on use fast, so its time to get work!

Photo by David Karey @ AmDrift.com

Written by Adam Knapik

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