Formula Drift barreled into the Jersey Shore for Round 4: The Gauntlet the last weekend in June for one of the Wall Stadium Speedway’s most popular annual events. Chris Forsberg has been on the podium the past three years in Wall, but was facing fierce competition not only from this year’s podium finishers Fredric Aasbo, Ryan Tuerck, Ken Gushi, and Odi Bakchis, but some impending thunderstorms and the notorious 30 degree banks of the 1/3 mile asphalt oval.
In previous years, the competitors at Wall ran on a figure eight design with a tricky crossover but after complaints – one being that the competition took too long – the course was amended for 2015. The drivers began on a straightaway going clockwise, then hit the outer clip around along top of the turn; came out of the turn down the embankment to the first inner clip, then again around the inside of the opposite turn. Coming out of clipping zone 2, they would hit a second inner clip, then head into the third clipping zone to finish.
The new layout saw a lot of dramatic spins and crashes in practice as well as in competition. 2013 Formula Drift Champion Michael Essa got a little too cozy with the guardrail, and a crash between Tuerck and Brandon Wicknick left Tuerck’s frs unable to drive off the track after a big fireball, and had to be loaded onto a flatbed for repairs.
Due to the predicted rain, Formula D organizers moved Saturday’s final 16 to start an hour earlier than originally scheduled with a shortened break. Despite intermittent sprinkles, Wall’s old school stands were full of dedicated fans and the wet track offered even more challenges to the drivers. One disappointing aspect was that the bad weather limited drifting’s trademark plumes of smoke from the cars. The rain started to pour during the final eight – Gushi vs. Tuerck, Forrest Wang vs. Dean Kearney, Aasbo vs. Chelsea DeNofa, and Masashi Yokoi vs. Bakchis. Bakchis struggled with the downpour and Yokoi made it past him to the final four against Norwegian Fredric Aasbo, while Tuerck won against a very game but battered Ken Gushi to meet Kearney in the final four. Tuerck made the podium in 3rd place, and a podium finish for Kearney was certain – but had to face Aasbo first. Kearney and Aasbo were incredibly competitive in their final runs, with some tight exacting tandem passes.
Aasbo came out on top, Kearney placing second. Still, fans stuck around, and everyone got soaking wet in the rain for the presentation of the trophies – the champagne spray almost made redundant by the summer showers.