Formula Drift 2018 Finals Full Review
It’s been 24 hours since the 2018 Formula Drift drifting season ended in a heart pounding, drama filled, display of drifting put on by some of the best drifters in the world. If you are really a fan of drifting and Formula Drift, last night had everything!
Photos by Justin Miller
Even as I look at the shots from the finals, all the excitement comes right back. These drivers all left it out on the track and this being the finale for the historic 15th season of Formula Drift, they put on a show for the ages.
With A championship up for grabs, a rookie of the year to be decided, and field of 27 cars ready for head to head battle at the packed House of Drift, Irwindale Speedway, Top 32 was set!
Defending champion and current points leader James Deane had a small lead on second place Frederic Aasbo going into the event and needed to get into Top 8 to clinch back to back Formula Drift titles. With Aasbo needing to win the event with Deane getting knocked out in Top 32 or 16 to win the title.
The top five drivers from qualifying received bye runs into Top 16 due to the shortened field of 27 cars. These included Deane, Wiecek, Yoshihara, Aasbo, and Tuerck. Leaving James Deane with only one more win needed to secure his 2018 Formula Drift Championship and Aasbo in great position to strike.
Deane started off Top 32 with his bye run, and in typical Deane fashion, lays down a full send run putting on a show for the drifting fans around the world!
Matt Field calls a 5 min competition time out after the car still had issues from a late practice fire.
Ken Gushi takes out Formula Drift Rookie Austin Meeks.
Forrest Wang and Matt Field pull up after the time out. Something happened to Field on the chase, who had to shut it down and watch Forrest lay down a great lead run. Forrest would get a bye run for the second half, moving on to Top 16 to battle James Deane.
Alec Hohnadell defeats Federico Sceriffo in his Ferrari Drift machine “Fiorella”.
Aasbo up next in his Toyota Corolla with his bye run.
In a great battle Jhnathan Castro and Justin Pawlak both layed down aggressive runs in lead and chase. Judges went OMT with fairly similar runs and mistakes.
Ryan Tuerck takes his bye run to move on to Top 16.
Dean Kearney looked solid moving on after winning his battle with Taguchi. Taguchi has shown a ton of improvement with his Nissan GTR throughout the 2018 season. I hope to see him back next year!
JTP and Castro battled again in their OMT. Another great battle with Castro edging out the Roush Mustang of JTP.
Piotr Weicek comes out and lays down one of the most aggressive bye runs of the year putting his Worthouse Drift S15 up against every wall in near perfect fashion.
Next up Odi Bakchis and a hard charging Toyota Supra of Dan Burkett. Odi wins with textbook lead and chase to make his way to Top 16. Burkett got Rad on his lead, hammering the rear of the Supra into the wall across the finish line for a spectacular finish!
Chris Forsberg and Matt Coffman line up next. Chris had said in an interview with Laurette Nichols before the runs that he was down a cylinder, having problems and this being the end of the season, he “unplugged the injector and the coil. Doubled up the nitrous to make up for the loss, and we are just going to see what happens.” then chuckles. Send it!! The car seemed to hold up well on his lead run with Coffman with Forsberg calling a competition timeout to cool the car down. His team literally throwing every bit of bottled water they could find on and in the cooling system of the NOS energy drink 370z.
Rookie of the Year contender,Matt Van Kirk lined up against the RTR Mustang of Vaughn Gitten Jr in the bracket and held nicely up against Vaughn lead run with minimal mistakes for a rookie facing a Formula Drift veteran. Van Kirk layed down a nice lead in his S13 with Gitten in close proximity. Vaughn wins to head to Top 16.
Second half of the Coffman, Forsberg battle was close until right at the end of the lap when Forsberg rotates giving Coffman and his Roush powered Ford V8 240sx the win.
Dai Yoshihara’s V8 BRZ looked solid in his bye run.
Rookie Dirk Stratton and his Drift Vette defeated The Doc 370z of Jeff Jones in a close battle, with two judges sliding to Stratton. Dirk won the Rookie of the Year honors by moving on! Congratulations to him and the whole team working through some tough issues and the rookie learning curve this year with some strong Rookie competition along the way.
Michael Essa took on Faruk Kugay in an all BMW battle. Essa put down a commanding lead run with Kugay trying to keep up with the former champ. Kugay’s lead was an exciting one as he went strong and put the Wreckless BMW into and against the wall. He held his line but Essa followed into the same line hitting much harder and wrecking into the wall. Faruk continued the run but judges deemed it an unchaseable lead and awarded Essa the win.
To close out Top 32, Taylor Hull who has been improving every event with his Comp Cams ATS Cadillac went against Chelsea Denofa. Hull notably had a pretty sweet lead run but Denofa was on another level at Irwindale. Denofas car is just dominant against Hull and moves on. We have been fans of Taylor for bringing so much drive and positivity even in the wake of disasters. We really hope to see him return with the Drift Caddy next season.
Notably, the National Anthem was sung by the late Kelsey Quayle, who succumbed to injuries sustained in a horrible accident a few days earlier. It was a touching tribute to the Falken spokeswoman. Rest in Peace.
So here we are! Over 100 events. 15 years. Seven events down. One championship to give. Opening ceremony done. It was time for one last dance in 2018. And Top 16 was going to kick off with a bang! A bang that seemed to last until the final set of tires was destroyed. This Finale was insane! Buckle up its time for one of the best Top 16 Formula Drift events ever!
Leading off the battle we’ve waited to see! Finally, Forrest Wang vs James Deane and both drivers cars are intact and running perfect! Tensions are super high as Deane needs to win and move on to secure his championship hopes but Forrest Wang is on fire this season and isn’t going to lay down for the defending champion. Out of the gate Deane quickly got up to the wall and Wang began dialing him in. Forrest threw his 2jz powered S15 right at Deane and door to door through the final section! This was just a preview of the rest of the night.
Both swap places and Wang lays down a near perfect lead run as Deane has a problem in the chase. Deane fights to catch up and struggles to keep door to door with Wang. Completely uncharacteristic of Deane. Did Wang just knock off the defending champion? The judges results came back and Wang unanimously takes the win!! We just saw exactly what needed to happen for Aasbo’s chances to stay alive. Are you kidding me? Crazy! Aasbo now has a championship opportunity in his grasp! He HAS to win the event but here was his chance.
Next up Ken Gushi and Alec Holnadell put on another door to door show right off the jump! Hohnadell put his S14 right on the door of Gushi in the chase with Gushi again laying down a near perfect lead. Switch places with similar results for the second run. Both drives putting everything each car has down. To the judges. Ken Gushi takes the win and moves on.
Here comes Aasbo! Frederic must win every battle from here on out! Jhnathan Castro hopes to play spoiler just like Wang started off Top 16. Aasbo starts off with a solid lead with Castro staying tight till the finish. Meanwhile James Deane can only wait and watch on as Aasbo chases down the Toyota 86 of Castro and lays down a decent chase. The win goes to Aasbo and the championship is still up for grabs!
Ryan Tuerck faces The Oracle Lighting Viper of Dean Kearney next. Again we get two great runs with both drivers performing at top level. The judges voted Dean Kearney who gets the win.
Halfway through Top 16 and we were getting a show! These battles were all close with the drivers seemingly throwing caution to the wind. The intensity was through the roof and it was just starting!
Odi Bakchis faced off against the always exciting Worthouse driver Piotr Wiecek in another great match up. With the amazing commentary of Joey Jux from Vapetasia in the booth along side Jarod Deanda, Odi put his V8 powered S14 within inches of Wiecek door and brought everyone to their feet!
In his own words this was exactly what Joey Jux was looking for! We agree with you Joey! That’s it! Piotr gets super aggressive in the chase position putting his S15’s bumper up against the wall in the bank trying to keep up with Odi’s fantastic lead run.
Vaugh Gitten Jr, looking on point, continues on to Top 8 by taking out Matt Coffman.
Newly crowned Rookie of the Year Dirk Stratton battled hard in his Corvette against FD veteran Dai Yoshihara, getting super aggressive in the chase and making contact a few times with the BRZ and then spinning. Dai was able to work on his car after judges assessed fault to Stratton. At a deficit Dirk gave it everything hitting the wall and just mashing the pedal down but Dai just keeps it tight and takes the win.
Chelsea Denofa definitely came Ready to Rowdy at Irwindale, putting on a spectacular show against Michael Essa with two great runs to move on.
Forrest Wang took on Ken Gushi in an unbelievable battle with Wang bumping doors and all over Gushi in the chase position. Switching up Wang runs away in the lead as Gushi lost a transmission after the bank. Wang moves on to Final 4.
Frederic Aasbo now takes on Deane Kearney and the monster Viper. Aasbo looks like a man possessed in the lead and chase. After a super close battle Judges give the call to Aasbo, now one more step closer to the 2018 Formula Drift Championship. Is Aasbo going to really pull this off? Wow. Talk about edge of your seat.
Gitten vs Bakchis was up next. Contact was made in the first run with Vaughn in the lead and left Odi spinning. With Odi having basically an incomplete, Vaughn’s chase was enough to move on to the final 4.
Dai vs Denofa started off with an aggressive Denofa absolutely killing the proximity in the chase position. He was all over Dai. Denofa puts down a incredible lead run tapping just about every wall on the track leaving RTR Mustang pieces all over the House of Drift. Judges want a OMT.
Again a super aggressive chase from Chelsea bumping Dai a bit staying door to door. Switching positions Chelsea’s lead was good and consistent but Dai stays pretty far back in the chase. Denofa wins.
Frederic Aasbo, now guaranteed a podium as the highest qualifier in the finals lines up against Forrest Wang. Again Wang can play spoiler and now take out Aasbo end his chances at the championship. Aasbo put down a textbook lead run against an aggressive hard charging Wang. As if to keep the drama on high Wang jumped the light causing a restart. After a clean start Wang puts down a great lead along with Aasbo keeping pace and staying tight.
A tough call. Will Aasbo move on to the finals? Verdict…Frederic Aasbo gets the win!
Chelsea Denofa vs Vaughn Gitten Jr was exciting! Denofa got all over and into Vaughn in the chase. Body panels are flying, both cars have damage but the run continues till the finish line in a shower of sparks and pieces. Wow!
As he said he would, Denofa’s lead was crazy, aggressive, wall banging carnage, leaving everything out on the track, literally. Unreal! Winner is Vaughn Gitten Jr
Formula Drift Round 8 – 2018 Finals
The finals are here! You’ve made it this far! It’s time! Vaughn Gitten Jr faces off against Frederic Aasbo who has one more win to get before he takes home the 2018 drifting championship!
The packed House at Irwindale is loud. Jarod is hyping the crowd. Deane and Wiecek watch from the side and on their phones.
Nerves are on high and it’s time to send it!
Aasbo and Vaughn lay down near identical and perfect leads and chases staying door to door. This is amazing! The driving is next level tonight and guess what? We don’t have a winner. OMT.
Same exact results! Are you kidding me! Everyone is buzzing! In the stands, on the Livestream, and on the track. It’s another OMT! James Deane can’t believe it! Wow!
Third battle finally showed a weakness in these two gladiators when Aasbo bumped the wall too hard, straightened and gave the judges the difference in runs they need to make a decision…
Vaughn Gitten Jr was the winner!
This left James Deane the 2018 Formula Drift Champion!
What an amazing event the Finale for the Formula Drift 15th season turned out to be. In my opinion one of the best events in a long time if not best ever! Congrats to Vaughn Gitten Jr on turning his season around! And congrats to James Deane on back to back Formula Drift Championships!
Also huge congrats to Formula Drift and the staff for an amazing event and 15 years of drifting!
Winner : Vaughn Gitten Jr
2nd : Frederic Aasbo
3rd : Chelsea Denofa
CHECK OUT THE FULL GALLERY FROM IRWINDALE Click HERE