IT’S A PHOTO FINISH FOR FORMULA DRIFT
This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!
Published on Sun, Oct 9, 2011
By: The LACar Editorial Staff
Words by Mark Dorman Pictures by Eric Dorman It was an incredible day at Toyota Speedway in Irwindale. Formula D (DRIFT) returned for the final event of the 2011 season. This was the most evenly matched championship that Formula D has seen in its eight year history. Going into round seven (Title Fight), Dai (Daijiro) Yoshihara in the America’s Tire/Falken Tire Nissan 240SX (S13) was in the lead for the championship with 474 points. Yoshihara was followed closely by Justin Pawlak in second with 461.25 points, Darren McNamara with 435.75 points in third, Chris Forsberg in fourth with 430 points, and Matt Powers still in contention at fifth place with 420.5 points. Going into the Title Fight, the championship was still up for grabs for any of these racers. The drama started early as Yoshihara was knocked out in the round of 16 by Scion Racing's Ken Gushi, leaving the championship within reach for Justin Pawlak, Darren McNamara, or Chris Forsberg, as they all advanced to the “Great 8”. Going into the round of eight, Justin Pawlak could secure the championship if he could simply advance into the final four.
He could edge out Yoshihara in points with one more round passed. Going up against his Falken Tire teammate, Darren McNamara, in hopes of advancing to the final four and securing the championship, Justin Pawlak pulled off a flawless lead run in his Ford Mustang, outperforming Darren McNamara in his Saturn Sky. All that was left to do was make it through his trailing run without any major mistakes and he would move on. The crowd was in shock as Justin Pawlak hit the wall in the third turn of the course—a catastrophic mistake that cost him the title. This opened the door for either Chris Forsberg or Darren McNamara to gain the points lead if they could manage to win the event. Forsberg and McNamara could face off in the Final Battle if they simply made it past the final four, both vying for a shot at taking the championship from Dai Yoshihara. Unfortunately, Rhys Millen, pulling off a flawless performance, shut down any hope for Darren McNamara to head to the finals. Tyler McQuarrie secured his place in the Final Battle, defeating his Falken Tires teammate Darren McNamara. With both contending racers knocked out of the finals, Yoshihara had secured the championship. However, the winner of the event itself had yet to be determined. Misfortune struck again in the third place battle as McNamara spun out in his trailing run, and then, following the recurring theme of the night, both racers crashed on the following run. Forsberg spun out after the second turn and hit the wall before entering the third turn. At the same time, and independently of Forsberg’s crash, McNamara's Saturn Sky clipped the wall on the third turn, ripping off his rear bumper and damaging his rear wheel. Neither racer finished this run and both had to be towed away.
The winner of the other Final Battle between Tyler McQuarrie and Rhys Millen would determine the event victor. After a great lead run from Rhys Millen, it was anyone's race, but the same turn that had plagued so many other racers claimed another victim as Millen clipped the third turn wall and spun out. With Millen's spin, Tyler McQuarrie in the Falken Tire Nissan 350Z took the event victory. The Title Fight concluded the most successful season in Formula D history. The sold-out crowd at Toyota Speedway in Irwindale not only broke the venue’s attendance record, but also made the 2011 Title Fight the largest Formula D event in history. Congratulations to Dai Yoshihara for his 2011 Formula DRIFT Championship and to Tyler McQuarrie for his second event victory. Editor’s note: Eric Dorman contributed to this article.