Welcome to the first round of Formula Drift here at....wait did I say Formula Drift? Sorry Evergreen Drift, my bad, however judging from qualifying the 2 drift outlets shared some similar woes.
The first thing that is apparent between the two are the number of drivers. Formula D Pro 1 is sitting at 33 drivers putting them just 1 over the "Top 32", where as the Evergreen Pro Am grid was sitting at only 15 drivers making it 1 less than even a Top 16. Granted we did loose some very talented drivers in the series as they graduated into the Formula D ranks, speaking of which keep an eye on Cameron Moore (just saying.) The driver count was a bit low, however during practice the majority of the drivers were putting on an impressive show of balls and car control as they bombed the 5/8 bank around Evergreen.
Some drivers, both new to the track or to the Pro Am class, were still working on car settings for the day and shaking out any jitters before doing battle. For hitting this bank (same line as FD) at the top of 3rd WOT and running tandem for the first time in a competition setting, my hats off to their performance during their first round.
Being that there were only 15 cars, you would expect drivers to just lay down a solid enough run to get into the show. At only 15 drivers who really cares about where you qualify. Unfortunately for drivers and fans alike some runs were pushed too hard, gears didn't want to stay in place, and untimely destruction all occurred during qualifying. The field was now drastically reduced.
By the end of qualifying we were down to only 8 drivers.
1) Brandon Schmidt
2) Dio Ortiz II
3) Nate Snyder
4) Travis Reeder
5) Tyler Campbell
6) Tyler Grimsley
7) Arie Abrams
8) Matt Vankrik
After Pro Am qualifying, Evergreen Speedway had what they called "Fan Fest." It is an hour during the day when all the cars drive onto the track and the fans can roam around the front straight to a closer look and a chance to meet the drivers.
Today's competition was a little special because beside is being Drift Pro Am, we also had all the NASCAR guys out as well as some little kids driving quarter midgets who could probably out drive the majority of us.
These kids are bad ass. They may be only between 5 - 14 ( they said once you out grow it and your helmet hits the bars you are out) but they have drivers spirit and determination once the flag goes green. This kid in the John Deere midget was womping on people, I had a go kart when I was a kid but man I wish I could have done this.
After the Nascar guys had their turn at the track...
We were back to drifting! (Yayyyyyyyy)
Ok Top 8.
First pair up to the line is #1 qualifier Brandon Schmidt against Arie Abrams. Unfortunately for Arie, one of his gears decided that this was a good time to say F*ck it and check out. Sorry Arie that's a crappy card to get dealt in the big show, but that means that Brandon Schmidt moves on to the Final 4.
Next in the Top 8 to do battle is Matt Vankirk, who literally with the help of friends put the car together the night before and qualified with no clutch and no power steering, against Dio Ortiz II. Dio was looking so solid in qualifying, I could have swore that he was going to be a top contender today. Similar to Arie during the previous battle, Dio's transmission was popping out of gear as he came off the 5/8 bank and into power ally. Matt Vankirk is able to control his still in shakedown mode chassis, and move on to the Final 4 and join Brandon Schmidt.
Halfway through the field (that was quick) we see Nate Snyder in his V8 S14 go head to head against fellow Always Reckless driver Tyler Campbell in his V8 Hachi. Tranmission/driveline issues seemed to be the go-to for the gremlins during today's competition. Tyler Campbell had been plagued by a slipping clutch all day and during practice could not lay down any solid runs around the bank. However he managed to wrangle that clutch in and keep it tidy enough until Nate made a mistake. Tyler Campbell is now our 3rd finalist.
Our last Top 8 battle saw Travis Reeder pinned against Tyler Grimsley. Both cars are powered by V8's, both drivers are very talented and hungry for it, but only one could walk away. In the end Travis Reeder would take our final seat in the Top 4.
1) Brandon Schmidt
2) Matt Vankirk
3) Tyler Campbell
4) Travis Reeder
Somehow Matt Vankirk pulled out something from up his sleeve and went from qualifying with no clutch or power steering and only scoring 11 points, to now facing the #1 qualifier of the day in the Final 4. Matt's crew was literally under the car getting things together as they drove to the track. Now that is dedication, or sacrifice if that car slipped. His determination paid off as both the crowd and judges agreed that they wanted to see Brandon and Matt do battle one more time.
As Brandon and Matt returned to the pits, Travis and Tyler took to the line. Tyler Campbell also overcame quite a few obstacle's with his slipping clutch and trying to keep that turbo charged v8 under control. Travis Redder out drove the hachi and secured to spot in the final battle.
With the sun setting and lights coming on around Evergreen we saw the One More Time battle of Brandon and Matt. Despite the teamwork and effort from Vankirk's camp and Matt's determination he just couldn't keep up with the consistency of Brandon Schmidt. Still an amazing feat going from a car on stands to 4th place for Round 1 in under 48hrs.
With his 3rd place solidified, Tyler Campbell made his solo runs and celebrated a podium finish for round 1.
#1 qualifier Brandon Schmidt v. #4 qualifier Travis Reeder
The twin red v8 powered S-13 coupes were poised to duke it out for the chance at taking home the gold medal and starting the 2016 season off with a bang. Both drivers were melting the tread off their tires trying to out best their opponent, but Travis Reeder pushed his chassis a little too hard and ran wide handing the win to Brandon Schmidt.
1st Brandon Schmidt
2nd Travis Reeder
3rd Tyler Campbell
Congratulations to all the drivers and I can't wait to see how the 2016 season progresses!!!
Please enjoy the slideshow below
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