Rotaries Scream at Formula D Finale
Formula DRIFT returned to Irwindale Speedway for the 2012 season finale. Round 7: Title Fight at Irwindale Speedway showcased drifting in its finest form. For the first time in Formula DRIFT and Irwindale Speedway history the event sold out before the gates opened to the public. "Last year was so amazing we didn't think we could do it again, not like this," said Jim Liaw, president and co-founder of Formula DRIFT. "This is why we love drifting. We are so energized for season 10 which starts April 12-13, 2013."
Now that the season is over, Kyle Mohan can admit that things did not go as well in 2012 as he would have liked. "We finished 22nd in points — seriously?" said Mohan. "We were tenth last year. We will do better!"
A mid-season string of bad luck and mechanical issues meant Mohan wasn't able to repeat his 2011 season form. That being the case, he was looking to finish the season on a high note in the # 99 Nexen / Energy-X Mazda RX-8 at Irwindale Speedway. By defeating the defending champion and advancing to the top-16, Mohan did just that.
With an updated Mazdatrix bridgeport 13B engine under the hood of his RX-8, and with a lot of time spent at the dyno, Mohan's Mazda was faster than ever on the banks of Irwindale during practice. However, an alternator failure shortly afterward would park the car and put more pressure on Mohan and his crew in order to make the most use of the limited Friday practice session that led into qualifying. Five runs would be all that Mohan would get before qualifying. After a disappointing first run, Mohan put an exclamation point on his day by scoring an 82 to qualify solidly at Q16. As luck would have it, he would be matched up with Daijiro Yoshihara, the defending Formula Drift champion, who he met in the top-32 in the previous round at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. "Enough was enough," said Mohan about matching up with Yoshihara. "Dai's a super nice guy and I get along well with his team, but I was either going to beat him or crash trying."
By out-qualifying Yoshihara, Mohan led first and laid down an impressive run, scraping his rear bumper the whole way along the inner bank — with Yoshihara maintaining good proximity throughout the course. On Yoshihara's lead run, he established a gap and tried to run away from Mohan's Mazda before impacting the wall in the inner bank. The mistake, which was the only one of note in the two runs, meant Mohan advanced to the Top-16 where he would meet Rhys Millen.
"It's been so long since I was in the opening ceremonies, I almost forgot where to go," said Mohan. "Lucky for me, the Nexen Tire umbrella girl, who always goes to opening ceremonies, got me pointed in the right direction."
Mohan's event would end when he made minor contact in the inner bank while chasing Millen, doing minimal damage to the car but causing him to have a correction. While Mohan's lead run was flawless, Millen made no mistakes and advanced to the Great Eight.
"I'm really happy that after all the challenges we had this year, the whole team pulled together and we had an awesome final event," said Mohan. "Irwindale Speedway at night, opening ceremonies, a huge crowd, what more could you ask for? I'm glad to be a part of it and we are really looking forward to next year and bringing our Nexen / Energy-X Mazda RX-8 back.
However, the top Mazda qualifier at the event was the #88 of Chelsea De Nofra who joined Bergenholtz Racing in July to drive the Nitto Tire BC Racing Mazda RX-8. De Nofra qualified eighth making some impressive angles along the way. His promising day was cut short when Patrick Mordaunt just got the better of him in their first round match-up. De Nofra did well to finish the season 17th in points.
The third and final Mazda Formula D drifter was Jeremy Lowe. He qualified his 1986 FC RX-7 21st in the 32-car field. Unfortunately Matt Field took the first round victory placing Lowe 29th in points on the season.
Formula DRIFT enters its tenth season of competition in 2013 and Mazda's will be proving the rotary induced soundtrack as Mohan, De Nofa and Lowe look to take some names. Round 1: Streets of Long Beach will be held on April 12-13, 2013.