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Formula D Swings Through the South

Every year, Road Atlanta is the track I look forward to the most. The Horseshoe in the Turn 10 complex was built specifically for Formula D’s inaugural event, which happened be at this track in 2004. The Turn 10 complex itself snakes through a stadium-sized bowl surrounded by terrace seating and grassy slopes that get filled with canopies, coolers, cookouts, and of course the rowdiest fans in the country. The black of the asphalt is lined by white and forest green berms as it makes its way past tan gravel traps and freshly trimmed grass growing out of the red Georgia clay. Set all of that against a forested backdrop and you get a beautiful place to hold any kind of motorsports event.

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Coming off his win in Long Beach, Fredric Aasbø was a favorite to charge into a championship season. Geoff Stoneback stepped up and after defeating Tanner Foust in the Top 32, he ended Aasbø’s weekend in the Top 16. Ken Gushi made a splash as he returned to a form we haven’t seen in many years, climbing through the ranks all the way to second place, including a stunning double-OMT battle against Chris Forsberg in the Final Four.

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Odi Bakchis is the real story here though. In Long Beach he piloted his Hyundai Genesis to second place in his first ever event with the car, and then shipped that car to Japan and drove his old S14 to victory in Atlanta. If that’s not a sign of driving virtuosity, I don’t know what is. With Aasbø’s early exit from the competition, Bakchis took a commanding lead in the race to the championship.

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While Road Atlanta is a Formula D tradition, on the other end of the spectrum is Florida. Formula D has only been holding a round in Florida since 2011, and this was their first time at Orlando Speed World. OSW is also the third track FD has used in as many years, after stopping at Homestead-Miami Speedway in 2014 and Palm Beach International Raceway the three years before that.

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The forecast called for rain in the afternoon, and that’s exactly what we got. Friday’s qualifying session finished in time to miss the rain, but the Pro2 competition caught the brunt of the storm. Many drivers had trouble laying down clean runs, but Alex Heilbrunn came out on top, followed by Andrew Gray and Jeff Jones.

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Fredric Aasbø had a chance at reclaiming the overall lead in Orlando, starting with a rematch of his Long Beach battle with Masashi Yokoi. Yokoi came out on top this time, putting Aasbø in real jeopardy. Odi Bakchis had a huge chance to run away with the lead, but he had to get through Daigo Saito first, who had reportedly gotten his mechanical issues fixed. It wasn’t the case though, and Saito didn’t even make it to the starting line, which sent Bakchis straight into the Top 16.

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Bakchis couldn’t make it past Yokoi either, though a Top 16 finish did increase his lead over Aasbø. When battling Ryan Tuerck in the Great Eight, Yokoi’s car burst into flames rivaling those of Chris Forsberg in the previous round. Ryan Tuerck moved on and past Matt Field, to face Forsberg in the finals, whose own car had caught fire in a battle with Ken Gushi for the second time in two rounds. Forsberg couldn’t get his car to the line, and Tuerck took the victory by default.

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The win in Orlando moved Tuerck into second place behind Bakchis, and both Forsberg and Gushi moved ahead of Aasbø, who is now in fifth overall. Next is New Jersey, and Aasbø, Forsberg, and Bakchis all finished on the podium there last year. It could be a good one for sure!

 

Mad Mike take a practice run
Mad Mike takes a practice run in Atlanta
Ken Gushi goes a little wide
Ken Gushi goes a little wide
Chelsea DeNofa qualifying in a rented Supra
Chelsea DeNofa qualifying in a rented Supra
Sophomore driver Geoff Stoneback defeats two time champion Tanner Foust
Sophomore driver Geoff Stoneback defeats two time champion Tanner Foust
Ken Gushi leads Alec Hohnadell through the course
Ken Gushi leads Alec Honhadell through the course
Ken Gushi and Dai Yoshihara practice tandeming in Orlando
Ken Gushi and Dai Yoshihara practice tandeming in Orlando
Daigo Saito tests the changes made to his car since Atlanta
Daigo Saito tests the changes made to his car since Atlanta
Forrest Wang is always a crowd favorite
Forrest Wang is always a crowd favorite
Ryan Tuerck watches as his car is repaired after hitting the wall in front of Kristaps Bluss
Ryan Tuerck watches as his car is repaired after hitting the wall in front of Kristaps Bluss
Vaughn Gittin, Jr. and Jhonnattan Castro got to splash in the puddles
Vaughn Gittin, Jr. and Jhonnattan Castro got to splash in the puddles
Yokoi and Bakchis hammering it out
Yokoi and Bakchis hammering it out
Tuerck defeated Matt Field in the last battle of the day, winning over Forsberg by default
Tuerck defeated Matt Field in the last battle of the day, winning over Forsberg by default