Formula Drift Round 3 – Orlando Speedworld
Rockstars In Mouse-Town

The Formula Drift circus rolled into Orlando last week bringing with it one of the finest shows in motorsports.  In a world where drivers and teams are increasingly corporate it is always refreshing to see a series where the drivers and crews are still rockstars.  Where the event is a party. Where everyone is having a good time, regardless of how crippling the heat is, and where there is still a presence of rivalries and showmanship.

As much as I love endurance/sportscar racing and the soap opera of Formula 1, neither of those series have the flair and excitement that Formula D delivers on a regular basis, and Round 3 “Uncharted Territory” at Orlando Speedworld was no different. Walled banks, tough pavement transitions (the “bump”), and near 100 degree heat made the drivers work, the teams think, and punished already at-risk tires all weekend.

Thursday: Pro2 Qualifying

Thursday was a nice and easy day for the teams.  Everyone started car setups and had time to hit the track for the first time while the vendors finished setting up their awnings and waited for confirmation that their umbrella girls were going to show for the weekend.  I arrived just as the Pro2 group was starting their second open practice session for the day.

Right away the banking was attacked as Matt Madrigali tapped the wall right at the fence cutout I was hanging out at.  Thanks for the show Matt. Checking everything and getting a shot at the wall seemed to be goal number for both Pro and Pro2 teams.  This would later prove tactful since the judges paid extra attention to the initial banked wall section of the figure-8 course pretty much all weekend.

Friday: Pro2 Main- Pro Qualifying

It was Pro2 competition day.  The technicolor, aero-planed, horsepower goodness was ready to go: sideways and smokey.

Again I came late.  Blame my boss and my grown-up job for this. Even though it might be my fault, I will die arguing that emerging adulthood got in the way of racecars. I missed the morning’s media meeting thanks to “work.”  Whatever. I made it anyway.  I got there and it was still hot, maybe hotter.   I wandered around for the first half-hour trying to scope out the best areas to get some good shots at the action witch ended up being at the top of the bleachers above Turn 1. On the banking.

Both Matt Madrigali and Jeff Jones would fight their way to the semi-finals to give the sunburned fans one hell of a show. Jones would go onto the finals and face the best that Marc Landerville would to offer up.

Landerville besting his way past Stratton and Lewis, eventually defeated Jones in the final and took another win putting him 5 points up on Jones for the Pro2 Championship, fueling a already exciting rivalry for the upcoming round 3 at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth TX.

ORL Pro2 Bracket
Landerville seemed the clear winner all weekend.

Saturday: Pro Main

Somehow, I think it got hotter on Saturday.  My phone was telling me it was 93 degrees ambient out which means that the track temp would easily be above 100 during the day.  Since I didn’t have to wake up early and wait in line on  the westbound 408 toll-road to get my bi-weekly paycheck, I was able to make it to the morning’s media meeting, which means I am bestowed with the yellow bib of honor.  The “Go anywhere but the driver’s seat” pass that I was missing out on the first two days.

Free reign of any three photos areas which, after a couple runs filled the air with smoke vaguely resembled the WW1 bunkers of the Alsace-Lorraine, meant I was able to get several great vantage points for the upcoming Top32 battle.  Seriously smoke in the air, thundering engines and the rapid popping of anti-lag felt a proper tribute to the Battle of Ardennes as we camera nerds ran between bunkers in the drifting tire smoke.

The big news story to come out of the Pro Main came from the Top 32 and Chelsea Denofa being removed from competition due to the use of illegal tire sealant per Section 3.6 of the rulebook. Denofa explained his point-of-view on Facebook as just exploiting a grey area within the rule book in order to keep up with his competition.

Denofa’s Version Of The Story

Aasbo worked his way tot he top methodically.  It wasn’t exciting. It wasn’t showstopping. It was “Do only what you must” drifting.  Congrats to the guy on capitalizing on mediocre runs from Gray, Moen, and surprisingly McQuarrie.  Even though I think Castro could’ve given Aasbo a good run had he not been bumped by McQuarrie, Bluss made Aasbo work for it. It was straightforward. No risks. No chances. Aasbo played the weekend safe and in this case his best offense was defensive safe lines and runs.

Here's how it all went down in the sticky Central Florida heat.
Here’s how it all went down in the sticky Central Florida heat.

If you have yet to make it out to a Formula Drift event, do anything, everything you can, to give their weekend nearest you a shot. It’s properly good competition and a great show. Its a glimpse into the past and hopefully future of live motorsports events as the X-Games and Playstation generations get hold of races and turn them into events; someplace you actually want to be, a party. Formula D, Red Bull Global Rallycross, and Stadium Super Trucks, right now this is where our rockstars reside.

No longer are the parties on F1 weekends, or at the banks of Talledega.  Go to an #FD or #GRC event. Talk to the teams and drivers.  I promise you that you’ll find you’re Hunts, Yunics, McQueens and Newmans there, at least in personality. Young and ready for fame, glory and good old fashioned fun, they may not be the legends that Senna and Cervert were, but they have just as much fun today as the legends did then.