As everyone who follows Formula Drift knows by now, when Matt Field nearly defeated Daigo Saito at Irwindale in 2012 he made the transition in peoples’ minds from a “driver who usually does okay” to a “driver to take seriously.” Saito ultimately won that round and clinched the championship, so Matt’s performance was kind of a big deal.
In 2013 he got on the podium for the first time and he finished 7th overall in the series. He was like a shark with its fin out of the water. You knew he was coming for you.
This season was supposed to be his season. He had completely rebuilt his S14, got a new engine package and some new aesthetic bits and then…engine problems. With Round 1 at Long Beach coming up fast, the crew scrambled to figure out what was wrong and get it fixed. They determined it was an issue with the crank trigger signal not getting interpreted by the computer properly. First they tried an external crank trigger borrowed from Conrad Grunewald (who had had a similar problem in the past). When that didn’t solve the problem, they tried a new wiring harness and a new computer to no avail.
Long Beach came and went with the car simply sitting on display in Matt’s pit space.
Matt wasn’t furious, but he had every right to be. Not making any points at Long Beach is not a good way to start a championship run, but with the new points structure it’s not as bad this year as it would have been in years past. A loss in Round of 32 is only worth 16 points now, as opposed to 24 before. So with a low qualifying position worth 1.5, he was only 17.5 points behind the next best result. With 770 points available in the season, he still had a fighting chance.
After Long Beach, Matt and the crew headed back to the Drift Cave in San Jose, tore the engine completely back down, and rebuilt it with new parts. This time, when they fired it up it ran. They got it tuned on the dyno and then packed everything up just in time to hit the road for Round 2 in Atlanta. They stopped to do some testing at Motiva Motor Speedway in Albuquerque and Matt got a little of his lost confidence back. That is, until they finally got to Road Atlanta.
“Testing never actually tells you how the car is going to drive until you are on an FD course going FD speeds with other FD drivers,” said Matt.
Still, this author thought he looked solid in practice, even in the rain that came down during practice and qualifying on Friday night. “I love driving in the rain,” Matt commented, “always have and always will. It brings me back to the good days of mountain drifting and bashing into friends for fun.”
And bashing into Fredric Aasbø is indeed what happened. The pair lined up for their Top 32 run on Saturday, Fredric having qualified 8th with Matt in 25th. They sped down the hill, with Fredric leading first, but then Matt pulled to the inside and started drifting almost parallel to Fredric. But Fredric wasn’t about to give up the clipping point so he held his line and Matt got squeezed.
Fredric started crossing the track to the apex of the turn but Matt was so far inside he had nowhere to go but straight into Fredric. The two cars collided, with the tC coming out relatively unscathed, while Matt’s S14 sustained considerable body damage, and minor front suspension damage.
After Matt’s crew got the car back together he lined up with Fredric for their second run, but he was at too much of a disadvantage to pull off the win. It wasn’t the result he wanted, especially after the disappointing round at Long Beach, but he’s happy the engine is running well and definitely see the potential in the rebuilt car.
Now after two rounds, Matt is in 32nd place with 17.5 points, 155.5 behind points leader Chris Forsberg. Maybe now would be a good time to worry, but Matt is unfazed.
“Once we get some more time in the car, and make the changes we need to make, I feel the car will be unstoppable. So if all goes well, Miami being a new track, we will do just fine.”