Matt Field has been having a rough season to say the least. After missing Long Beach and barely making any points in Atlanta, he seems to have finally found his stride and just narrowly missed the podium in Miami. I talked to Matt after the event was wrapped up to get his perspective on how things went. “It went a little better than Atlanta, wouldn’t you say?” I asked. “Not good enough, man. Not good enough,” he replied. Then he laid out the whole story:
“After a long week of working on the car at BRE Motorsports in Charlotte, North Carolina, we had a newfound confidence in the car. Major changes were made with the suspension and we found a bunch of bent stuff in the front end. I guess that is what happens when you smash into people. With the changes made, we took the car testing. All I could say was WOW; the new setup was so much better. I could put the car wherever I wanted to and my confidence began to build.
“We left BRE and headed down to Miami. This is the first time that Formula Drift visited Homestead Miami Speedway. I love coming to new venues because everyone has a fresh start. No teams have data, no drivers are three or four time winners of the event, and everyone is on an even playing field. My team and I feel that we have quick development at new tracks. For example, at Texas Motor Speedway last season we snagged our first podium finish, and we were hoping for a repeat performance in Miami.
“Thursday practice went okay. Right off the bat I was having problems with what we thought at the time was the clutch. Entering into the second inner clip my car would shut off when I pressed my foot on the clutch pedal and pulled on the handbrake. The clutch was not disengaging. I drove around this problem so we could dial in the other parts of the track by pumping the clutch and putting the car in 3rd gear so the motor would restart. I drove like this for about an hour and a half before we decided to change the clutch. When we pulled the transmission off, we saw that we had bigger problems. The clutch was working fine, the problem was a broken slave and a blown-out pilot bushing. We think that the pilot bushing failed and took out the slave, which was why the clutch wouldn’t disengage. I couldn’t believe that with all that beating, the slave pushing on the pressure plate incorrectly, and with pieces of the exploded bushing floating around in-between the two clutch discs, that the clutch was still holding power. That’s a good ACT clutch for ya! Needless to say, our practice day was over. We got a new pilot bearing and got the car fixed and ready for qualifying.
“We showed up early morning Friday so we could finish up on the car and go over it one more time. The guys worked hard to make sure the car was right. Unfortunately, we could not find the desired pilot bearing, so we had to settle with a stock LS roller bearing one. With all the driveline and clutch components working correctly, we went out for practice. Let me say this, wheel speed is vital at this track. The only way to link Turn One into Turn Two is wheel speed. I was having problems at first, but with a quick gear change – Bam! The course suddenly became effortless. Between that and my clutch and slave working in harmony, the car felt great. We were getting faster and dialed in for qualifying. After two qualifying runs, we ended up in 13th place. Not where we wanted to be, but a step up from the previous two rounds. The crew and I were happy. We finished up the car and watched Pro 2.
“Tandem day was my favorite day out of the whole weekend. I loved the straight up warfare attitude and drive that Formula Drift has become. No one leaves anything on the table. Our first battle of the Top 32 was last year’s champion, Mike Essa. Normally this would worry me, but this time, I knew we had him. Our car was faster, had more grip, and I could hold more angle than him throughout the entire course. I was to lead first, and under the guidance of my spotter we entered the first corner with a little less speed than we normally do. We made some changes right before the battle and wanted to make sure it would work before we went full speed into turn one. I guess it worked, because I kept the car on track, and rocket-shipped away from Essa. Entering the second inner clip, we had already put three or four car lengths on him. I snapped hard into the last inner clip and laid down the Nitto Tire smoke to finish the run off strong. We pulled back to the line knowing what we needed to do: stick with him, but don’t be so aggressive we blow it behind a slower car. I gave him a car length and a half into the first corner so I could reel him in by the second inner clip. The plan worked perfectly, and I had to left-foot brake hard after the first inner clip to avoid hitting him. I transferred quickly behind him and finished the run off strong. We were awarded the win and moved on to the Top 16.
“Dean Kearney was our next battle, and we knew it wasn’t going to be easy. We knew his car was fast, so our goal was to launch hard and run as fast as we could. I left the line and took off into the first corner, and almost immediately after initiation, Dean decided it was a good idea to smash into the rear wheel of my car. Luckily these Rotiform wheels are strong, and apparently stronger than a Viper tie rod. Dean broke and was unable to finish the run. He couldn’t get it fixed before our next run, so we were awarded the win. I’ll take it.
“After my battle with Dean, I lost radio communication and my helmet audio went completely dead. So my crew could hear me yelling, trying to get information from them, but I couldn’t hear anything they were saying. Since I basically had no audio, no information, I rolled up to the big screen that was set up in front of the grand stands so I could watch my run and see Geoff Stoneback’s positioning. I was surprised to see how fast he was. I know never to underestimate an opponent, but getting warned about how fast his car was still surprised me. I watched my qualifying run with Geoff, saw that he was right there the entire time, and came up with a plan of attack.
“I took off and tried to give Geoff a one-car gap going into turn one. Big mistake. He pulled on me going into the second corner. Part of the reason that happened was that one tire dropped off the track and he straightened out. When he straightened out, he stayed on the gas and put some distance between us. I finished out the run as well as I could, and we were awarded a One More Time. Ignite fuel, Nitto tires, and a crap ton of ice and go. I had a good idea of the speed of Geoff’s car now, and knew I had to be completely on-point. We left the line and ran into the second inner clip. At this point, I pulled the handbrake as I always do and again, my car shut off. I bump-started it with the clutch again and got back on line. Transferring into the last corner, Geoff made a big move and transferred to the inside of me. Doing this cut his line short and he drove into my passenger side wheel, spinning me out. He was deemed at fault so we had all the time we needed to fix my car. Which was a good thing, because that dude messed up some stuff. Bent a front lower control arm, knuckle shank, and a tie rod. My crew worked quickly to fix this and get me back on track. I was cool, calm, and ready for battle again. We took off down the straight and initiated into the first corner. Again going into inner clip two, on hand brake, my car shut off. I bump started it with the clutch and laid down the power. I was able to put down a solid follow run even with this problem, and we were awarded the win. Now onto the Final Four battle with Chris Forsberg.
“I was stoked to go against Chris. I have looked up to him for a long time now, so beating him would be oh so sweet. We knew we had something for Chris. The only thing holding us back was this clutch disengagement problem. Chris led first, and I knew I needed to stick to his door; you can’t give dudes like that an inch. I had a good follow going up into the second inner clip and again had to ride left foot brake to avoid hitting him. This car on these tires is just so quick now. With the car shutting off again in the top corner, and him pulling a gap, I knew I had to make a big move. I transferred the car before Chris and let it float into him. With a slight tap wheel to wheel, I finished off the run on throttle and as close to him as I could with my car. I flipped around as quickly as I could to watch the run on the Jumbotron. After watching the run and asking my spotter Dan Chow, “What?!?” like five times on the radio and not getting a response from him, I took off and lined up. I knew I had to lay down a solid lead run, and I knew I could gap Chris. So I left the line hard and tried my hardest to run from him. But once again, my car shut off in the top corner and this allowed Chris to close the gap and we finished off the run with a two-car gap between us. The judges called One More Time.
“We smashed back to the pits. Nitto tires, Ignite fuel, and lots of ice and the car was back on the line. I knew I had to do everything I possibly could to stay right on Chris’s door because when my car would shut off in the top corner, like I knew it would, he would leave us. We tore off the starting line and entered the course. Again, my car shut off on me in the top corner, so I was pushing extremely hard to close the gap.
“Now here is where it gets ugly. Normally when following someone, I transfer into the last corner with my foot to the floor, and grab a bit of handbrake to stop the car from rotating and take a set. I went to do the same thing behind Chris and because of the disengagement problem, the handbrake didn’t stop the wheels, and the car kept rotating. Spin. I was so disappointed. I totally blame myself because I could have driven around the problem, but I let it get the better of me. We lined up for our last run and I was to lead. Again the car shut off in the top corner and I had to bump it to get going again. I had a solid run, but it was not enough. The spin was the end of the weekend for us.
“I was so upset at myself because I knew we could have had Chris. A mistake on my part and the car not being 100% was the ultimate demise and end of our weekend. For the record, we pulled the transmission out when we got back to BRE on Monday. The needle bearings in that stock pilot bearing exploded and were floating around in the clutch, stopping it from fully disengaging at high RPM. I couldn’t be happier with the ACT clutch though. With all the crap and beating we threw at it, we still got by. Thank you everyone for all your help. We will be on top soon. I know it.”
After his performance in Miami Matt cut his position in the standings in half, rocketing from 32nd to 16th. That puts him in position to get the Comeback of the Year award, if nothing else. But we’re sure there is something else. He’s 178 points from the lead and now that the car is sorted out he’s got a serious chance at another top-10 finish.