Event: Formula Drift Orlando 2015

0 Formula Drift Orlando 2015 Featured

Uncharted Territory

Formula Drift’s first slide into Orlando was bad luck for Mustang drivers

By Steve Turner
Photos by Steve Turner and courtesy of Ford Performance

While some people might be under the impression that we only focus one kind of motorsport, we do, indeed, cover it all on the Front Page. If it involves Ford performance and we can get our cameras into the venue, we are up for giving you a look at it. Case in point is Formula Drift. For years, there’s been a significant Ford presence on the drifting scene, and with the likes of Vaughn Gittin Jr. and Justin Pawlak piloting high-horsepower Mustangs in the series, we were excited when the sanction planned a stop in Orlando, Florida.

Ford Performance is a major sponsor of Formula Drift. Blue Oval signage appears all over the event and in the livestream video coverage. They even sponsor the media center. At Orlando, the stars of the trailer were the modded Focus ST you can win as part of the Drift with Ford sweepstakes, as well as the Mountune EcoBoost 2015 Mustang project that we spied at last year’s SEMA Show.
Ford Performance is a major sponsor of Formula Drift. Blue Oval signage appears all over the event and in the Driftstream video coverage. They even sponsor the media center. At Orlando, the stars of the trailer were the modded Focus ST you can win as part of the Drift with Ford sweepstakes, as well as the Mountune EcoBoost 2015 Mustang project that we spied at last year’s SEMA Show.

“We were happily surprised with the at capacity crowd attendance for our first time at Orlando Speed World,” Jim Liaw, President of Formula DRIFT, said. “Florida has always been a key demographic for the Series and now I think we have found a sweet spot in Central Florida.”

If you aren’t familiar with how drifting works, it’s not the typical auto sport where the quickest or fastest vehicle wins. Instead, drivers slide their vehicles around the course, and they are judged based on how close they follow the prescribed line around the track, how aggressively they angle the car throughout the course, and how much style they exude on a run. Think of it like boxing. You need to execute, but you have to do so in style.

After qualifying in the fourth spot with his Roush Mustang, Justin Pawlak was looking strong going into the first round. His first run in the head to head battle with Jhonnattan Castro looked clean, but it turned out that earlier damage from an altercation with Kristaps Bluss in practice resulted in lots of damage, headlined by a broken Panhard bar. As a result, the chassis contacted the driver side rear tire and removed it from the rim, so he earned zero points on that run. His team swapped a wheel for the next run, but the car was too difficult to control with no Panhard, so Justin went out in Round 1. He was in good spirits after the round, and we will bring you more detailed coverage of his Aluminator-powered ’Stang in the near future.
After qualifying in the fourth spot with his Roush Mustang, Justin Pawlak was looking strong going into the first round. His first run in the head to head battle with Jhonnattan Castro looked clean, but it turned out that earlier damage from an altercation with Kristaps Bluss in practice resulted in lots of damage, headlined by a broken Panhard bar. As a result, the chassis contacted the driver side rear tire and removed it from the rim, so he earned zero points on that run. His team swapped a wheel for the next run, but the car was too difficult to control with no Panhard, so Justin went out in Round 1. He was in good spirits after the round, and we will bring you more detailed coverage of his Aluminator-powered ’Stang in the near future.

Once the drivers qualify, they are paired in tandems. The first driver out sets the tone for the run and the second driver tries to follow the first driver and out-do them. Then the two cars swap running order and run again, so each driver gets a fair chance to go first. The judges evaluate both runs and elect a winner, who gets promoted to the next round.

In Orlando our Ford representatives, Justin Pawlak and Vaughn Gittin Jr. qualified in the fourth and 13th spots, respectively. They both looked strong early on, but mechanical issues ended Justin’s day in the first round, and Vaughn eventually fell pray to the rainy Florida weather. Had they both advanced, we would have seen an epic Mustang vs. Mustang battle, but it wasn’t to be.

If you’ve never been to a Formula Drift event before, here’s one reason to check it out. You gotta love seeing Vaughn Gittin Jr. leaving a Bow Tie in a wake of his tire smoke.  JR had previous won Round 3 at a different venue, but he only qualified in the 13th spot at Orlando. That meant he faced Conrad Grunewald in the Round 1. JR’s runs were on point so he advanced to the next round.
If you’ve never been to a Formula Drift event before, here’s one reason to check it out. You gotta love seeing Vaughn Gittin Jr. leaving a Bow Tie in a wake of his tire smoke. JR had previous won Round 3 at a different venue, but he only qualified in the 13th spot at Orlando.

Despite the bad luck for the Mustang drivers, it was still great fun watching the skill of these drivers in piloting Mustangs with huge performance. They can get these cars to maneuver on the absolute edge of traction. Watching these talented drivers slide around the course with a trail of tire smoke behind them really is a thing of high-performance beauty.

At the close of the Orlando event, Ford sat at number three in the manufacturer’s championship points’ chase. Formula Drift brings its display of tire smoke and car control to Wall Speedway in Wall Township, New Jersey, on June 26-27. There are seven more events across the world on the schedule, so if you want to attend one, be sure to check out the schedule here and see if there is one near you.

In between runs, Vaughn stays busy meeting fans, signing autographs, and promoting his sponsors. One of his new sponsors this year is Gumout, and the the are giving away the 2015 RTR Mustang you see swallowed up by this crowd of  fans. JR took the time to give out some swag and promote the contest between runs.
In between runs, Vaughn stays busy meeting fans, signing autographs, and promoting his sponsors. One of his new sponsors this year is Gumout, and they are giving away the 2015 RTR Mustang you see swallowed up by this crowd of fans. JR took the time to give out some swag and promote the contest between runs.
The ranks of Formula Drift have become ever more competitive, so making into the Top 16 is an accomplishment worth celebrating. As part of the opening ceremonies, the drivers that made the cut are introduced to the crowd and the 637,000-viewer audience of the Driftstream. Vaughn, flanked by the Monster Energy and Nitto Tire umbrella girls, was clearly pumped to slide into the next round.
The ranks of Formula Drift have become ever more competitive, so making into the Top 16 is an accomplishment worth celebrating. As part of the opening ceremonies, the drivers that made the cut are introduced to the crowd and the 637,000-viewer audience of the Driftstream. Vaughn, flanked by the Monster Energy and Nitto Tire umbrella girls, was clearly pumped to slide into the next round.
Jhonnattan Castro proved to be the Mustang slayer in Orlando, but against Vaughn, he had a little assist from the weather. As is the norm on a summer afternoon in Florida, the sky opened up with a downpour before and during the Gittin vs. Castro battle. We had to hightail it for some shelter to protect our cameras, but Vaughn had no such luxury. He had to run on a drenched surface, and he ended up losing traction on his second run and handing Jhonnattan the easy win. Vaughn did place sixth at the event, so at least there was a Mustang in the Top 10.
As is the norm on a summer afternoon in Florida, the sky opened up with a downpour before and during the Gittin vs. Castro battle. We had to hightail it for some shelter to protect our cameras, but Vaughn had no such luxury. Vaughn bested Jhonathon Castro in the Top 16 before falling to Chris Forsberg in the Top 8. Vaughn did place sixth at the event, so at least there was a Mustang in the Top 10.

 

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