Mustang drivers melted tires in the Florida heat at Uncharted Territory
By Steve Turner
After debuting to enthusiastic crowds in Orlando, Florida, last year, Formula Drift returned to Orlando Speed World for another installment of Uncharted Territory. The fifth stop on this year’s Formula D schedule arrived with Mustang pilot Vaughn Gittin Jr. topping the Pro standings after a win at Road Atlanta.
Vaughn carried that momentum into Orlando, as he qualified in the top spot on his first qualifying attempt on the OSW figure eight while putting down the muscle of the Roush Yates-prepped, 436ci small-block underhood with the traction of his Nitto Tires.
“Just wrapped up qualifying. On my first run I went out and threw it down as hard as I possibly could and got a 95,” Vaughn said. “Went out for our second run and as soon as I started to pull up, I went to push the clutch in and it would not disengage. We think we over-boiled the fluid. The guys are checking out the problem right now, but unfortunately we had to forfeit our second run.”
Even though he wasn’t able to make his second qualifying run, Vaughn was able to hold onto the top spot, and Ford Performance shared some of the secrets of his 2016 Mustang RTR performance here…
“I’m kinda bummed because I really wanted to try and do better than 95, but we are sitting in first and I am really pumped,” he added. “I just wanted to apologize to all the fans. I would never just pull out because we were sitting in first. I really wanted to go hard and beat that score, but we’ll take it.”
If you aren’t familiar with drifting, its winners are determined by judges rather than hard performance numbers. It’s not who crosses the finish line first, but who does it best. In qualifying drivers make single runs where they are judge by how closely they follow the ideal line around the track, how much angle they carry around the track and how much style they exhibit during that run. In competition, the drivers compete in tandem pairings and trade the lead spot. Judge award the win to the driver that best follows the ideal path around the course.
Qualifying just outside the Top 10 was fellow Mustang driver, Justin Pawlak, who drove his TVS-supercharged Mustang to a score of 90, which was good for the 11th qualified spot on the ladder on the opposite end of the ladder from Vaughn, who would run first in competition, while Justin would run in the final pairing.
Matched up against the number 32 qualifier, Alex Heilbrunn, Vaughn appeared to have an easy path to the Top 16. It didn’t quite work that way. After fiercely competitive Lead and Chase runs, the judges added a third run to the match to make the final decision, and Vaughn got the unanimous nod to move on to the next round. There he faced Jhonnattan Castro, who took the win by putting some distance between himself and Vaughn on the second run.
“Formula Drift Orlando did not end up exactly how we thought. We came here, qualified first and were feeling amazing. Just had my Top 16 battle with Jhonnattan Castro and the Lead run felt fantastic,” Vaughn said. “The Chase run felt like the bank was getting a little greasy despite us seeing that the track temps were the same. As soon as I came off the bank to start following Castro the car just kept going a bit wide and that was all she wrote. From there I was just playing catch-up and I couldn’t get him.”
Here’s a recap of Vaughn’s Orlando experience from Ford Performance…
Likewise, Justin faced a fierce battle in the first round of competition, where he sqauared off against Dean Kearney. The two battled fiercely on both runs with just inches separating their machines, but JTP took the win and moved on to face eventual third-place driver, Chris Forsberg. Unfortunately, they too made contact and the damage to the Mustang hurt its performance.
“Had some solid battles yesterday with Dean Karnage Kearney and Chris Forsberg Pushed hard against Forsberg and made contact which damaged my front wheel and caused it to lose pressure,” Justin said. “I drove as hard as I could on my lead run but the tire de-beaded and I couldn't keep it on track therefore losing the battle. I feel great behind the wheel of this car now and can't wait for Formula Drift New Jersey Good things are coming, I can feel it!”
As a result of dropping out early in the event, Vaughn slipped to second place in the Pro Championship standings, trailing Fredric Aasbo by only 12 points heading into the next event. Meanwhile, Justin Pawlak clocks in at 21st place in the standings hoping to improve.
If you are in the area, you can check out the Mustang tire slayers doing battle with import and domestic competitors at Wall Speedway in Wall Township, New Jersey on June 17-18.
Vaughn Gittin Jr. put himself atop the qualifying ladder with an aggressive first run at Orlando Speed World that earned a score of 95. Unfortunately clutch issues kept him from making his second qualifying run, but he still retained the top score.
Between runs, Vaughn and the Monster girls spend quality time with JR’s legions of fans. JR signed autographs, posed for photos and made sure to chat with each person in line.
Justin Pawlak ramped up his first qualifying score of 84 to a 90 on his second run to put himself at the 11th position.
Justin also spent time meeting fans between runs and he was interviewed by the Formual Drift video crew about his first-round win.
Vaughn defeated Alex Heilbrunn in the first round of competition to move into the Top 16 where he faced Jhonnattan Castro. The Lead run with Vaughn in front was tight, but on the second round as Vaughn followed he lost traction on the banking and gave up to much ground resulting in an upset loss.
Justin Pawlak outdueled Dean Kearney in the first round of competition to move onto a Top 16 battle against eventual podium finisher Chris Forsberg. In the heat of battle the two cars hit and JTP lost a tire and the round.
Not only is there plenty of on-track action at Formula D events, but they sport lively midways filled with displays. Ford Performance was on hand letting attendees ogle the new Focus RS and Shelby GT350.