Event Coverage / Racing

2018 Formula Drift Champion Crowned In Thrilling Season Finale

The “Luck of the Irish” was in full effect at the Formula DRIFT season finale at the famed House of Drift, Irwindale Speedway. The 2018 campaign was by far the closest points race in the series’ 15-year history and the final weekend its most exciting ever.

With so much on the line, qualifying for the final round of the 2018 Formula DRIFT Black Magic Pro Championship was guaranteed to be intense. The 2017 FD champion James Deane (Ireland) had a 40-point lead and his Worthouse / Falken Tire Nissan Silvia S15 had been virtually bulletproof all season. However, second place Fredric Aasbo (Norway), the 2016 FD champion driving the Rockstar Energy Drink / Nexen Tire Toyota Corolla, wasn’t going down without a fight.

The top 15 qualifiers would all score 90 points or above as the 2018 championship continued to be one of the closest ever. Deane set the stadium ablaze with an almost perfect 99-point score on the final qualifying run of the day. Further, Deane’s advantage was increased by the number of drivers who failed to qualify as he earned bye into the Sweet 16, receiving additional points each step of the way.

Deane had been on fire in qualifying and expectations were high for him to win his Sweet 16 round and subsequently the title by beating Forrest Wang (USA) in the Vapetasia / Achilles Radial / NRG Innovations Nissan S15. However, Wang was reading from a different script. Both drivers were on maximum attack, with Wang getting great proximity to the champion-elect on the first run. On the second run, Deane struggled to initiate his drift into the first banking and lost ground to Wang. A collective gasp could be heard over the screaming engines below as the unthinkable unfolded.

It didn’t take long for the judges to award Wang the win and eliminate Deane. It would emerge he had a power steering issue, which explains the outcome and the huge upset. The result made the 2018 Formula DRIFT Black Magic Pro Championship Aasbo’s to lose.

Aasbo advanced to the finals where he met 2010 FD Champion Vaughn Gittin Jr. and his Monster Energy / Nitto Tire Ford Mustang RTR. When the lights blinked, the two champions didn’t disappoint. Aasbo’s smooth driving was perfectly matched by Gittin’s aggression, leaving little daylight between them. The judges called for “One More Time” to the delight of the capacity crowd who were on their feet. They ran two more times but still couldn’t be separated. The judges again needed them to run “One More Time” before they could reach a decision.

The fifth run was a repeat of the previous four, with both drivers fully committed and inseparable. By the sixth they were getting tired, adrenaline was running low and the cars were hot. Both brushed the wall on the second banking and had to correct. Gittin was judged to have recovered better and took the call, winning the event.

And James Deane, who watched 30 rounds from the pit wall, was the 2018 Formula DRIFT Black Magic Pro Champion. It was an incredible result that represented a miniscule four-point lead over Fredric Aasbo in one of the closest finishes in series history. Deane becomes only the second FD driver to win consecutive titles since Tanner Foust in 2007 and 2008.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *