Evergreen Speedway plays host to RD5 of 7 Formula Drift events. Expectations are nothing short of a spectacular performance and intense competition. This event was no different and the event known as “Throwdown” might need to be called “Turning Tides“ as Vaughn Gittin Jr. had another all star performance following a huge win at RD4 in New Jersey and moves into 1st place in overall points standings.
PHOTOS BY: PERRI MINOT
The perfect weekend began with me waking up to amazing skies and warm weather. I was expecting the weather to still be drab from the previous day, but Seattle had some better plans for thursday practice.
On the way to the track, I went over a bridge and at the top, this was the view waiting for me. This was my first time seeing snow capped mountains so i knew right away my next trip to WA will definitely be including some mountain hiking!
The track is beautiful with great background scenery. Especially when the weather stays nice. Thursday practice is always an exciting day because teams are just getting set up and testing out the cars. The pressure hasn’t completely built up yet so everyone’s more relaxed and there to Keep Drifting Fun!
The first order of business was to catch up with Chris Ward as he and his crew finished some final tweaks before starting practice.
They started talking about their cross country adventure to get here including the breakdowns they had to fix on the trailer…
As well as this skull which has now become the trailer trophy!
On my way, I stopped over at the Achilles/Bridges Racing team as they worked furiously to get Daigo Saito’s car ready.
There were lots of issues that are still ongoing but Saito still drove the crap out of this car and managed to move up to 2nd place in overall standings.
We got a quick moment with Robbie Nishida, whose car is no longer white, now flat black and matches the other Achilles/Bridges team.
And thus kicked off Practice!
Fredric Aasbo made the podium last year at this event. Watching his consistency during practice plus qualifying 7th place, he was sure due for a repeat. He unfortunately knocked himself out against Ryan Kado in the top 16.
When it was Chris’ turn on the track, he took his time getting acquainted with the track and the transitions.
He seemed to get faster and faster on each run.
Chris even got around to smacking the wall a few times. As his turn for qualifying got closer, I noticed this pic on my phone with the caption “1, 2, 4.” (my heart dropped as I realized I was looking at his 3rd gear shattered again) With no 3rd gear, Chris couldn’t carry enough speed through the course to qualify high enough. Someone give that kid a break!
Even practice kept heating up as the day went on. Tony Brakohiapa kept practicing on his defense and staying door to door in the chase position.
Pat Mordaunt showed up with some power upgrades on his SC430. Equipped with twin turbos, Pat dominated his qualifying runs placing 4th.
For Walker Wilkerson this is his hometown event. Despite having a wall incident himself, he still performed well and was able to keep the car from significant damage.
Justin Pawlak came into the event as the overall points leader. All during practice he adapted well to the course and ran as consistent as usual.
Finishing qualifying day in 2nd place, JTP was sitting ready to scrap it out with any challenger on Comp day.
Pawlak’s first match in top 32 was against Jeremy Lowe. At first glance, most people watching expected this to be an easy won battle for JTP, however he sealed his own fate for the event when his car went a little out-of-bounds during his lead run. Both drivers had excellent smooth runs the second time around, but the points didn’t add up enough for JTP to overtake Lowe’s solid runs.
Justin Pawlak is still in 3rd place in overall standings and is very much still in the fight for the championship. Lowe went on to his first top 16 battle this year which in itself is still a victorious moment for any rookie.
Mike Essa showed missing practice after having some transportation troubles.
During his top 16 battle vs Gittin, Essa had a little “miscommunication” with the wall on the infield.
Another big story was Chelsea DeNofa’s appearance driving the Bergenholtz/Nitto Tire Rx-8. This car is definitely a big change from his E36 M3 that was wrecked at RD4 in New Jersey.
Chelsea mentioned on fb that his car will be a lot more powerful for the next round so there’s much more turbo goodness to come!
We also got to spend a little time with Chelsea’s newly rebuilt E46 chassis. This car wont be used in FD until next season, but you can bet it’ll be ripping up XDC events in the meantime! Keep checking out SF for a photo set of said E46 real soon.
These two.. yet again. Every time they line up against each other, it is a battle worth remembering.
I’m sure there were some people watching who didn’t even want these two to be lined up against each other.
Saito had already been fighting some issues with his car, and with his ride not being at 100%, there would be no better opportunity for his rival to exact revenge.
Personally, I love their rivalry. It’s competition like this that makes the sport and each event memorable.
Looking back at RD2 @ Road Atlanta, the big rivalry of the season looked to be between Vaughn Gittin and Daigo Saito. We might still be in for a showdown because they both occupy the 1st and 2nd positions in overall standings.
We’re also sure that we haven’t seen the last of the Saito/Grunewald battles as the competition intensifies with only 2 rounds of competition left.
Another driver who had one heck of a break-out performance was Ken Gushi.
Gushi placed 4th after a close battle with Rhys Millen and moved up to 11th place overall.
One of my all-time favorite car/driver combos is Matt Powers.
He’s another guy who is always having a good time whether on or off the track.
Jarod let everyone know during the top 16 introductions that Competition day was also Matt Powers birthday. That’s gotta be a fun day no matter how you do.
Matt couldn’t maintain his drift throughout the entire course during his lead run and ended up circling back around doing a huge burnout almost like a celebratory victory lap! Matt and his car are also soon to be featured here on SouthrnFresh as well!
The big comeback story and all spotlights are on Vaughn Gittin Jr. At this moment he deserves it, because not only was he the number one qualifier, but he also went on to win the event. Unofficially this is the first time ever.
During practice the day before Vaughn was already running consistent on this track.
When he rolled into the top 16 introductions he was as cool as ever. His momentum from winning New Jersey having carried over to RD5.
Vaughn Gittin Jr. having won his top 4 match vs Rhys Millen.
Coming up to face Gittin in the finals was Ryan Tuerck. I mean how would you feel if you were told to race against your friend in the finals?!
Both drivers ran great clean runs, but Vaughn Gittin was given the win.
The battle scars from round 5 have all been inflicted and while Vaughn Gittin Jr. is back on top as the main man to beat, Daigo Saito is now a very close second place. 2 more rounds to go will tell the truth
The current season standings going into RD6 are as follows
Vaughn Gittin Jr 391 pts
Daigo Saito 383.5 pts
Justin Pawlak 376 pts
So as you can see the top 3 are within 15 pts of each other. We’ll be visiting RD6 @ Las Vegas to bring you more coverage too. Stick around to see what happens.
See the complete set HERE!!