I could start this by saying the event was some form of visceral experience. A revelation of the senses as hot rubber smokes your camera lens at 65 miles per hour. I could talk about the rain covering the already meteored asphalt that was present at the Irwindale speedway making it near impossible to drive for the first rounds of 16. Or maybe I could spend my time talking about how I finally felt like the presenters of FormulaDrift had fun during my interview with Torque Drift versus my initial perception where I felt a bit like that weed that won’t go away in your driveway.
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Either way we swing this summary of Formula Drift - Irwindale, if there was a single word to give this weekend experience and an official review, it would be “authentic.” But before we go into reviewing why these events seem to be gathering more viewers, attendees, and fame, I think we should take it back to my terrible terrible decision of coming to Los Angeles 5 days before the event. Why did I do this to myself again?
For our six readers, I actually own and operate a marketing consultation company called MetaMartini. It’s a great way to keep my marketing skills honed in and I love working through problems with people as a young, fresh set of eyes. Typically that means I meet with people every month or so, evaluate boring business practices, and advise changes. If I need to do it myself, I will. The problem with these meetings is they almost always end in dinner, drinks, and “just one more” that I am substantially too light to handle. So when the roles changed from “marketing connoisseur” to “YouTube guy” I was barely ready for the shenanigans that surround the days leading up to Formula Drift.
Wednesday I attended the Type S Meet that was hosted at Fujiwara Tofu Cafe. The air was cold and brisk, almost Wisconsin like, and the people were an entire vibe. Southwest style rap music filled the air with the sounds of rampant DSLR clicks snagging every possible angle of Larry Chen’s R32, Mike Power’s S15, and the lifted Miata that snuck into the main throughway. It was nice.
Even being from Wisconsin, it’s clear to see why SOCAL is the place to be for automotive events. The people. The cars. The diversity. All of it just makes the community that much more enthralling. The event concluded with eating the leftover food that Type S bought for their staff (Thanks AJ) and snagging a quick Monster because the 2 hour time zone change was still messing with me. But finally, it was time for Thursday & Friday. Who am I kidding; Friday is where it all started.
I should probably write here that I did work Thursday. In fact, I spent about 12 hours at the track bugging every possible driver I could to learn about their car, ask dumb questions, and understand just why in the hell Kyle Mohan is running a rotary RX8 vs. literally anything else. The interviews and such are available over at Torque Motorsport's YouTube channel (I’m their brand ambassador by the way, woo!) But for everyone else, Friday is where the fun really began.
I’m not sure why more people don’t come on Friday to watch to be honest, it’s almost just as exciting as Saturday but without all the people. And to add onto that, seeing the drivers learn the track again brings some much needed humanity to the world of professional Motorsport. Not kidding, I almost have conclusive evidence that Fredric Aasbo is the Terminator. To see these cars do adjustment-run-fail-retest-adjust-run again- succeed is really enjoyable. You also get the near entirety of Irwindale Speedway to yourself which is pretty damn gnarly.
I did manage to ask Formula Drift Brian Eggert some questions on the judging because it seems to be an ever-increasing issue as the sport grows. I’ll be honest, most people don’t like the word “interview,” but get Bryan into a separate room and just ask to talk about “judging” and the man opens up like that crusty sponge underneath your grandma’s sink. He explained how the Formula Drift Judging ACTUALLY works, which gives a ton of clarity as to why the public has such a damn tough time agreeing sometimes.
After getting my necessary fill of tire smoke, screaming commentary, and Odi B.'s insanely loud Nissan, I decided to go visit TopRank Importers for a quick gander into the JDM garage that's now worth more than most early 2000's Ferrari's. Damn, that's weird to write out..
Brian has always been a homie and the only regret I have ever made with him is not buying a R33 GTR in May of 2020 for $42,000. Besides that, our relationship is a picture perfect example of what Wisconsin people can be if they leave their love for dairy behind. Some of my favorite cars at Toprank though aren't the $2M R34 GTR's, it's their kei cars. There's something incredibly interesting of seeing things like Honda Beat's designed by the same company who designed Ferrari's. If you squint hard...you can see it.
Once Saturday came around the bend it was time to start filming, yelling, and asking strangers random questions for the internet. All of that can be expected. What wasn't expected was the rain inbound. The amount of rain that hit Irwindale was apparently something FormulaDrift hasn't seen in over 20 years and the result was shocking...
It was wet af. Tires got cold and the track got slick. So slick that once we were in top 16 the first 3 rounds experienced a crash of some kind. Something I often forget is just how much rubber is left on the track during a run. Because FormulaDrift regulations only require tires to last one competition round, the tires are almost completely shredded every time they go around the track. Add some rain and a track that freezes up and you have yourself a certified ice rink.
The day would eventually dry off and finish with an incredible array of fireworks, music, and ridiculous posing by the drivers..
I often get asked just what FormulaDrift events are like. The live streams can sometimes make it feel a bit like a troll session; with viewers critiquing every decision FD judges make and noone is happy and in person it's literally the complete opposite. The crowd cheers relentlessly. The commentators are roaring up the drivers. The music, food, and energy is something that is literally unmatched. While FD grows in attendance and size every year, I think FD USA has continued to do an incredible job at making it feel "real."