Depending on who you ask the end result of the 2019 Formula Drift season may have been predictable. I say it was predictably wild.
I was on location for the start of the 2019 Formula Drift season for Formula Drift Round 1 at Long Beach. Following all the drivers in the off season it was great to see the changes that were made to their programs, drift machines, and see if their hard work paid off.
From the beginning of the season, all eyes were on defending two-time Formula Drift Champion James Deane and 2015 Formula Drift Champion Fredric Aasbo, but there were plenty of other drivers whose race programs progressed to a whole new level in 2019.
Take Aurimas “Odi” Bakchis for example, he was crushing the competition early on grabbing the top spot on the podium at the first two rounds at FD Long Beach and FD Orlando. Always with the dial turned to 11, Chelsea DeNofa also had a ton of shining moments like when he bested the field and came out on top at FD Texas and when he grabbed the top qualifying spot at FD Irwindale.
The 2019 Formula Drift Season was historic one as well. First off, it was the debut of the first electric drift car. Rookie driver Travis Reeder and his electric Chevrolet Camaro drift car.
2019 was also the year of two Mr. Perfects. I was on site at FD New Jersey when Justin Pawlak piloted his Ford Mustang drift car to a 100 point qualifying run which had not happened in 12 years since current Americas Rallycross Champion Tanner Foust laid down a 100 point run. At FD Texas, Deane also put down a 100 point run of his own.
The year was not without its drama. Nearing the end of the season, three-time Formula Drift Champion Chris Forsberg was getting heat from DeNofa because he felt like he was intentionally slowing down more than is needed in decel areas as to trip up DeNofa. After he had time to calm down, DeNofa spoke to popular drift podcast Maximum Driftcast and now admits he does not feel as though he intentionally wants to put his expensive drift car in danger in front of DeNofa, but mentioned that there is “something off” with Forsberg’s driving compared to others in the series in its current iteration. Forsberg when he spoke to Maximum Driftcast suggested similar explanations to his driving with the series always changing and will be looking to make positive changes for the future.
There is also yet to be officially discussed drama with rookie Dylan Hughes not competing at the finale FD Irwindale due to his race team Huddy Racing not showing up with their E46 drift car. Huddy Racing has since completely deleted their social media presence after a fan and fellow driver uproar.
Now that the drama is out of the way, let’s get to the championship title fight.
As I mentioned all eyes were on Deane and Aasbo to see if Deane could three-peat or if Aasbo could come back with a vengeance after being robbed in 2018. The 2019 title fight was mathematically anyones chance until the last round at Irwindale. Deane was leading at the top with Aasbo close behind. Deane’s Worthouse Drift teammate Piotr Wiecek and Bakchis’ had only one point separating the pair, while Chris Forsberg was the final driver who had a chance at winning the title.
For Forsberg to win, everyone else would have basically needed to not catch a flight to Irwindale, so he was pretty much out of contention once everyone qualified. After qualifying, the bracket was set for Aasbo and Wiecek to potentially meet early on in Top 16. At FD Texas, when they met Wiecek punted Aasbo into the tire wall, so it was a battle fans could not wait to see again. Wiecek got the upper hand and put the nail in the coffin on Aasbo’s 2019 championship run.
Everyone was focused on the Worthouse duo and Aasbo, but Bakchis was doing everything he needed to do to continue to have a chance at the title. He was eventually bested by 2013 Formula Drift Champion Michael Essa in a Top 4 battle. Wiecek was knocked out in Top 8 by FD Irwindale winner Ken Gushi. While Bakchis did not qualify higher than the remaining Top 4 competitors to grab an Irwindale podium spot that did put him above Wiecek in the championship standings and he grabbed third place in the championship. Aasbo retained second place in the championship standings.
That of course leaves James Deane as the 2019 Formula Drift Champion. Completing a three-peat of being champion in 2017, 2018, and now 2019. Along with a three-peat he is also a holder of an unofficial “triple crown” in drifting. He is the 2019 champion in Formula Drift, Drift Masters European Championship (where he pilots a E92 Eurofighter), and the Oman Drift Championship.
Now what am I going to do with the drift season officially over…………