Postcard from Formula Drift Australia 2013: Sideways and down under

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Formula Drift Asia has been around for five years and has just entered its sixth season with its Australian foray. I have been itching for drifting action and I felt such a surge of overwhelming pride when I got my Formula Drift Asia 2013 season pass!

Just last weekend Formula Drift descended on Melbourne, bringing much smokin’ action to Calder Park. The Australian Drifting Grand Prix (ADGP) was held on Saturday, where their top six drivers then advanced to Formula Drift on Sunday.

The event may have been condensed into a one-day format this time, with only 23 drivers and straight into the Top 16 battles, but there was no less action or excitement.

There was the official press conference on Friday and the big bosses from Driftpac (rights holder of Formula Drift Asia), Formula Drift USA, FOX Sports, YHI Australia and the ADGP team were all present.

Media rides for selected drivers were next, along with a test session for all drivers. However, the layout was the ADGP’s one so drivers were using it more to get their car going.

There was no track action for Formula Drift after that till Sunday, but there was a driver presentation to the crowds so they could get riled up for the next day.

I find it really heartening to see some of the Formula Drift Asian drivers religiously return event after event, even if it means borrowing cars just to take part. For example, Zaiham Hamdan from Malaysia (more affectionately known as Bullzai) has been trying his best to make it to every round and he was even given the Spirit of Drifting award last year.

One of the highlights at Formula Drift Australia was, without a doubt, the oh-so-sick RS-R Toyota 86 NASCAR V8 that Norwegian drift star Fredric Aasbo drove. You should have heard it…

This monster, along with Mad Mike Whiddett’s RX-7, was out to burst everyone’s eardrums.

Yes, Mad Mike is back in Formula Drift Asia!

It was so cool seeing Mad Mike and all his awesomeness spread through the paddock, adding much energy and vibe to the event.

Last year’s Formula Drift Asia overall runner-up GT Radial driver Rio Saputro (middle person in photo below) was unfortunately nursing a fever but he bravely put on a wide smile at the driver presentation and the autograph session.

Last year, title sponsor Achilles brought the same race queens from home to every round of the Series, but they didn’t this time and it was the Australian girls rocking up the purple Achilles race queen outfits. Caters better to local preference I was told…

Initially I was worried that the weather would be too cold so I packed a lot of winter wear. Thankfully, the weather was great! Lots of sunshine and cool air and the sunset every evening was phenomenal…

Then the cold winds decided to blow over to Calder Park on Sunday and I was struggling to keep warm with just a shirt and a jacket!

The track layout for Formula Drift was only changed on Saturday evening after the ADGP ended, so drivers only had the morning practice session on Sunday to get their lines before going straight into qualifying.

The new qualifying format from USA was adopted – basically the best eight scores from the first run were confirmed as the top eight qualifiers and need not go for a second run. The rest of the field then fights for the remaining eight spots with the best of both their scores.

Also, the highest ranked driver of 2012 went first instead of going last like how it has been before. Daigo was the first off the line and he put in a solid score of 87.5%, which no one else could beat.

Josh Boettcher, the only Australian who has been competing in Formula Drift Asia thus far, did very well and qualified third!

Robbie Nishida botched up his first run, otherwise his score of 74.5 on his second run could have made the top five instead of 10th.

There was one Singaporean in the driver field – Ng Sheng Nian. New to the drifting scene, this young undergraduate (studying in Australia currently) bought the car from SPARK Motorsports in Singapore and was only trying it for the first time at Calder Park.

The gearbox blew on Friday and with help from Martini Racing Australia to repair the car on Saturday, he managed to compete on Sunday.

He didn’t do so well and had a minimal score of about 30%, which wasn’t enough to make it for the Top 16.

Here are the rest of the qualifying results:

After qualifying was done, drivers and spectators had a lunch break and there was an autograph session again. Despite the chilly weather, the race queens still had to dress in their skimpy outfits and bear the cold!

Going ‘live’ on FOX Sports, STAR Sports and Speed TV Australia, the Top 16 battles got on its way and I could feel the goosebumps rise on my arms when the first battle between Daigo and Daynom Templeman started.

Daigo had a brush with Mad Mike during tandem practice just before the battles began and both of them had to rush to get their car fixed in time for the battles. Both came to the line in time, but Mad Mike seemed to have trouble. His battle was the first upset of the day, when he lost to Nattawoot Krerpradab (also known as Oat) and failed to go to the Top 8. What a pity!

Oat had a shot to go to the semi-finals when he battled Tom Monkhouse of Australia (runner-up from the ADGP competition the day before) and the judges called for a One More Time. But Oat’s car failed him during the rerun and he had to forfeit the battle even after calling for five minutes to try and save the car.

Another exciting battle in the Top 8 was the one between Josh and his GT Radial team-mate Mahaputera Wibowo (nicknamed Mico).

This battle proved crucial for Josh as he moved on to the semi-finals in hope of a podium finish. He then met fellow countryman Tom and lost, but there was still a chance at getting his hands on that carbon fibre trophy.

There was quite a bit of hype on Rob Whyte, ADGP 2012 overall champion, but his journey ended when he met Fredric in the Top 8.

In the other semi-final, Daigo met Fredric and that would have made an ideal final – too bad they met one step early!

Daigo lost to Fredric in Long Beach two weeks before and he got his revenge now, beating Fredric to get to the final.

While the title for Formula Drift Australia lay between Daigo and Tom, Fredric and Josh battled for third.

It was a pretty close battle and the judges gave the win to Josh, which meant his first ever podium finish in Formula Drift after two full seasons, including a Rookie of the Year award in 2011. Josh was really over the moon and for good reason – he deserved that trophy!

Tom’s story is somewhat of a fairy tale – he used a borrowed car for ADGP and then another borrowed car for Formula Drift and little did he expect to find himself in the final against Daigo. In his unassuming plain black racing suit with no sponsor logos, he had nothing to lose against Daigo. Tom’s best effort wasn’t good enough to beat Daigo, but a second place at Formula Drift Australia was more than Tom could ask for.

Fredric may have missed the podium this time, but he did win the Team Drift event with Robbie under the X-mini flag. The Team Drift competition is a side event where selected pairs of drivers represent their country or sponsor and compete in a display of showmanship.

Formula Drift Australia was really fun and you’ll be glad to know that the next round is coming up soon at the end of June in Malaysia!

For more Formula Drift Australia photos from me, view .

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