When I first learned that I would be covering this event I couldn’t believe it. My first Formula Drift event ever? And I would be shooting it! Hi, my name is Brad Hodgin. I’m 15 years old and live in North Carolina, USA.
This is the 10th anniversary season of Formula Drift , their slogan for the year is ’10 years and still sideways.’ On Friday my dad and I left from NC to begin the 6 hour drive through South Carolina to Georgia. Formula Drift Atlanta isn’t actually in Atlanta. It’s held at Road Atlanta raceway which is in Braselton, Georgia. Braselton is a very small town with only two fast food restaurants and just a couple of hotels.
Leaving around 7:30 I wanted to make good time. So fast food was on the menu. Deliciousness courtesy of Bojangles Famous Chicken and Biscuits.
On Friday there would be practice and qualifying . We arrived and I went straight to the paddock where I knew all the drivers and cars were. This that the first car I saw. Justin Pawlak’s Mustang. It was at the Falken Tire garage with all the other Falken cars and drivers.
Walking through the pits I was noticing a lot of beards. Beards have become very popular in the American drift world. Mainly because of this guy. His name is Hert, he created https://www.beardlife.net/ which is all about having a beard.
I noticed Chris Forsberg growing it out and rocking it.
One of the things I was excited to do was visit Nate Hamilton. This is his rookie year in FD and this would be his first event as well because he failed to qualify at Long Beach Formula Drift round 1. I was excited to visit him because I met him last year at the 2012 Streetwise Drift pro/am series final event at Virginia International Raceway. That was the day he earned his FD pro license.
From there it was off to the drivers meeting. Road Atlanta is famous for it’s backwards entries, but the judges were actually encouraging the drivers to shy away from that. Though some didn’t listen, I will touch on that later.
Vaughn Gittin JR was asking quite a few questions during the meeting trying to figure out exactly what the judges want. That’s just a testament to why he has been so successful. His competitiveness and dedication to drifting are unsurpassed by any driver in the field.
JR has never been one of my top favorite drivers but I have always had a huge amount of respect for him. How could someone not?
Matt Powers however is one of my favourite drivers, I think he was the first Formula Drift drivers that i really became a fan of. I loved his car and his so-cal surfer bro life style. My perceptions turned out to be exactly true seeing that he rolled up late to the drivers meeting.
And he did it in the best fashion possible. Destroying the silence by turning up in his LS7 competition car. This was my first peek at his car since he got his new livery done.
From there it was time for practice and right away it was clear that Daigo Saito was out for blood.
As was Matt Field. This was my first ‘in person’ glimpse at his car as well. I was scheduled to do a feature shoot for this monster the next day.
Chelsea Denofa is probably the most entertaining driver in the field. He wasn’t listening to the judges suggestions and was getting backwards all weekend. Everyone loved it though.
Qualifying began. Chris Forsberg certainly has the loudest car in the field. Powered by a Nissan V8.
Fredric Aasbo took advantage of the new ‘knock out’ style qualifying and immediately took the poll position as the number one qualifier.
By this time, most of the drivers had qualified and it was getting pretty dark.
Soon qualifying ended. There was then a late night practice starting around 10pm. By this time I was extremely tired, surviving off of crackers and pb&j sandwiches all day. I decided to shoot from the start line so I took a hike through the grass to the top of the hill.
There weren’t too many photographers hanging around at this time. Such a shame, the cars looked so good at night
Forrest Wang is another rookie. I think he and Matt Powers are tied for the best looking cars in the field.
Ryan Tuerck almost killed me doing donuts that night. I have fallen in love with his Toyota 86. The only other 86 that I like better is that of Fredric Aasbo.
Because it was night, I was using longer shutter speeds. This provided for some really cool shots.
By this time Friday night practice was coming to a close. it was around 11pm and I was absolutely exhausted. So it was off to the hotel with a short stop at Wendy’s for some
delicious necessary fast food.
Day 2. The cars were being unloaded and prepped for battle.
This was also the day that Slammed Society would have their show at the track. All of the cars were there by the time the gates opened.
There was a short practice which led right into top 32 and right off the bat the competition was fierce.
There was quite a lot of carnage.
Throughout the weekend I became addicted to the smell of tire smoke. Probably wasn’t too good for my lungs though.
After top 32 there was a long break and then driver introductions began.
During the break it had rained quite a bit.
The rain would let up by the time top 16 began but the track was still wet. It would dry as competition continued but there were wet patches for the rest of the night. This would end up being very important as the night went on.
The rain caused JR to have a huge bobble on entry during his battle with Fredric Aasbo causing him to mount the Scion TC. If you haven’t seen footage of this yet, you should really check it out.
The amazing thing was that after the crash they continued drifting, and it was one of the best battles all night. JR actually passed Aasbo during the crash but Aasbo was on his door the entire time.
After the judges voted for some one more time’s, JR eventually got the win. Daigo Saito would beat JR in the final four and Darren McNamara would beat Michael Essa.
JR and Michael Essa were set to battle for third place. It was very close with Vaughn barely getting the win.
Then came Daigo Saito and Darren McNamara to decide the winner. D-mac knew that if he was going to beat Daigo that he had to go all out. He slammed into Saito on the second turn and unfortunately the damage was too much for Darren to repair.
Giving Daigo Saito the win.
He definitely earned it.
The trophies were presented and the champagne was sprayed, and Formula Drift Atlanta 2013 came to a close.
Road Atlanta was the location of the first Formula Drift event ever. On the 10th anniversary of Formula Drift it was great to have such a diverse podium. D-mac from Ireland, JR from the USA, and Daigo Saito from Japan. That diversity is a great testament to how large the series has grown and how large the sport has grown as well. For me, shooting my first FD event ever was one of the best experiences of my life. Next year can’t come soon enough.