Just 30 short miles Northeast of downtown Seattle sits a quiet little town named Monroe and for the 6th straight year, Evergreen Speedway played host Formula D’s “Battle in Seattle” event, the 50th in the young history of the Formula Drift series. After some mid-season adjustments to the weight-to-tire ratio which regulates the amount of tire each car is allowed to run as a ratio of the overall weight, the cars were expected to be more competitive across the board and the sold-out crowd of more than 8,000 fans was treated to one of the best shows of the season.
The track in Seattle is on of the favorites among the drivers, being one of the largest on the circuit with entry speeds nearing 100 mph on the 5/8 mile banked oval. Drivers are encouraged to rub their bumper on the wall of the big bank early and often, sucking into the driver in front of them during tandem runs before bombing thru the ‘power alley’ to a long left-hand sweeper and a tight, right-handed hairpin. A complete run takes around 40 seconds to complete (one of the longest on the Formula D Circuit), but drivers enjoy every moment of it as there are numerous opportunities to create close tandem battles.
Shaking things up early in the competition, Justin Pawlak was the championship points leader entering the round and looked nearly unstoppable in the four previous rounds, winning two events and placing 2nd and 5th in the other two to take a 57-point lead into Seattle, but was knocked out in the round of 32 due to mechanical issues in his Falken Tires Ford Mustang. Pawlak’s closest competitors Dai Yoshihara, Darren McNamara, and Chris Forsberg all exited the first round of tandems unscathed, assuring a major shake-up in the championship points when the race was over. Nearly as notable, top qualifier Tyler McQuarrie would need a one-more-time round to defeat low-qualifier Luke Lonberger’s Blu808 Chevy Corvette, a rarity in the early round of tandems.
Top 16 battles went nearly as planned with McQuarrie, Fredric Aasbo, Yoshihara, Forsberg, and Rhys Millen taking out lower-seeded drivers, while Ryan Tuerck defeated his Drift Alliance brother Joon Maeng, and Vaughn Gittin Jr and Kyle Mohan used their experience to out-drive higher-qualifying but less-experienced drivers. Notable was Millen’s defeat of Darren McNamara, ending D-mac’s opportunity to make up ground on Pawlak and Yoshihara. In the Top 8 round, Aasbo needed two one-more-time sudden death rounds to upset top-qualifier McQuarrie, while Yoshihara beat Gitten Jr for the second time this season (Atlanta being the first) and fourth time in two seasons. On the other side of the bracket, Forsberg took out Tuerck in a battle of energy drink backed drivers, while Millen took out Mohan for Millen’s first Final 4 appearance since Long Beach in 2010 (a streak of 9 missed final-4’s, the longest of Millen’s career).
In one of the most competitive sets of final four tandem battles, Yoshihara’s Discount Tire S13 was narrowly better than Freddy Aasbo’s Need for Speed Scion tC, while Forsberg’s NOS Energy Drink 370Z took out Rhys Millen’s Red Bull Hyundai Genesis. Aasbo defeated Millen to earn his first career Formula D podium, and Yoshihara defeated Forsberg to take over the top spot in the Formula D points. Entering the final 2 rounds, more than 10 drivers still have a chance to win the championship, with the top 6 drivers separated by less than 100 points. The series continues to Las Vegas before ending at the House of Drift in Irwindale, CA where FD will hand the 8th championship to the most worthy driver.