SWD Road Atlanta Pro-Amon May 18 in Drifting by Alexander Fabrication
I had been looking forward to this event for several months now. It is the first competition of my season and it was at a very famous track I’d never ran on before. I’ve been going over the car with a fine tooth comb to shake out problems and getting the suspension set just right so I’d be comfortable in the car with the new LS6. With several events and a recent suspension tuning session under my belt, it was finally time to pack up and hit the road for Atlanta.
As we arrived in the paddock and were told where to park by the StreetWise Drift staff, you could see that the pit already had some very talented drivers setting up. I hurried and unpacked what I needed and shot right over to the tech inspection tent. I’ve been through SWD’s tech process and know that it can be exhausting, so I wanted to get it over with. After what seemed like hours of poking and prodding at my car they were unable to find any areas of concern. And that was all there was to do on Thursday – just load-in and tech-in – no driving, just administrative details. We headed back to the hotel for some much needed rest, it would be a long day ahead on Friday.
I was up at the crack of dawn Friday morning to get something to eat and make sure everything on the car was 100% for the brief hour practice which started at 8:45am and ended at 9:45am. With a full field of 40 drivers, a new track, and brand new course layout, us Pro-am drivers really had our job cut out for us. I made sure I went out on grid prepared to get as many runs in as I could. I managed to squeeze in three practice runs before qualifying. The course was very technical and was all about a single perfect line to power up the hill and get to the outer clipping zone. I thought the entry would be terrifying, but that was the easiest part of the course. I just wish I had a little more time out there, I would have gotten all Conrad Grunewald in the entry. But, I got what I could and equaled the amount of practice the other Pro-am competitors got. Then it was on to qualifying.
Qualifying started at 12:10pm and the event staff informed us they would not guarantee 2 runs due to time restraints, so again I made sure I was prepared and at the front of the line just in case time ran short. On my first run, I went conservative on the entry to make it through the course without any major issues. With little practice time, I wanted to get a clean run in. The next run I decided I would step it up and go in in 4th gear on the entry and hammer out the clipping points harder. With my second run out of the way, I hung out at the back of the line until everyone got their second run and then got a few more practice runs in, which actually helped out a ton. I got a lot more comfortable on the course in those last practice runs.
In the driver’s meeting to announce top 16, I was pretty nervous with all of the talent at the event. I know I saw some very good driving from up on the hill, but it didn’t take long for the judges to call my name at the 13th position.I was so happy to be in the show and get to compete in tandem at Road Atlanta my first time there. In the top 16 I was paired up with fellow ASD driver Jason Jiovani in the yellow Nissan 240sx S13 with a S15 front end. Having watched Jason’s runs I saw he had an amazing line through the course and wasn’t surprised when he placed. I was really going to have to drive hard if I wanted to move on to the top 8.
By the time the Formula D guys had finished the qualification runs, it was past when we were supposed to go on course for our tandem elimination due to the large field of FD drivers this year. It was about 9:30pm or so when we made it out to grid and the track conditions had changed with the sun going down and layers of rubber from FD qualifying. I made some adjustments to the car to try and compensate for the changes in track conditions. In my first run with Jason, I was following him because he qualified higher, he bolted off the line as though he was trying to get a record 40 foot time or something but lucky for me he slowed just before entry so I could make up some ground as we entered at the same pace and transferred up the hill and on throttle, I shifted to forth so I could stay with him and then back down to third going into the horseshoe really tight and close, and back down the hill trying to maintain close proximity and exiting with lots of smoke and angle.
Next it was my turn to lead, I chose not to drag race off the line but rather launch in the same way as I had in qualifying and enter the first turn in fourth and kept it in forth up the hill and as I came into the horseshoe and didn’t downshift. When I stepped on the throttle again, the car just gripped up and launched right towards the wall in front of the judges stand. I was way off line and heading toward the wall, so I slowed down to correct and get back on course and then Jason slammed into me from behind. So I just drove the rest of the course off and shook the car a little to make sure nothing was damaged too bad in the impact. Everything seemed fine. The round was awarded rightfully to Jason and he went on to claim third place overall in the event.
I had a great time at the new track and met a lot of great people. SWD did an amazing job with the event. Huge thanks to all my partners that helped out immensely; Auto Sports Dynamic, Falken Tires, Sikky Manufacturing, Enkei Wheels, Mishimoto Automotive, Mechanix Wear Gloves, Race Design, and Alexander Fabrication. Now it’s down to Florida for XDC Orlando…