April 15, 2011
I flew into Long Beach full of anticipation. I had never attended a Formula Drift event before, and couldn’t wait to see what it was all about. I had previously been at races where drifting was a precursor to a road race, but I never got around to watching it. That being said, I was one of the few who enjoyed Fast & Furious: Tokyo Drift.
Before I even got close to the track, I could hear the echo off of the buildings downtown. Instantly, I picked up my pace. Before long I had turned a corner to come face to face with engines screaming, tires squealing, and smoke EVERYWHERE. This was Formula Drift.
I met up with some EA folks at our Team Need for Speed tent and spent the day enjoying the sights, sounds, and excitement. We had a live DJ going, contests, prizes, and tons of people playing SHIFT 2 UNLEASHED. The Team NFS drivers on hand were Matt Powers and Fredric Aasbo, in their Nissan and Scion, respectively.
What was really interesting, and I kept taking note of it throughout the day, was how accessible the drivers are compared to a Rolex Grand-Am or an ALMS event. The drivers pulled right up to the tent, got out, and were mobbed by fans. They looked like they were genuinely enjoying every second of it by taking pictures, signing autographs and answering questions.
At a Rolex Grand-Am event, teams and drivers are kept at a distance from the general public, unless they have credentials. There are set autograph and open pit sessions, whereas in Formula Drift, the pits were the fan zones. Matt Powers and Fredric Aasbo both had to drive through the crowd and between booths to get back to their respective areas. A fan could be walking along, checking out the scene, when all of a sudden, a beautifully tuned Nissan Silvia is revving its engine behind them. It certainly worked better than a horn. This isn’t to say I prefer one type of race event to the other, it was just a completely different vibe.
From my experience, albeit short, I feel Formula Drift stays true to its roots, caters well to the fan, and is really, really fun to attend. Our Team Need for Speed drivers were stellar, both finishing in the Top 8, and my time meeting fans was fantastic. If you have never been to a drift event, I encourage you to go, even if you’re not a fan of that particular racing genre. I’m certainly looking forward to the next one, where hopefully I can bring some more good luck to the team. If you happen to be attending, make sure you stop by the Team NFS tent and introduce yourself!
Craving more info and photos? Speedhunters has a recap of the whole weekend here.