Within a few short weeks of its completion, Fredric Aasbø’s new Toyota Auris* project car stunned America’s drift community with a smoke-billowing win in round two of the 2017 Formula Drift series last weekend. This result has catapulted both Fredric and Toyota into the lead in their respective championships.
You will have deduced from the accompanying images that Aasbø’s Auris no longer meets Toyota factory specifications. It has been extensively modified for drifting by Papadakis Racing, which has included switching the original front-wheel drive powertrain for a turbocharged 2.7-litre engine delivering a near four-figure power output to the rear wheels via a four-speed manual transmission.
Regulations surrounding Formula Drift are flexible enough to allow almost any engine and chassis combination – as long as the end result is rear-wheel drive. However, the fact the new engine in Aasbø’s Auris also comes from Toyota (it is based on that installed in the US market RAV4) allows the team to compete within the manufacturers’ championship.
What is Formula Drift?
Formula Drift is the foremost professional drift championship in North America. Now in its fourteenth season, the 2017 series consists of eight rounds – seven in the United States and one across the border in Canada.
Up to 32 teams populate the top-level Pro class where Fredric Aasbø competes. Each is categorised in terms of their respective vehicle manufacturer and one of five tyre sponsors, while being additionally supported by numerous lifestyle business partners.
A Formula Drift race weekend consists of practice sessions and qualifying on the first day, with further practice and the main competition rounds on the second day. Each driver has two chances to qualify for participation in the Top 32 tandem drift elimination round before the halftime break. Successful drivers then go on to compete in the Top 16 tandem drift elimination, the main event of the weekend.
Each tandem battle consists of two runs – one conducted as leader (above), the other as chaser (below). The lead driver sets the pace and attempts to score as many points as possible while trying to lose the chase car. However, the chase driver is expected to stay as close as possible to the lead car, mimicking its speed, angle and line, while attempting to intimidate the driver into making a mistake.
How is Formula Drift judged?
Unlike other competitive motorsports, drifting is primarily judged in terms of execution rather than outright speed. Points are awarded in three categories: line, angle and style.
Line: At each event the judges outline their criteria for the ideal drift line. This will usually push drivers to the extreme edges of the track, from precise clipping points on inner apexes to broader clipping zones on the track’s outer corners. In some cases, these clipping points are solid concrete walls and it is anticipated that some competitors will leave their mark – without coming off too worse for wear.
Angle: While driving through the prescribed drift line, judges look for slip angles that are as perpendicular as possible to the direction of movement. Straightening up in the middle of a drift will deduct points.
Style: From beginning to end, drifting should be carried out with style. Initiations (the moment the car is pushed into oversteer) should be carried out as early as possible and the drift held for as long as possible. Mid-drift steering adjustments should be kept to a minimum, and competitors should swing confidently and with fluidity through each transition.
2017 Formula Drift schedule:
|1||Streets of Long Beach||Long Beach, California||31/3 to 1/4|
|2||Uncharted Territory||Orlando, Florida||28 to 29/4|
|3||Road to the Championship||Braselton, Georgia||12 to 13/5|
|4||The Gauntlet||Wall Township, New Jersey||2 to 3/6|
|5||True North||Quebec, Canada||14 to 15/7|
|6||Throwdown||Monroe, Washington||4 to 5/8|
|7||Showdown||Fort Worth, Texas||8 to 9/9|
|8||Title Fight||Irwindale, California||13 to 14/10|
Learn more: Review of the Toyota Auris
*The Toyota Auris is known as the Corolla iM in North America.