If you’re looking for a new sport to follow this spring, check out Formula Drift. This high-octane, adrenaline-soaked event is the fastest growing motorsport today, and it’s easy to see why. Unlike traditional motorsport events, where drivers compete over laps on a track, Formula Drift goes beyond pure speed and quick lap times. Instead, it puts drivers head-to-head to see who has the skill (and the courage) to drift their cars through high-speed turns without crashing or running off course. The 2021 season is about to begin, and if you’re not hooked already, now’s a great time to get in on the action.
Formula Drift started in 2003 and has been growing steadily ever since (the official FD Instagram now has over 1 million followers, and competitions draw raucous crowds). That’s partly because an FD event is very different from your typical motorsport race. Drivers compete to see who can drift—intentionally oversteering and sliding the car sideways through turns—with the most speed, skill, and control. Judges observe the action and deduct points for any mistakes, like a tire slipping off course or making too many steering corrections during a drift.
The Formula Drift season takes place at eight events at racetracks around the country, and drivers are divided into two fields: Pro (the top thirty or so competitors) and Prospec (an entry-level series for newer drivers). At each event, drivers compete in qualifying rounds to determine their places in a seeded bracket. Then they compete in tandem battles, where the higher-seeded driver leads through the drift course and the lower-seeded driver has to mirror them—at breakneck speeds and mere inches away—as their cars careen through tight turns.
To complete these events, drivers have to push their cars to the edge while maintaining perfect control. To win, they have to do it all with finesse and style, too.
Last season featured plenty of action. Vaughn Gittin Jr., who drives a 1,200-horsepower Ford Mustang and is known for his aggressive, tire-burning style, notched two perfect scores in rounds three and four at the Evergreen Motor Speedway in Washington and ultimately won the 2020 championship (his 12th so far, the second most of any Formula Drift driver).
Driver Chelsea DeNofa finished second in the 2020 standings, and he’s another driver to watch this season. Although he’s an aggressive competitor on the track, he’s known for a precise driving style he’s honed over the years behind the wheel: He entered his first race at age 15, before he even had a driver’s license. Keep an eye out for him in his No. 88 Mustang.
And no discussion of top FD drivers is complete without mentioning Chris Forsberg. He’s a Formula Drift “Ironman,” one of the few competitors who has taken part in every FD round since 2004. He’s won enough titles to fill a trophy case, and he has the most podium finishes in the history of the series (including a record six podium finishes in a row). We’ll see if he’ll make more Formula D history this year.
The first Formula Drift event of the 2021 season is coming up on May 7–8 in Atlanta, GA. It’ll be held at Road Atlanta, an iconic location for drifting (it hosted the first FD event back in 2004). It’s the perfect location to kick off a new season, and you can catch all the action via a livestream on the Formula Drift YouTube channel.
Buckle up and get ready to experience your new favorite motorsport.
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