Weds - Load in
Since we live in Maryland, New Jersey is the closest Formula Drift event of the year. Our drive was only 4 hours away, so load in was extremely casual for us. We got in around 6pm, and proceeded with unloading the car and setting up our pit. After we unloaded, we went out for some supplies and dinner. Chris Tugwell met us later in the night. He brought his pop up trailer and pitted next to us. We were excited to be back in Jersey!
Thurs - Practice / Qualifying
For those who don’t know, we are a low budget team. In fact, we didn’t purchase a single tire for this round. We brought 36 scrubs for practice and some left over new tires from previous rounds for comp. We created a good plan to run a lap or two (depending on wear), then coming in for a new set of scrubs. We had a tire machine in the trailer, and the team had a good rhythm for changing the tires every time I came in.
On the track, I was definitely struggling with the initiation. Outer Zone 1 is a tricky turn because it’s not a circular arched turn. It’s more of a straight line, then turns off at the end. Kind of like the letter J. But after multiple practice laps, I was able to get into the zone correctly.
Around 5pm, we started to hear a knock coming from the engine. I decided to return to the pit and see if the team could determine the sound. Believe it or not, I’ve had my motor in this car for 5 years now without ever having a internal issue! I was nervous my luck had ran out. My team did an amazing job diagnosing it, and determined that one of the push rods had bent. Another driver, Robert Thorne was kind enough to let us have one of his spare push rods. The team had the car back together and running again within 40 minutes! I couldn’t believe that my motor was knocking, and in under an hour, we were able to get it repaired and back on track. The team did an amazing job and I was in high spirits. I was eager to get back on track and get as my laps in I could during the last 45 minutes of practice that was left. We got the most practice laps here at NJ than any other round ever. I stopped counting after 20 laps. Towards the end of practice, I was feeling very comfortable here at NJ.
Towards the end of practice, the Chase line was empty. Most of the drivers were in the Lead line, so when I finished a run, I could practically go right back out in the Chase line since the line was empty. I was conflicted because I wanted to do some Lead laps as well, but I felt obligated to get as many laps as I could before qualifying. In this moment, I wasn’t focused. I was only thinking of how quickly can I get out on track. I was only supposed to get 1-2 laps per set of scrubs. But, for the first time that weekend, I went out for a 3rd lap. I just finished a great run, and spun right back in to an empty line not realizing my 1-2 laps were up. I was high on the excitement and ready to keep sending it.
Sending it is exactly what I did, right into a wall! On that 3rd run, I was chasing Tommy Lemaire. Transitioning from OZ1 into OZ2, I got lost in his smoke. At this level of driving, when you get caught up in the smoke, you HAVE to keep driving. It doesn’t matter that you can’t see. You have to trust the driver in front of you, knowing that if you drive through the smoke, you will be there on their door when you come out. I trust Tommy 100%. He’s a great driver. So I choose to continue to drive through the smoke. To my surprise, my car came to an immediate stop. I never even saw the wall. I had no point of reference on the track as to where I was. I just drove through the smoke, looking to come out on Tommy’s door, and found a wall instead. I was immediately disappointed. My first thought was confusion. I was dedicated enough to drive through the smoke. I thought I would be rewarded by being right where I should be. Not by destroying my car through dedication.
I was sad. I had let my team down. They just triumphantly fixed the bent push rod, we had so many practice laps. I let my sponsors down. This was not a good feeling. I knew before I even got out of the car, that there would be extensive damages due to how hard I hit. I broke the right rear wheel, knuckle, coilover, subframe, bent upper/lower control arms, and rear bash bar. I also broke the right front wheel, coilover, inner tie rod, bent inner heim on control arm, bent ball joint. and twisted my front knuckle.
We were unable to qualify. I was out. This event plummeted my overall standings for the series.
Fri/Sat - Competition
I was unable to compete, but I’m a true drift fan myself so I spend the days engaging with fans, hanging with sponsors, and watching the competition. I was able to participate in the autograph session which was lifted my spirts from the wrack the day before. The fans are just so excited to be there and I truly love standing out and inviting them to come by the pits later and see the car and chat with them further. We even raffled off the broken rear wheel to the fans and LOVED IT. I appreciate all their support for participating in the raffle, purchasing merch, and spending time playing with my dog - Arya
Words: ALEX LICHLITER
Photos: @robgoodwinphotos @slavysquat @swooshtatimages
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