Weds – Load in
Englishtown, NJ is probably my favorite FD event of the year. Both for the fans and the drivers. It has the highest attendance over any other round (30k spectators). It’s also only 3hrs away from where I live in Maryland, so it’s super convenient. We arrived at 3pm, got the car unloaded and set up our pit space. Tirestacks mounts all of our GT Radial tires for us, but they closed at 5pm so we squeezed that in to be better prepared for tomorrow. The team did a nut & bolt check over the car so that it was fully prepped and ready for practice in the morning. PS- this is the FIRST FD event that I am debuting my Wisefab angle kit. We all camped at the track at this round. I had my enclosed trailer, Chad had his Class A RV, so we were pretty set up! They guys stayed up, but I had a super boring night and totally went to bed early at 8:30pm.
Thurs – Practice / Qualifying
The day started early with putting the car in line for practice at 8am. As you guys know, practice has been shortened this year to only 3 hours so getting a good spot in line is crucial in order to get familiar with the track and its current conditions. While my team was getting the car prepped and ready in line, Mateen and I had a Drivers meeting to attend to at 8:30am. Practice was from 9am - 12:15pm (with a 15 min break halfway through). It had rained the night before, so conditions were wet! But we weren’t anticipating any more rain for the rest of the day so we decided to not waste too much time dialing in the car for wet conditions, considering it would most likely be dry within the hour. Practice went well. I felt extremely comfortable and the car was dialed in from last year’s data. We were able to get 8 practice laps! In fact, we had to stop practice about 30 mins early because we did not bring enough tires! I had brought 14, and we were down to 8. With qualifying approaching, we would only have 6 total for practice and comp the following day. This was NOT enough; it was time to source some tires!!! Shout out to Richard Advani for hooking me up with 10 more additional tires.
Qualifying started at 12:30pm. We were the 10th car to go, which was nice since I had just ended practice confidently and I could pick up right where I left off. I go out, run my qualifying lap, and did great! My qualifying run scored us a 76.33. I was pretty happy with that! But as I continued to watch the other drivers after me, I started to get nervous… Everyone was getting higher scores than me. It’s like I scored a 90% on my high school exam, but everyone else in the class got 91% or higher so overall, it doesn’t put me in the best spot in the class. The way that Knock Out Qualifying works is you do ONE qualifying run. Then, when every driver has done their one run, whoever is in the Top 24 is secured and in the competition the next day. For everyone else (the remaining 18 because there are 42 drivers), they have to do a SECOND qualifying run. Now, even if they did a perfect 100pt qualifying run on their second run, they would only be placed in the 25-32 section of the bracket. So watching every driver get a higher score than me made me wonder, am I going to have to do a second qualifying run? I was #24 and there was one more driver left to run. He is a fantastic driver and I was for sure going to get knocked down one more and put into #25th. But this is drifting, and anything can happen. Sure enough, he spun out resulting in a incomplete score, solidifying me in the Top 24 at 24th place! The team and I celebrated slightly, as we were making our way back to the pits to prepare to run again. Needless to say, the night was celebrated with good company, food, and smiles!
Friday – Top 32
We had a lot more time to get ready today. Drivers meeting was at 11am. We find out that I’m battling a fellow skateboarder and veteran – Andy Hateley. I’m so excited, this is going to be a great battle! Before competition starts, we have some practice from 12pm – 2pm. Things were going pretty good. Competition starts right at 2, and we are the 4th battle to go. Once again, I love going straight from practice and into the show so that things are still fresh in my mind. The car is warmed up, tires are hot. Its good. However, on my last practice lap (roughly at 1:55pm), I noticed car temps going up…we were starting to overheat. My car normally operates at 187 at idle, 209 after a run, and 218 after a battle. But temps were sitting at 228 and climbing. Knowing that we didn’t have much time to address this, I called all hands on deck! Temp is now at 239. Hood is open, I’m out of the car, there’s containers of distilled water everywhere, radiator cap is off. We were working without much time! The first battle had already gone and finished, they were on battle #2. We are bleeding our coolant system, trying to keep temps stable. Battle #3 is starting, and I’m next! The team buttons up the car as I am getting back into the cockpit strapping up and shoot over to the line. Adrenaline is flowing, heart is racing, but we did it! The car seemed to be at a controlled temperature and no longer rising. Race mode is now 100% active. I’ve got a cleared head, controlled emotions, and I’m ready to race!
Andy was the higher qualifier, so he will Lead, and I will Chase on the first part of our battle. The start lights go out, and the race has begun! I shift – 1st, 2nd, 3rd and grab the ebrake for my initiation. I had good proximity and I knew this was going to be a sick run! I release my ebrake and romp on throttle and as I did this, my right foot slipped off the accelerator pedal. Hmm… that was weird, nevertheless, I get back on throttle and AGAIN…my foot slips off the throttle! What in the world is happening? I completely straighten and was no longer drifting. My high spirits immediately fell down like a heavy rock – I had given Andy the biggest advantage over me. Even though I had made a critical error, I decided to at least attempt to put on a show and catch back up to him and complete the run.
Ignition Source TV is my media crew this year for FD. They have cameras all over the car, and luckily they had a GoPro filming my footwork! You can see clearly on camera that my foot slipped off twice upon initiating. I must have had some fluid on the bottom of my shoe when I was in the pits, getting the engine temperatures under control. Going from immediately working on the car, to right into battle didn’t give my shoe a chance to dry causing me to slip right off when I was mashing the pedal. I was SO disappointed.
It was time to switch positions, and I would Lead and Andy to Chase. I kept the car in throttle and on track, while Andy ran a safe, conservative chase in order to guarantee him to advance on to the Top 16. Not how I wanted to lose, but this Wisefab angle kit is like cheating. I have ALL the angle I’ll ever need for competitive driving. The car looks better, feels better, and yall better watch out for me in STL, because I’m coming for it!
We ended the day with an autograph signing at 5:15pm. I spent the rest of the night engaging with fans and watching the show.
Saturday – PRO Competition
PROSPEC no longer participates in scheduled activities on Saturdays. As disappointing as this change was to hear over last year, it allowed me to really engage with the fans all day Saturday since I was able to be at the pits whenever I wanted. I threw the competition on the projector, and was able to watch everything while hanging out with Miss Arya.
Sunday – ProBroDown
Typically, at every FD event, Sunday is funday. If a FD driver is local, or wants to hang out an additional day, we can drift with local sanction that runs events at that tack throughout the year. This is a neat experience because local grassroots drivers can register to drift that day, and the FD drivers can drift with them. I remember when I was a grassroots driver and this was my favorite event of the year! I would be able to drift with my role models! It was just the coolest thing. Now that I am in FD, I want to pay it back and offer to do that with the grassroots guys. So I stuck around for Sunday. Unfortunately, it rained like a tropic thunderstorm and everyone left. All media, spectators, and drivers got off track. So, I thought it would be a good time to pack up and go home. As I was leaving, I heard car drifting. So I decided to go back and see what was up. To my surprise, the rain lighted up and now the show was back on! By this time, it was 4pm and the event was scheduled to end at 5pm so I just decided to hang out in the stands. I really wanted to drive though, so it killed me to sit back and watch. There’s always next year =]
-Qualified 1st try. No need to do a second qualifying lap.
-I have a lot of new crew members on my team this year. By the end of practice, everyone had become confident and comfortable in their positions. Communication was increasing, and it was a solid team.
-We didn’t have a single mechanical all week – minus overheating
-No wreaks/blown motors.
-Was able to get a private day here 15 days before FD getting goo data
-Almost ran out of tires for comp because we weren’t expecting so many practice laps.
-Need more accurate rain data specs with the cars new setup.
WORDS: Alex Lichliter
PHOTOS: Ignition Source TV
NST - NonStopTuning
NST - NonStopTuning