Weds – Load In / Tech
We had a successful 18hr journey down to Orlando from Maryland. We got to Orlando Speed World at about 1:30pm. We are excited to officially announce that Carlos Arrieta (SC300) is our NST teammate, so we have secured paddock/pit spacing with him and his team for the year.
Our tech appointment was at 2:40pm, so we quickly got to our assigned pit area and unpacked. We passed tech with no issues, so we decided to get prepared for the following day. We did a full bolt check on the car and got 10 tires mounted to our wheels. We were completely prepared! We then hung out waiting for the drivers meeting at 9pm.
Thurs – Practice / Qualifying
We started the day with a drivers meeting at 2pm. Immediately after the drivers meeting, it was practice session. To our surprise, we got 11 practice laps in those 4 hours. That is the most practice laps I have ever gotten in FD! I feel like my relationship is growing more with my car. I’m able to identify things easier, making progressive changes with each lap. I’m also feeling more confident with each lap. By the end of practice, the car was completely dialed in and I was ready for qualifying. I want to give a shout out to Barry Boatright for helping out with the car. We were down some crew members, and Barry performance was exactly what the team needed!
Qualifying started at 7pm. There was about an hour of downtime in between practice and my qualifying run. I was egger to get out there and get my run completed. I hate sitting around waiting for my turn. If I could be the first driver to qualify right out of practice, the repetitiveness right after practice would make me more consistent. It was finally my turn to run. As I initiated into the first turn, I immediately felt way more grip than I had felt all day. This prevented me from being high up on the wall, causing me to have a much shallower line than I had had all during practice. After the run was complete, I felt extremely disappointed with my performance. I had been killing it all day, why all of a sudden was the car more gripped up? We hadn’t made a single change. It wasn’t just me either, lots of my competitors were experiencing the same thing. I scored a 63, which is not a number to brag about. However, because so many of my peers struggled as well, this number put me at 20th out of 32. That’s about halfway through the pack! Not so bad anymore. We later discovered why the car had so much more grip to it. When the sun had set, the track temperatures had changed significantly. This difference in track temps was the overall reason why most drivers were struggling. We ended the day with another drivers meeting at 9:45pm.
Friday – Top 32
We had lots of time to get ready. We weren’t required to be at the track until 3pm. We started the day with getting 6 tires mounted and another full bolt check. Prior to driving, there was an autograph session with the fans at 4pm. It’s one of my favorite parts of FD. I love engaging with the fans. Immediately right after the signing, we had 2hrs of practice before the competition started. Everything was dialed in, ready for comp! Competition started at 7:30pm. AS SOON as competition started, it started to rain. I’m not intimidated by driving in the rain. I actually like it, because I feel like a lot of drivers struggle in the rain and that would give me more of a competitive advantage. It also makes the tires last longer. However, I haven’t driven in the rain since 2020. It's been 2 years since I’ve gotten to practice driving in the rain, and the car is completely different now than it was 2 years ago. I also don’t like making last minute changes to the car going into comp. That’s what practice is for. But with the weather change, we were forced to make several changes to the car for the wet conditions. As a FD driver, I am expected to go out and make a great run despite the conditions and lack of practice at this track in the rain. Pressure is starting to sink in…
It’s time to battle! I’m going against one of my drifting buddies, Brian Wadman. I know this is going to be a fun battle, dry or wet because we have been drifting so many years together. We are granted a sight lap due to the conditions. A sight lap allows both of us to go out together and feel out the conditions because it's wet now. Wadman is in the lead position, which means he goes first. I am supposed to follow him. During our sight lap, we take it nice and easy to feel out the rainy track conditions. During the sight lap, Wadman spins out on the course and comes to a stop. I am forced to shut it down. I re initiate after I pass him, however I feel that I was not able to take full advantage of having the sight lap. I’m sure Wadman felt the same way, so I know emotions are kicking in for both of us. I get back to the start line and mentally prepare myself for the battle. To my surprise, Brian is still stuck out on the track! I started to wonder, what mechanical issues was he having? The track workers were able to get his car pop started and back on track in time to battle. I’m excited to see him up and running and looking forward to our battle. The start light goes off, and so do we! Wadman initiates, and so do I. Soon after my initiation, I was having trouble maintaining the drift. My car kept trying to straighten up. I tried initiating again. Still straightening up. I’m getting flustered quickly. Emotions are kicking in. Why is my car straightening every time?! It was because I was trying to left foot brake throughout the course. Left foot braking is a tool used to help get the car up higher on the bank during the drift. I’m accustomed to doing it while I’m driving, but I can’t do it in the rain. When I try to left foot brake, it just locks up the front, causing me to have no steering grip. The run is over and I have to get back to the start line to do my lead run. My spotter (Mateen) reminds me to clutch kick and ebrake – no left foot braking. I go out and lay down a good lead run. Wadman and I park side by side, waiting for the judges to make their decision. The judges took so long to come up with a verdict, so I knew it was a close call. But, because my chase was so off, I had lost the battle and was knocked out of competition. I was SO upset, we had the car dialed in so well during practice. The car had never felt so good. But the wet conditions changed everything.
Sat – Top 16
Since we did not win our Top32 battle, we were unable to advance into the Top 16 competition on Saturday. Saturday was a great opportunity for us to engage with the fans. We were able to show off our car, give out some merch, and spend time with our sponsors. It allowed us to watch the competition, as well as talking with some of my competitors about their car and how they did during the comp. Can’t wait to go to NJ for Round 2 of the Formula Drift PROSPEC championship!
-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 we are becoming a solid team.
-We didn’t have a single mechanical all week.
-No wreaks/blown motors.
-Most practice laps I’ve ever had in FD (11 laps). Most prior to this event was 6.
-Was able to solidify a mechanic last minute for this round after short notice that we would be down some crew members.
-Almost ran out of tires for comp because we weren’t expecting so many practice laps.
-Need to address left foot braking techniques.
-Need more accurate rain data specs with the car's new setup.
-Needs to upgrade/improve radio quality. There were times were I couldn’t communicate with my spotter.
Words: ALEX LICHLITER
Photos: @robgoodwinphotos @slavysquat @decemberjoy27