In between ProSpec rounds 1 and 2 I got busy making adjustments to both car and driver to help prepare for New Jersey. This included flying to Orlando for a whirlwind trip to install nitrous into my car, extra training sessions in Taka Aono's 1JZ Is 300 (left foot + turbo practice), and arriving to New Jersey a few days early to get the S14 re-tuned and to do a day of testing.
Englishtown has an amazing support system, and Chris Napp helped us out with shop space, a truck and trailer to get the car to the dyno, and some track time.
As is common with drifting, nothing ever goes according to plan, and I ended up very glad for the extra time. The dyno went well, hearing the sound of the nitrous kick in was amazing - the car sounded so much more aggressive right away, and I was really excited to get out on track. Even though the forecast called for rain, we ended up testing in the dry, and while the engine performance felt amazing, I quickly noticed progressively heavier and heavier steering, especially closer to full lock, and then it became clear the pump had failed.
We replaced that pump rather quickly, and got back on track, only for the same symptoms to arise after just one lap. We made the call to replace the rack, the pump, and flush the system, which did solve the problem. In spite of all of the work on the car, I still went through 10 pairs of GT Radials – the car was definitely working!
I walked the track the night before practice and noticed many features that were not apparent on the livestream, including inches of flaking, caked on rubber, and steep drop offs towards the walls at the outside of the track.
The forecast for both the practice and qualifying days called for rain but that did not come before qualifying. FD set up a dual burnout box for this event, and it was really efficient, allowing us to get a lot of laps in! We battled a few small electrical issues, but I missed very few practice laps, keeping my crew busy by repeatedly ripping off the bumper on various walls.
Due to not qualifying in Atlanta, I was sitting on 0 points, and I had to qualify first. I was reasonably satisfied with my first qualifying run, though I did get a little deep into the wall, and I pulled a score of 67, which ultimately did not put me above the safe line and I went into the second round of knockout qualifying. I did my best to fix my second lap and received a 79.66, which was enough to put me in 30th place and I made the show.
The following day we had additional practice before competition and it rained heavily in the morning. While it started to dry up and dried up completely before the battles, I definitely struggled in the wet at the beginning of practice, and then as I was starting to get confident, I got a little too aggressive on the wrong line and slammed my driver's rear into the wall on initiation. I relayed what I thought was damaged to the crew and rode with the car back to the pits. Luckily for us, I was one of the last battles in the top 32, and we were well prepared with spares.
By the time I made it back to the pits, my crew along with bonus Drift Cave team members GD and Matt Field, and FDF Race shop owner, Josiah Fallaise, were ready to go waiting for me. We assessed the damage and replaced the rear toe arm, a mounting bracket, bled the handbrake and removed, inspected and reinstalled the rear coilover. I got very lucky - the wheel took the brunt of the damage and the rear arms worked as designed. We actually got the car back to the line more than 10 minutes before my battle.
My first battle was against Dmitry Brutskiy – a two time season champion for Prospec. Not the first battle I would have chosen, but I was excited for the challenge. It was a close battle and we initially thought we had taken it, but ultimately the judges called for one more time. In the second battle, I focused on correcting my chase run and being as aggressive as possible, and I definitely succeeded in that, however I was not as deep in the zones as Dmitry and ultimately the judges gave him the win. Regardless of the outcome, I was happy that I was able to demonstrate that I could contend with one of the higher performing drivers in the ProSpec category.
After competition, I once again had an opportunity to meet and interact with the fans at the autograph signing, and I was especially stoked to see so many female fans and a lot of French Canadians – people drive a long way to attend FD and it just speaks to the power of drifting to bring people together. I was also invited to be one of the drivers giving the track walk experience, and I really enjoyed chatting with the fans and explaining the track from my perspective.
From round 1 to round 2, I'm extre mely happy with my development as a driver. As we head towards round 3, I am Non Stop Training to put on an even better show in St Louis, and I couldn't be more happy to be working with the team that I have.
WORDS: Zandara Kennedy
PHOTOS: Ignition Source TV | Nickelbag Media
NST - NonStopTuning
NST - NonStopTuning