Saturday, Oct 23
Adam Sinclair

Adam Sinclair

Adam has been a race fan since the first time he went through the tunnel under the Daytona International Speedway more than 30 years ago. He has had the privilege of traveling to races all across the state of Florida (as well as one race in Ohio), watching nearly everything with a motor compete for fame and glory, as well as participating in various racing schools to get the feel of what racecar drivers go through every week.  

Adam spent several years covering motorsports for Examiner.com., where he had the opportunity to see the racing world from behind the scenes as well as the grandstands. He invites everyone to follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus, and looks forward to sharing his enthusiasm for all things racing with the readers of SpeedwayDigest.com.

Be sure to tune in for his sports talk program, Thursday Night Thunder, where he discusses the latest in motorsports news with drivers, crew members, and fans. The show takes place (almost) every Thursday at 8:00 pm EST on the Speedway Digest Radio Network. 

Contact Adam: Email  

  

 
By John Oreovicz
IMSA Wire Service
 
 
The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship made a successful return to the streets of Long Beach on a postcard-perfect Southern California afternoon. The Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach played out before a packed house for the 46th edition of the classic event.
 
Cadillac continued its domination of the tight circuit in the Daytona Prototype international (DPi) class, with Pipo Derani and Felipe Nasr (No. 31 Whelen Engineering/Action Express Racing) claiming the overall victory Saturday, but there were surprises sprinkled throughout the GT Le Mans (GTLM) and GT Daytona (GTD) categories.
 
As the 2021 season rushes toward a close, the DPi and GTD championship battles tightened considerably at Long Beach. Both GT categories have two races remaining on the slate, starting with the Michelin GT Challenge at VIRginia International Raceway on Oct. 9. WeatherTech Championship competitors in all five classes then will wrap up the campaign with the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta set for Nov. 13.
 
Here are three takeaways from a sun-splashed weekend at Long Beach:
 
Forrest Gump Theory: A WeatherTech Championship street race is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get. Heading into the Long Beach weekend, plenty predicted a messy race, but the racing has actually gotten progressively cleaner in recent years.
 
The 2017 contest featured five full-course cautions, causing 24 of the 55 laps to be run behind the safety car. The 2018 and ’19 races were each twice slowed by cautions, as the lap count over 100 minutes increased to 65 and 73, respectively.
 
This year’s Long Beach race included just one safety car period lasting only four laps, when Kevin Magnussen slapped the tire barrier in the No. 01 V Racing Academy Cadillac DPi-V.R and spread debris on the track. Other than some typical street-course bumping and banging and a late spin by Olivier Pla in the No. 60 Meyer Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian Acura ARX-05 DPi, the drivers put on a remarkable display of precision driving through a concrete canyon.
 
The closest threat to a second full-course caution came when Robby Foley nosed the No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3 into a tire wall (more on that later). But like Pla, he was able to continue without disrupting the flow of the race.
 
Bryan Sellers, who shared the GTD-winning No. 1 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3 with Madison Snow, commented on the level of courtesy demonstrated throughout the field.
 
“Luckily today, the traffic flow was pretty clean,” Sellers said. “A lot of the prototype guys, this is a tough place for them to race with us because we slow them down pretty heavily in a lot of places. Most of them were pretty generous with us today, which was why you saw so much green-flag racing.”
 
Championships tighten: Saturday’s results had a considerable impact on two of the WeatherTech Championship class battles.
 
The overall victory for Nasr and Derani, combined with a fourth-place finish for Ricky Taylor and Filipe Albuquerque (No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura), slashed the No. 10’s advantage from 98 to 19 points with just one race remaining in the DPi season, essentially meaning that whoever finishes ahead in the 10-hour Motul Petit Le Mans endurance contest will be crowned champions.
 
“We still have the points lead going into Petit Le Mans, which is always nice, but the pressure is on,” said Taylor. “Basically, whoever wins will be the champions. To win the title on a last-race shootout would be pretty cool.”
 
There was a major point swing for the incoming GTD leaders Saturday. Foley’s incident when he was racing with the No. 39 CarBahn with Peregrine Racing Audi R8 LMS GT3 relegated him and co-driver Bill Auberlen to a 16th-place class finish.
 
Having arrived at Long Beach as the GTD championship frontrunners, Auberlen and Foley now lie fourth in the standings, 150 points back. Foley and Auberlen scored just 178 points at Long Beach, while Sellers and Snow pulled down 382 to move up to second in the standings. Laurens Vanthoor and Zacharie Robichon, who finished second at Long Beach in the No. 9 Pfaff Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3R, are now on top, 32 points ahead of Sellers and Snow.
 
The good news for the BMW duo is that the GT classes have two more races on the 2021 calendar to try and recover.
 
Fans Make the Difference: The last Long Beach race was staged in April 2019, and there were worries that this year’s event might be adversely impacted, not only by missing last year but from stringent state and local regulations currently enforced in light of the COVID-19 resurgence.
 
Race officials were therefore pleased to confirm that attendance levels this year were close to those achieved in 2019 and above projections. The enthusiastic Southern California crowd added their own flavor to the event, as usual.
 
“I love this place and I’ve got to say thanks to the fans,” race winner Nasr said. “What a great vibe they bring to racing. It’s just awesome to get a win on the streets of Long Beach.”

Red Bull Imagination’s second year is in the books, and it far exceeded the expectations of the riders, judges, and spectators. The event, born from the mind of freeride athlete Tyler Bereman and brought to life by course designer Jason Baker of Dream Traxx, continued to carve out its place in the pantheon of motocross events and progress the discipline of freeride motocross. Twelve of the sport’s top riders convened in Fort Scott, Kansas for an unparalleled week of expression sessions, massive features, and epic sends. The event kicked off with four days of session riding and culminated with a freeride competition unlike anything that has come before it. When it came down to the finish, fan favorite Axell Hodges threw down the winning runs to secure first place, but not before Colby Raha and Bereman gave him a run for his money in the chase to the podium.

 

The level of riding demonstrated at Red Bull Imagination was truly next level, in large part because of the magnitude and scale the custom-built course brought to the table. Heading into 2021, Baker and Bereman knew the stakes had to be raised for year two of Red Bull Imagination and they used their learnings from year one to redesign and expand the course in ways that would truly push the bounds of what is capable in freeride motocross. The bespoke “playground” course debuted expanded features and new concepts that moved away from the confines of “racing,” and eliminated the start and finish line, enabling full creative freedom for the riders. Everything about this year’s course was bigger, better and gnarlier than its predecessor.

 

Returning riders and first-time riders alike were awed and unnerved at the scale of the course. But the contest format was set up to accommodate this, with four “session-ing” days set aside for riders to adjust to and learn the unique sections before the contest. And despite the initial unease from the shock factor of the course, the tone of the week quickly went from “dipping a toe” to “diving in full force.” Rookies and veterans were all smiles under their helmets as they ripped their bikes over and around the ultimate freeride playground.

 

 The complete lineup of riders who took to the course are:    

  • Leading freeride motocross rider and 10-time X Games medalist Tyler Bereman  
  • 2021 X Games Gold medalist, nine-time X Games overall medalist Colby Raha 
  • 2021 X Games Gold medalist, nine-time X Games overall medalist Axell Hodges
  • Motocross’s jack-of-all-trades, the Generalist himself Ryan Sipes  
  • 2021 X Games Gold medalist, four-time X Games overall medalist Tom Parsons 
  • Pro Supercross and Motocross star Cole Seelycomes out of retirement (again) 
  • Four-time X Games medalist and World Record Holder Vicki Golden 
  • Former AMA Supercross/Motocross rider Darryn Durham 
  • Former AMA Supercross/Motocross rider and current freeride motocross rider Josh Hill
  • X Games medalist Jimmy Hill
  • Former AMA Supercross/Motocross rider Billy Bear Carpenter
  • 19-year-old racer-turned-freerider Christian Dresser

 

On competition day, the riders had two five-minute windows to showcase and hit the visionary lines they had dreamt up all week long. Riders were scored on magnitude, creativity, execution, and the overall line they carved, and their best single score run counted. John Basher and legends of the sport Jeremy ‘Twitch’ Stenberg, Robbie Maddison, Steve Haughelstine and Ronnie Faisst judged the contest from a tower overlooking the entire course.

 

All twelve riders’ mentality was so dialed and detailed on competition day, and everyone nailed their runs, keeping both the judges and fellow competitors on their toes. Highlights from the rider’s first runs included Durham’s funbox and wallride before jumping up and over the moon booter, Jimmy Hill’s joyful riding style and on-course antics, Parsons’ whips over the big dawgs, and Golden seamlessly hitting a superwoman. But it was Hodges, Raha and Bereman who led 1-2-3 after the first round with 93, 87 and 86 points respectively.

 

The stakes were high heading into round two and it was this set that saw athletes up-leveling their craft even more, leaving viewers and judges virtually speechless. Every single rider delivered at or above the level of their first run, matching or raising their scores the second time around. In the chase for the podium, it was Bereman, Raha and Hodges who battled it out to hold their lead.

 

Bereman demonstrated ease and perfection in seamless transfers in and out of each zone, using every inch of the course with creative, technical approach. Not to be outdone, Raha responded to Hodges first run with two jaw-dropping first-ever hits that wowed the judges and showcased his aggressive style, skill and finesse on the course: he hipped across the entire quarterpipe landing and landed a 120’ backflip big dawg over the quarterpipe.

 

But ultimately, it was Hodges’ technical prowess and huge jumps that sealed the final standings. In a line that toured all three sections, Axell soared over the big dawgs and quarterpipe, rode a nose manual off the funbox, and executed perfect whips and nac nacs with masterful precision. After the second run, Hodges earned a winning score of 94, Raha a score of 92, and Bereman 86.

 

The three unique sections of the course are:

  • Technical Jib Section– snowboard-style jib section, including a 40’ container, funbox, and wallride and hip that riders could hit in opposite directions at the same time 
  • The Transfer Zone– supercross-inspired transfer with skatepark vibes, providing a clean slate for riders to express themselves on myriad line combos 
  • Big Dawg Section– moon booter, 140’ tree jump, step up and a quarterpipe with a spine feature on the side so riders can get more creative in that space, with options to use the landing from all directions

 

The final scores for the event were as follows:

  • Axell Hodges – 94.0
  • Colby Raha – 92.0
  • Tyler Bereman – 86.0
  • Josh Hill – 85.0
  • Ryan Sipes – 84.0
  • Cole Seely – 80.0
  • Christian Dresser – 72.0
  • Billy Bear Carpenter – 71.0
  • Darryn Durham – 69.0
  • Jimmy Hill – 64.0
  • Tom Parsons – 58.0
  • Vicki Golden – 56.0

 

Red Bull Imagination is described by Bereman as “[a] massive work in progress. We’re learning as we go and we’re going to continue pushing freeriding in the right direction, giving opportunities to riders that they wouldn’t have anywhere else.”

 

 

Viewers can now tune in to the exclusive behind-the-scenes series on Red Bull Motorsports YouTube and Red Bull TV. For more information, visit https://www.redbull.com/us-en/projects/imagination.  

 After going winless for five years, Funny Car veteran Tim Wilkerson now has two wins in the past three weeks, driving to the victory on Sunday at the DeWalt NHRA Carolina Nationals at zMAX Dragway.
 
Josh Hart (Top Fuel), Kyle Koretsky (Pro Stock) and Angelle Sampey (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also picked up wins at the 15th of 20 races during the 2021 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season and the second race in the Countdown to the Championship playoffs.
 
Taking on Cruz Pedregon in the final round, Wilkerson powered to a run of 3.927-seconds at 331.36 mph in his 11,000-horsepower Levin, Ray & Shoup Ford Shelby Mustang, picking up his second victory this month and the 22nd in his career. Wilkerson also moved to sixth in points, taking out three competitors in front of him in the standings en route to the win on Sunday. He knocked off Bob Tasca, No. 1 qualifier John Force and points leader Ron Capps en route to the finals, praising the work of a team that put in an impressive amount of work on a busy day.
 
“It was tremendous pressure today and a crazy day,” said Wilkerson, who now has two victories at zMAX Dragway. “It was a tough day and we barely made it to the rounds in the semifinals and finals. I’m very proud of my guys. We were thrashing and I’m worn out. Sometimes, there’s too much time to stare at the (car) and make changes. Today, I made wholesale changes and lived with them, and it worked out.”
 
Pedregon took down Dave Richards, J.R. Todd and Alexis DeJoria to reach the final round for the fourth time this season, 79th time overall and the second time at Charlotte this season. Capps moved into the points lead, with defending world champ Matt Hagan trailing him by five points. Force is 25 points back after losing in the semifinals against Wilkerson when he hit a timing block.
 
In Top Fuel, Hart continues to impress in his standout rookie season. He picked up the second victory in his career in just his eighth start, beating points leader Brittany Force on a holeshot in the final round. Hart went 3.770 at 324.12 in his 11,000-horsepower R&L Carriers dragster, which was enough to hold off Force’s 3.751 at 320.05. Hart was a stellar .044 on the starting line, reaching the final round by knocking off Alex Laughlin, Mike Salinas and Justin Ashley. Hart and his team made their quickest run of eliminations in the final round, carrying on a brilliant first year in the class.
 
“We just planned on getting our feet wet and building the team this year, and that has obviously been accelerated,” Hart said. “The team has gelled together right away and I think the results are showing. I’m glad to be out here and the real magic happens in the pits. The guys are awesome and watching them is like a well-orchestrated symphony, and that’s where the praise needs to go. I’ve got a lot of confidence in (crew chief) Ron Douglas and I’m happy I could return the favor for them in the final round.”
 
Force, who qualified No. 1 for the eighth straight race, reached the final round for the fifth time in 2021 and 28th time in her career with wins against Artie Allen, Spencer Massey and three-time defending champ Steve Torrence. She now has a 21-point lead over Torrence.
 
Koretsky denied Greg Anderson a chance at history in Pro Stock and in the process picked up his first career win, going 6.629 at 207.27 in his Lucas Oil Chevrolet Camaro to beat Anderson’s 6.639 at 208.20 in a battle of KB Racing teammates. Anderson was going for his 98th career victory to set the all-time wins mark in Pro Stock, but Koretsky chased him down at the finish line. Koretsky knocked off Cristian Cuadra, rookie Dallas Glenn, who won the spring race in Charlotte, and Wally Stroupe to reach the final round, and then finished the job in thrilling fashion to earn his first career win in his 21st career start after coming up short in three previous final rounds.
 
“I’m out here living my dream,” Koretsky said. “KB Racing supplies me with the best power out here and my team just works flawlessly. This is huge and what I’ve wanted my whole life. Pro Stock is the most competitive class out there, and we always looked up to Greg. I just raced Greg Anderson in the final round and picked up the first Wally for my family. It feels great and I needed to get this done.”
 
Anderson advanced to the final round for the seventh time this season and 165th time overall, defeating Fernando Cuadra, Troy Coughlin Jr. and Erica Enders along the way. Breaking the tie with Warren Johnson will have to wait, but Anderson did extend his points lead to 65 over Enders. Koretsky moved to third and is 91 points out of first.
 
After coming close on a couple recent occasions, Sampey broke through with the victory in the final round in Pro Stock Motorcycle, chasing down Joey Gladstone with a run of 6.861 at 196.62 on her Mission Foods/Vance & Hines Suzuki. Sampey was late on the starting line, but she had enough at the finish line to slip past Gladstone, earning her first win this season and 44th in her career. She took out Ryan Oehler and then teammates Andrew Hines and Eddie Krawiec to reach the final round, also moving to second in points behind Steve Johnson.
 
“I’ve struggled this year on the Suzuki. It’s been a rocket ship and I’m getting close to where I need to be,” Sampey said. “This race, I didn’t think I was going to make it to the final. I wanted to win it for my team and I feel like we raced our butts off today. I’m very excited and proud to have my win light come on, and I definitely dedicate this Wally to southern Louisiana.”
 
Gladstone reached the finals for the second time this year after defeating Jianna Salinas, Cory Reed and points leader Johnson. Sampey pulled to within 17 points of Johnson, with defending world champ Matt Smith 30 points back.
 
The NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series returns to action Sept. 24-26 with the NHRA Midwest Nationals at the World Wide Technology Raceway in St. Louis.
 
(Courtesy of NHRA Communications)
Kyle Kirkwood this morning augmented his hopes of completing a sweep of the Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires open-wheel development ladder with another imperious performance at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. Kirkwood, 22, from Jupiter, Fla., thoroughly dominated the second leg of the Indy Lights Grand Prix of Monterey Presented by Cooper Tires for Andretti Autosport to secure his ninth victory of the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires season – one shy of the all-time single-season record established by Greg Moore in 1995.
 
Kirkwood, who convincingly won the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship in 2018 and added the Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires crown one year later, now holds a handy 15-point margin over David Malukas (HMD Motorsports), from Chicago, Ill., in his quest to become the first driver to claim all three Road to Indy titles. At stake this year is a scholarship valued at $1.3 million to guarantee entry into a minimum of three NTT INDYCAR SERIES races in 2022, including the Indianapolis 500.
 
Victory today was Kirkwood’s 30th in just 48 Road to Indy starts.
 
Malukas finished a distant second today for HMD Motorsports, well clear of Global Racing Group with HMD Motorsports stablemate Linus Lundqvist, from Stockholm, Sweden.
 
 
Kirkwood set up his emphatic performance by snaring his sixth Cooper Tires Pole Award during qualifying on Saturday morning. After entering the weekend with a five-point deficit to Malukas, Kirkwood accelerated cleanly into the lead at the start and simply drove away into the distance.
 
He completed the first lap around the challenging 2.238-mile road course an astonishing 1.8 seconds clear of his nearest rival, Malukas, then hammered home his mastery by extending his advantage on every lap except the final one before taking the checkered flag some 26.0555 seconds clear. It was one of the most dominant drives in Indy Lights history dating back to 1986.
 
Malukas couldn’t hold a candle to Kirkwood today but he still trounced Lundqvist, who eventually finished more than 13 seconds in arrears.
 
Kirkwood’s Andretti Autosport teammate Danial Frost, from Singapore, remained in touch with Lundqvist throughout the 35-lap race and was unable to shake off Denmark’s Benjamin Pedersen, who scored another top-five finish in the second Global Racing Group with HMD Motorsports Dallara-AER IL-15.
 
Rasmus Lindh, from Gothenburg, Sweden, completed a strong second weekend in an Indy Lights car for Juncos Hollinger Racing by rising from ninth on the grid to finish seventh and earn the Tilton Hard Charger Award.
 
The Indy Lights season will conclude in two weeks time, October 2/3, at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, in Lexington Ohio, where Malukas remains the only man capable of halting Kirkwood’s remarkable progress toward a Road to Indy championship hat-trick.
 
Provisional championship points after 18 of 20 races:
1. Kyle Kirkwood, 488
2. David Malukas, 473
3. Linus Lundqvist, 403
4. Benjamin Pedersen, 322
5. Danial Frost, 304
6. Devlin DeFrancesco, 294
7. Robert Megennis, 285
8. Toby Sowery, 236
9. Alex Peroni, 228
10. Sting Ray Robb, 218
 
Kyle Kirkwood (#28 Road to Indy/Cooper Tires/Construction Contractors’ Club-Andretti Autosport Dallara-AER IL-15): “This is huge for the championship. This was one weekend where there were so many uncertainties coming in, and it turned out to be our best weekend of the entire season. It’s super important to get back into the lead, especially going into Mid-Ohio, a track that we’re very confident at. We’ll soak this one in, this was crucial. 
 
“We didn’t sit comfortably overnight. We made a lot of changes on the car. It’s important for the team, they’ll be coming here for years to come so they know how the car adapts through the sessions. We just kept getting the car better and better. We had a really good race car and as the race went on, the car and the tires stayed with us. We had the car this weekend; we were the guys to beat. Andretti hasn’t been super strong here in the past but in testing earlier this year, we really found something and that showed today.
 
“But there’s no sense of relief or confidence regarding the championship. HMD was fast toward the end of the weekend there earlier this year and it’s another track where passing is tough so qualifying will be everything. I expect HMD to keep catching up quickly and I know they’ll keep after it.”
 
David Malukas (#79 HMD Trucking-HMD Motorsports Dallara-AER IL-15): “This was a really up-and-down weekend. We struggled yesterday, with the big mistake I had. I was pushing and trying to get everything I could out of the car because I could see Kyle driving off into the distance. So today, we knew they had the pace so we made an educated guess on some setup changes, but we didn’t have enough for him. He took off at the start and was able to pull a 26-second gap, which is a lot. I had to just focus on myself and get everything we could out of it, for the points today and with data for next year. I tried different bar setups, different lines – there was no one in front and no one behind, so I could put the time in. But at least it is a good track to be by yourself on – I was certainly never bored out there!”
 
Linus Lundqvist (#26 HPD/Global Racing Group/FX Airguns/Paytrim/JULA-Global Racing Group w/HMD Motorsports Dallara-AER IL-15): “We knew that we lacked some pace yesterday so we tried a few things overnight to see if we could close the gap – we had to try something to close the gap to Kirkwood. I felt confident for the first few laps but we dropped off a little bit, and then we were just holding on. It didn’t go our way, but we’re happy to be back on the podium, especially at a circuit like this where it’s difficult to follow or overtake. But we’re happy to come away with two podiums. We’ll just do our homework and get ready for Mid-Ohio and go for the wins there.”
 Points leader Jose Gonzalez continued to roll in the E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service, as he drove past Mike Castellana in the final round of the DeWalt NHRA Carolina Nationals at zMAX Dragway.
 
It was the eighth of 11 events during the 2021 E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service season.
 
In a thrilling final round, Gonzalez and Castellana left the starting line with identical .011 reaction times, but Gonzalez had the advantage at the finish line in his ProCharger-powered Q80 Camaro with his run of 5.792-seconds at 248.29 mph. Gonzalez picked up his fourth win in five races and his fifth victory of the year as he moves closer to clinching his first world championship in the class.
 
“This track owed me one after the accident in April,” said Gonzalez, who has seven career wins in the class. “I’ve just got to thank my team. I’m doing the easy job and they’re doing the rest, and they’re making me really comfortable in the car. All the credit goes to them.”
 
Gonzalez, who qualified third, beat Mike Salinas, Brandon Snider and Indy winner Jeffrey Baker to reach the final round. With the victory, Gonzalez extended his points lead to 135 points over Snider with three races remaining in the season.
 
Castellana beat Chad Green, Jerico Balduf and Doug Winters to reach the final round for the first time this season and the 23rd time in his career. Castellana ran 5.828 at 245.40 in the championship round.
 
The E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service returns to action Sept. 24-26 as part of the NHRA Midwest Nationals at the World Wide Technology Raceway in St. Louis.

 

(Courtesy of NHRA Communications)

It’s been 897 days since the 1000+hp cars of the Formula DRIFT PRO Championship turned a wheel in anger on the Streets of Long Beach. On its return, fans in the packed grandstands enjoyed perfect weather and watched the experienced drivers revive their muscle memory of the Long Beach street course that sits alongside the Pacific Ocean. 

 

“It’s such an unforgiving track that I feel sorry for the new drivers who’ve not run here before,” said Justin Pawlak (USA) after winning his first heat. “For veterans like me, the muscle memory returns quickly and it gives us a big advantage over the new guys when running so close to the walls.”

 

Traditionally the opening round of the FD PRO Championship, drivers with an eye on the 2021 title needed to avoid the punishing concrete if they wanted to be in the fight for the Final Round at Irwindale Speedway – the House of Drift – scheduled for October 22-23.

 

QUALIFYING

With a number of drivers hitting the walls during practice for Round 7: AutoZone Streets of Long Beach Presented By TYPE S, there was a lot of activity in the pits to prepare the cars for qualifying. And Pawlak’s experience would pay dividends as he scored an almost perfect 97 points to take the top position.

 

Pawlak has produced some remarkable qualifying runs throughout the season in his Falken Tire Ford Mustang but he’s been unable to translate that into consistent competition results. His best finish to date was third at Round 2 in Orlando, so the pressure is on him to perform in Long Beach.

 

Fredric Aasbo (Norway) qualified second in his Rockstar Energy Drink Toyota GR Supra. Despite the car being semi-assembled after a heavy practice crash, he scored an identical 97 points. When this happens, the judges look at the individual scores for style, angle and line to separate the drivers. In this instance, Pawlak scored an extra point for angle and demoted Aasbo to second. 

 

With four podium finishes from six events, including a win at the previous round in St Louis, Aasbo arrived in California with tremendous momentum. Sitting in third place, only 33 points from the lead, the 2015 FD PRO Champion appears to be building to a climax at the Irwindale Final.

 

After choosing, with considerable success, to qualify in lower positions earlier in the season to manipulate the pairings in the competition heats Chelsea DeNofa (USA) was back in business at Round 7. Scoring 96 points, he put his BC Racing / Nitto Tire Ford Mustang RTR Spec 5-D in third place, signifying he intends to wrestle the Championship lead back from Matt Field (USA) with whom he’s battled all season. 

 

Field scored 94 points in the Falken Tire / Drift Cave Chevrolet Corvette, which was good enough for sixth position to keep the fight alive.

 

With 33 FD PRO drivers attempting to qualify for the Top 32 Competition Heats, the axe fell on Josh Reynolds (USA) who was eliminated after two incomplete runs in his Drift Force / Nexen Tire F22 Eurofighter BMW. Meanwhile, Jonathan Hurst (USA) was the top FD PRO rookie, qualifying 14th in the Cash Racing Infiniti G37

 

COMPETITION HEATS

With the threat of carnage lurking at every turn, the competition heats would be a testament to testicular fortitude, particularly for the Championship protagonists. And yet, even the most knowledgeable observer would be hard pressed to point out a driver who didn’t put everything on the line to secure a heat victory. 

 

The “win or bin” mentality was perhaps epitomized by the RTR Motorsports teammates, Vaughn Gittin Jr (USA) and DeNofa. Sitting second and sixth, respectively, in the points table, the rational mind might expect team leader Gittin to push gently on the throttle of his 1200hp Monster Energy Ford Mustang RTR Spec 5-D. However, that would be to utterly underestimate the desire of each to win. And perhaps predictably, the two collided in Outside Zone 2 as DeNofa made a slight speed adjustment to negotiate the turn while Gittin kept his foot in.

 

With a split opinion among the Formula DRIFT judges as to how to apportion blame, they returned for the second run with DeNofa at a slight disadvantage. He would subsequently spin in Touch & Go 2 as he attempted to put Gittin under pressure and keep his FD PRO Championship hopes alive.

 

The result? Gittin would eventually finish third, while DeNofa placed fifth. Fortunately, the damage wasn’t catastrophic: DeNofa remains second in the Championship chase, 19 points behind the new leader, Aasbo.

 

Jumping from third to first in the points table, Aasbo appears to have perfectly timed his march to the 2021 title. He’s been insanely consistent throughout the season, claiming his fifth podium in Long Beach, which includes his first win at the previous St Louis round. But while he leads the Championship after Round 7: AutoZone Streets of Long Beach Presented By TYPE S, the event win would go to Aurimas “Odi” Bakchis (Lithuania) driving the Falken Tire / Feal Suspension Nissan S15.

 

Having won the opening round at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta, Bakchis has been in the title chase all season. Some uncharacteristically poor performances at a number of rounds had maneuvered him to fifth in the Championship, but nobody underestimates him, and a good result on the Streets of Long Beach would keep his aspirations alive.

 

The weekend didn’t start particularly well when he qualifying 12th, and the consequence was a series of challenging match ups, beginning in the first round against the 2020 FD PRO Rookie of the Year, Adam LZ (USA) in the LZ S15.

 

Both drivers are fan favorites because they always push their S15s to the limit. And on their first run, Bakchis set a blistering pace that resulted in LZ being off-line at the final turn, Inside Clip 1, as he fought to maintain proximity. 

 

With LZ’s run judged incomplete, Bakchis simply had to complete his chase run with enough style to take the win. However, LZ had different plans. He rocketed from the lights and challenged the Lithuanian to stay close. In his attempt, Bakchis surged into the same final turn, colliding with LZ as they transitioned. With both drivers coming to a halt, Bakchis was ruled at fault and his run was also incomplete. 

 

With both chase runs scoring zero points, the judges referred to each driver’s lead run and determined that Bakchis had drifted deeper, awarding him the win.

 

With no easy runs in FD PRO, the intensity ramped up as Bakchis faced 2011 Champion, Daijiro Yoshihara (Japan) in the Top 16. The driver of the Turn 14 Distribution / Falken Tire / ENEOS Oil Subaru BRZ turned it up to 11 and set an exemplary lead run, but Bakchis remained at his side like a clingy girlfriend. On his chase run, Yoshihara drifted shallower lines to maintain proximity, which was enough to send him on his short drive home.

 

In the Top 8, it was the turn of 2013 FD Champion Michael Essa (USA) to try to send the Nissan driver home. Essa had been on fire all weekend, qualifying fourth at his home track and looking good for the win. However, the driver of the FCP Euro / Liqui Moly / GT Radial BMW M3 made his only mistake of the event in the chase position. He slid into the wall in Outside Zone 1, forcing him to correct, which handed the win to the more precise Bakchis. 

 

In the Top 4, all bets were off as Bakchis faced three-time FD PRO Champion Chris Forsberg (USA) driving the NOS Energy / GT Radial Nissan 370Z. With a healthy dose of mutual respect between the drivers, the packed grandstands leant forward.

 

As in his previous heats, Bakchis left the start line fast. He set a pace that is difficult for anybody to follow, including the massively experience Forsberg, who made a small mistake at the end of his chase run, making contact as the two drivers compressed into the final turn. It was enough to get the nod from the judges, on a tight, split decision, and move Bakchis into the Final against another formidable foe.

 

This time it was 2015 FD Champion Aasbo, fresh from his own Top 4 battle against double FD Champion Gittin, who still his teammate’s blood on his hand when they met. Aasbo had taken the win by a tiny margin and would be a formidable adversaryfor Bakchis in the Final.

 

With Aasbo leading the first run, he wore the Lithuanian like an corset, barely able to breathe with the proximity. With the roles reversed and Bakchis in the lead, he simply did a better job, filling each drift zone more than the Norwegian.

 

As a reward for the hard-fought win, Bakchis got to speak to us after the podium celebration. “I needed this win really badly, and it’s a huge confidence boost. We won the first round and fought hard all season but had some bad luck in the middle, so earning first place is a tremendous boost. But we had to earn it; we had to battle through some tough competitors, most of whom were former Champions. But I was able to step it up as needed, and the team did a phenomenal job keeping the car together. I’m stoked with this win and hope to keep the momentum going into the Irwindale Finals.”

 

The win moved Bakchis to fourth in the FD PRO Championship standings, 43 points from the lead and with a chance of taking the 2021 title at Round 8: TYPE S Title Fight.

 

The only top title contender we haven’t mentioned is Matt Field (USA), who was the points leader prior to FD LB. He was another driver slain by Gittin as Field’s Falken Tire / Drift Cave Chevrolet Corvette was knocked out of the Top 16 in an intense battle that went to One More Time. Unfortunately, the front suspension broke on the Corvette on the third run, causing him to spin into the tire wall and resulting in the Gittin win.

 

Finishing 11th on the night, Field dropped to third in the FD PRO Championship; 20 points behind Aasbo and a single point behind DeNofa. The Irwindale Finals will be a bloodbath!

 

Top Rookie at FD LB was Jonathan Hurst (USA), who both qualified and finished 14th in the Cash Racing Infiniti G37. He narrowly trails Branden Sorensen (USA) and Simen Olsen (Norway) in the 2021 Rookie of the Year title race.

 

At this point, we’re contractually obligated to give the final word to Formula DRIFT President, Jim Liaw, who is on his farewell tour before heading to Performance Racing Industry in 2022 and handing the reins to co-founder Ryan Sage: “It’s great to return to Streets of Long Beach after two and a half years. The fans here are still among the strongest on the tour and it’s such a relief to finally return to our home track. We’re delighted they were able to witness such an incredible show by the world’s top drift drivers. We’re also grateful the weather was perfect but we look forward to returning to the April schedule for Streets of Long Beach in 2022.”

 

 

2021 FORMULA DRIFT CHAMPIONSHIP RESULTS

 

ROUND 7 FD PRO TOP 16 DRIVER POINTS 

POSITION

DRIVER

POINTS

1

Aurimas Bakchis

100

2

Fredric Aasbo

91

3

Vaughn Gittin Jr

80

4

Chris Forsberg

80

5

Chelsea DeNofa

67

6

Michael Essa

67

7

Jhonnattan Castro

67

8

Wataru Masuyama

67

9

Justin Pawlak

52

10

Daijiro Yoshihara

52

11

Matt Field

52

12

Ryan Tuerck

52

13

Dylan Hughes

52

14

Jonathan Hurst

52

15

Jeff Jones

52

16

Kyle Mohan

52

 

2021 FD PRO CHAMPIONSHIP TOP 16 STANDINGS

POSITION

DRIVER

POINTS

1

Fredric Aasbo

557

2

Chelsea DeNofa

538

3

Matt Field

537

4

Aurimas Bakchis

514

5

Vaughn Gittin Jr

474

6

Ryan Tuerck

470

7

Dylan Hughes

418

8

Chris Forsberg

412

9

Kazuya Taguchi

375

10

Michael Essa

375

11

Travis Reeder

360

12

Dean Kearney

358

13

Jeff Jones

356

14

Justin Pawlak

338

15

Yves Meyer

326

16

Alec Robbins

311

 

2021 AUTO CUP TOP FIVE STANDINGS

Toyota

1042

Ford

1040

Chevrolet

537

Nissan

517

BMW

375

 

2021 TIRE CUP STANDINGS

Nitto Tire 

1242

Falken Tire

1068

GT Radial 

984

Nexen Tire

833

Federal Tire

675

 

NEXT ROUND

Irwindale Speedway – the House of Drift –  will host Round 8 TYPE S Title Fight. This is the Final Round of the Formula DRIFT PRO and Link ECU PROSPEC Championships, scheduled for October 22-23. Please visit formulad.com for the competition schedule, ticket information, driver profiles, special content and the event livestream

 

By Jeff Olson
IMSA Wire Service
 
 
One key element of a race car will play a key element this weekend at Long Beach:
 
Suspension.
 
With two races left in Daytona Prototype international (DPi) class for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season, Saturday’s Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach will play an important role in the outcome. And the challengers believe their car’s suspension gives them an advantage.  
 
“Cadillac has developed a car that can handle the bumps very well,” said Pipo Derani, who will team with Felipe Nasr to try to pull closer in the championship battle this weekend. “When we talk about street tracks like Long Beach, normally those track surfaces are not very smooth. It’s not designed for race cars; it’s normal streets that are being turned into a racetrack for a few days.”
 
Derani and Nasr are 98 points behind co-leaders Ricky Taylor and Filipe Albuquerque in the DPi class. With only the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta in November remaining after Long Beach, Derani and Nasr hope their No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R will maintain its advantage on bumpy tracks.
 
In July 2020, they won a sprint race at Sebring International Raceway, whose bumps are a legendary characteristic of the circuit. Long Beach, an 11-turn, 1.968-mile layout through city streets, includes a rough surface and changing pavement similar to Sebring.
 
“Our Cadillac has always been fantastic on tracks like that, especially Long Beach,” Derani said. “Our suspension is very good. It rides the bumps very well.”
 
Taylor and Albuquerque have won three races this year, including the Hyundai Monterey Sports Car Championship on Sept. 12 at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. Derani and Nasr have teamed for two victories, most recently at Road America last month. 
 
A win at Long Beach would further diminish the margin between the No. 31 Cadillac and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura ARX-05 co-driven by Albuquerque and Taylor. The goal for Derani and Nasr is to get close enough to strike in the 10-hour Motul Petit Le Mans season finale Nov. 13. Long Beach and its bumps are part of that plan.      
 
“We’re looking forward to it,” Derani said. “We have a strong car. We’ve shown there in the past that Cadillac has always been very strong.”
 
A Cadillac has won the last three Long Beach races. In a twist of irony, Albuquerque was part of the winning effort in 2018 and ’19 when he drove for Action Express Racing, which fields the No. 31. And in 2017, Taylor co-drove to the Long Beach victory when Wayne Taylor Racing was running under Cadillac power.
 
NBCSN’s live coverage of the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach begins Saturday at 5 p.m. ET. Tickets for the race weekend are available at gplb.com.

Red Bull Imagination Episode 2 just dropped and this time around, you are going to see riders hit whips, lines and jumps that literally left them speechless at time. There was no shortage of riders pushing and challenging their skillset and creative ability all week long. Think riders hitting jumps bigger than they’ve ever hit before - 150’ elevator (titled “Big Kahuna” on the course).

 Episode 2: Riders Go Off At Red Bull Imagination 2021 Practice Sessions

The full rider field of freeride motocross and motocross legends made it to Kansas for Red Bull Imagination 2021 and Tyler Bereman unleashed the riders on the gargantuan course for three days of ultimate session-ing. All 12 riders spent hours on the course delivering next-level riding and carving some of the most creative lines ever seen in freeride motocross. Red Bull Imagination continues to push the sport into unchartered territories, providing opportunities simply unavailable anywhere else.  

 

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By Holly Cain
IMSA Wire Service
 
 
 If you asked drivers from the top four GT Daytona (GTD) teams in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship standings about the championship battle, they agree on several things. No one can be counted out. No one has a guarantee in. And the title will most likely be decided come November – in the closing laps of the classic Motul Petit Le Mans’ 10-hour season finale at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.
 
There is no shortage of confidence or optimism among the championship leaders, however, the 2021 season has proven there’s no prohibitive favorite. Yet.
 
“It is a tight battle, there’s no question about it,’’ said Bryan Sellers, who drives for the Paul Miller Racing team.
 
“The one thing about GTD this year is you’ve really seen a depth of competition and a lot of good teams, a lot of good drivers and a lot of people fighting for wins on a week-in, week-out basis.’’
 
Robby Foley, whose Turner Motorsport team currently leads the standings, agrees.
 
“I’m not surprised at all. I think we’ve seen this through the years,” Foley said. “There’s probably seven teams with cars on any given weekend that have a chance to win.”
 
The No. 96 Turner BMW M6 GT3 with drivers Foley and veteran Bill Auberlen leads the standings by 27 points over No. 9 Pfaff Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R drivers Laurens Vanthoor and Zach Robichon. The No. 23 Heart of Racing Team Aston Martin Vantage GT3’s Ross Gunn and Roman De Angelis are third, 52 points off the lead. Sellers and Madison Snow, in the No. 1 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3 are 86 points back.
 
The four teams go into this week’s Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach within the 90-point range available at a single race between first- and fifth-place finishers. Only two races remain after Long Beach to settle the season trophy: the Oct. 9 Michelin GT Challenge at VIRginia International Raceway and the Nov. 13 season finale Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.
 
The GTD class has not competed at this week’s Long Beach street circuit since 2017. However, Vanthoor did race at Long Beach the last time IMSA competed there in 2019 – winning the GT Le Mans class (GTLM) with the Porsche factory team.
 
Vanthoor and his Pfaff Motorsports group look to be the team to beat this weekend. They have won a class-best three races in 2021 and take a two-race winning streak into Long Beach.
 
“It is a young team but a very family atmosphere,’’ Vanthoor said. “There is a lot of respect for the drivers and the team is very driven to be successful. The Porsche 911 GT3 R has proven to be successful all around on all tracks. We have it all in our hands to win this, and my confidence in us achieving that is quite high.’’
 
Auberlen joins Vanthoor as a former Long Beach winner, co-driving to victories in 2013 (GT class) and ’15 (GTLM). His teammate isn’t sure what to expect at Long Beach since it’s been four years since GTD last raced there.
 
“Long Beach is a bit of an unknown,’’ Foley said. “It’s unknown for a lot of people because the series hasn’t been there in a while, and I personally have never driven there. Last time Bill (Auberlen) was racing there, he got the pole position and he has wins there, so hopefully we can use some of that experience.”
 
The Paul Miller Racing team may not have victories this season, but the fact that they remain in the title hunt gives the drivers optimism heading into Long Beach.
  
“If you look at it right now, we’re up against three teams – one that has three wins and two that have two wins and we haven’t even got one yet,” Sellers said. “It’s almost impossible to believe that you’re going to be in a championship hunt without any wins at all, so that becomes our main focus, trying to make sure we put ourselves in position to win races and if we can do that for the final three, then maybe in the last one we’ll be in position to chase for that championship.’’
 
There are a couple things all the drivers agree upon, one being that this tight championship battle makes the racing fun. Close competition with a handful of favorites at every race raises the level of intensity and gives each trophy extra meaning.
 
“It is fun,’’ Sellers conceded. “You do this to be the best and when you’re up against competition like this and you’re in the thick of the battle, if you can find a way to make this championship happen, then you prove you are in elite company.”
 
And outside of one team going on a run in the coming weeks, the other solid bet among drivers is that ultimately the season title will go down to the wire.
 
“I think, for sure, the championship will come down to the last race and probably the checkered flag of the last race,’’ Foley said. “The cars have been strong all season. You can look back and say, if we didn’t have a problem at Sebring or had different luck elsewhere, we’d have an easy lead. But you could say that for the top three or four cars.
 
“So I think it’s going to come down to the last lap of the last race. It’s going to be intense for sure, and Petit Le Mans will be pretty stressful. You have to make it 10 hours just to be there at the end so it will be all about being there at the end.’’
 
The Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach airs live at 5 p.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN. Tickets for the race weekend are available at gplb.com.
The ABB FIA Formula E World Championship has today become the first sport in the world to join the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) and the Business Ambition Pledge for 1.5°C commitment.
 
The SBTi is a partnership between the United Nations Global Compact, World Resources Institute (WRI), CDP and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and is the lead partner of the Business Ambition for 1.5°C campaign - an urgent call to action from a global coalition of UN agencies, business and industry leaders, mobilizing companies to set net-zero science-based targets in line with a 1.5°C future.
 
Announced during Climate Week NYC on the one-year anniversary of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship becoming the first and only sport to be certified net zero carbon since inception, the new commitment corresponds to cutting the championship’s emissions by 45% by 2030. This is in line with the mission of the planet’s favourite sport to reduce air pollution and fight against climate change and aligns with the FIA #PurposeDriven movement for a better contribution from motorsport to society.
 
Formula E has committed to new measures to meet its targets including reducing its absolute Scope 1&2 Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions (all energy used and purchased at our HQ and events) by 60% by 2030 and Scope 3 GHG emissions (all other emissions including freight, business travels, food and beverages etc.) by 27.5% by 2030 from Season 5 (2019) baselines.
 
In aligning with the SBTi, Formula E has also become a member of the Race To Zero global campaign to rally leadership and support from businesses, cities, regions and investors for a healthy, resilient, zero carbon recovery that prevents future threats, creates jobs, and unlocks inclusive, sustainable growth. 
 
Jamie Reigle, Formula E CEO, said: “The ABB FIA Formula E World Championship exists to accelerate sustainable human progress through the power of electric racing. One year ago, Formula E became the first sport to be certified net zero since inception. Today, we achieve another first in aligning with the Science Based Targets initiative, reinforcing our leading position in world sport.
 
“We are delighted to see a host of other sporting events and properties accelerate their own sustainability agendas to reach net zero faster. Formula E will continue to set the agenda for sport as a catalyst for change and showcase how we can all take tangible steps to reduce our combined carbon footprint.”
 
Alberto Carrillo Pineda, Managing Director, Science Based Targets at CDP said: "We congratulate the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship on setting science-based targets consistent with limiting warming to 1.5°C, the most ambitious goal of the Paris Agreement. By setting ambitious science-based targets grounded in climate science, Formula E is taking action to prevent the most damaging effects of climate change."
 
Season 8 of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship is set to begin in January 2022 with a record 16-race season spanning 12 cities across four continents.
 
Plug in and follow the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship on FacebookInstagramTwitterTikTok and YouTube. @FIAFormulaE #ABBFormulaE
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