Formula DRIFT at Road Atlanta: What is this Doing Here?

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An actual drifting event on Driftopia. Shocking I know. For a little background, I started this site based on a love for drifting and motorsport just as drifting started to emerge in the United States. Building several s13’s to compete in local competitions when I was still in college. But then I was bit hard by the spec racing bug and took a hard turn into wheel-to-wheel racing. Interestingly though, as I grow older, I find myself once again looking to the sport that started this whole journey for me. Drifting.

Formula DRIFT at Road Atlanta 2024

I’ve been racing Road Atlanta for years. It’s technical, fast, and rewards a bit of risk. It is also home to round 2 of the 2024 Formula DRIFT championship. Or Formula D for short. The drift course it pretty interesting. Using the end of the back straight, drivers approach turn 10a sideways at speed and then slide through 10b, taking a sharp right before the bridge and onto and around the access road that reconnects to 10b. It’s a quick yet high speed course surrounded by the built in stands at Road Atlanta. Great for hosting a large group of spectators.

Track layout for the Formula DRIFT event.
The drift course for Formula DRIFT at Road Atlanta. The skid marks highlight the course nicely.

As an old school drifter, my how things have changed. The crowd was simply huge. These aren’t the days of NOPI Drift and Formula DRIFT hosting alternate events across the country vying to be the premier drift serious. No, Formula DRIFT won that contest, and it now draws a much larger crowd than I anticipated. (RIP NOPI Drift)

The crowd at the 2024 Formula DRIFT event at Road Atlanta.
Pictured is about a third of the spectators at Formula D during the main event.

Here are the results from the weekend. (Pro and ProSpec)

The Paddock

The paddock was open throughout the event and gave spectators a chance not only see the cars up close but talk to the drivers as well. I was excited to see some old names on the roster such as Ken Gushi and Chris Forsberg.

One thing I did notice is that there are major sponsors in drifting now. Think Ford, Royal Purple, Rockstar, K&N, Toyota, GoPro and more. These sponsors bring some nice activities, giveaways, and atmosphere to the paddock. Along with smaller vendors bringing noteworthy products and schwag. Vendors like Non Stop Tuning with their excellent pricing on quick release steering wheel kits. Something I jumped on for the Exo Car build. Or Bridge Moto and their brightly colored safety gear. As well as a plethora of hat, shirts, jackets, umbrellas and more.

The paddock at Formula DRIFT Atlanta showing its scope.
The paddock is almost a separate event, allowing spectators to see the equipment, meet the drivers, buy souvenirs, and maybe win a drawing. It also spans the entire infield paddock at Road Atlanta.
Toyota Gazoo Racing at Formula DRIFT Atlanta.
Big names like Toyota Gazoo Racing were out with large booths and large crowds.
The Ford Booth at Formula D Atlanta 2024
Vaugn Gittin Jr and Ford giving drift demos and ride-alongs at the Mustang booth.
Old friends and og drivers at Formula DRIFT Atlanta.
Ran into some old friends and OG drivers at Formula DRIFT. Here is good ol’ Dan aka SexyDan from the old forums posing with Ken Gushi.

The Cars

High horsepower rules the day now. Gone are the AE86’s and the SR20DET powered s13 and s14s. A CA18DET would be blasphemy in the current generation of builds. Instead, almost every car with little exception is powered by a v8, whether chevy or ford, or an inline Toyota 2jz. Although a little disappointing in perspective, the builds where phenomenal none the less. One other thing of note is that the pro cars now have rear mount radiators and focus extensively on weight reduction which I can always get behind. Even if 1000 plus hp is the norm.

Cadillac XLR drift car at Formula D
Perhaps my favorite car at the event. The twin turbo v8 Cadillac XLR piloted by Jonathan Hurst.
The headlight of the Nissan drift car is as light as possible.
Extreme weight reduction is paramount in the modern builds. Something I highly approve of.
Toyota Corolla reminding us of our drifting roots.
This beautiful Corolla, although not entered in the competition, is perhaps a reminder of simpler times.
Rear mount radiator on Formula DRIFT car.
Well executed rear mount radiators are on all of the Pro cars and some of the ProSpec ones.
Unique builds from the Formula DRIFT event at Road Atlanta.
It’s not all drift builds running around the paddock.

The Action

As a bonus, although not on the official schedule I had, there was a Global Time Attack event running Saturday morning. I got to hear and see a few familiar names tearing up the circuit before the drift event in the evening. (Nine Lives Racing and Briggs Motorsports to name a couple)

And finally, the drifting. I shot video and photos from a distance on a Samsung Flip 5 and you know what, it turned out pretty good … or maybe just ok. But that wasn’t the point. I didn’t bother to catch everything because I was there to enjoy myself, on my birthday. But I still caught a few moments and enjoyed the competition immensely. Some of the highlights are below.

Conclusion

This event was a nice walk down memory lane. When I saw how much things have changed, I could still sense the roots of drifting in America. A sense of nostalgia that reminded me of my younger self. Watching way too much Best Motoring and pushing the limits of what a limited budget and limited knowledge can do.

There is also an atmosphere and culture present in the drift scene. Although cliquey at times, there is an energy about the event and people that is simply special. Maybe we need to go drifting soon.

By Chris Simmons

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