Rockstar/AEM 350z Top Qualifier at FD Las Vegas!

The Rockstar/AEM drift team entered Round 4 of the FormulaD drift series with the series' overall points lead, coming off the heels of Tanner's event win at Englishtown in Round 3. The event's title ("High Stakes") was fitting as fast entry speeds combined with concrete barriers for lots of potential mayhem, and the team knew it would have to score well to maintain its overall lead while facing a new course layout and temperatures on the track well into triple digits.

Tanner loves a long fast track, and this one was no exception. It showed in his record-setting top-speed entry of 96 MPH, and #1 qualifying spot in the seeded drivers field en route to the elimination rounds. Tanner spent lots of time during the practice rounds prepping the car for the track conditions and 'felt lucky' to capture the #1 qualifier spot.

Tanner faced Robbie Nishida in the Sliding 16 round. As mentioned earlier, the crux of the course began with an outside clipping point against a concrete barrier coming off of a long straight that guaranteed fast entry speeds (and potential vehicular treachery), and Tanner was able to qualify #1 by taking a wide line near the barrier before transitioning to the infield. Commented Tanner, "Robbie is a great driver, and he now has a 2600lb 350Z he pilots, so I was very aware of him coming into the round." Tanner drove his qualifying line in competition when leading and followed Robbie's line when following, which was narrower than Tanner's line. After two passes the judges called for a 'One More Time,' which is when Tanner realized that the judges were looking for something other than what Tanner had interpreted. "The judges liked Robbie's line because it helped him stay closer to me on the second half of the track, and by the time I had figured out what they wanted it was too late."

Continued Tanner, "Coming into this event we had a substantial points lead, but after being knocked out in the Sliding 16 we are only leading by a few points. I really enjoy competing at Evergreen Raceway because of its high-speed straight and long, banked corner. I'm excited to test out our new Toyo R1-Rs there, and will hopefully be able to put some points between the Rockstar/AEM Z, Chris Forsberg, Sam Hubinette and Dai Yoshihara. With Sam and Rhys climbing and overall competition tightening, the pressure will be on us in Seattle."

Steph performed strong in practice and was able to string together several solid runs, but he got a little too aggressive during his first qualifying run and spun toward the end of the course. Facing heavy competition from this field, Steph completed his second qualifying pass smoothly, but it was too conservative to capture the points needed to move on to the elimination rounds.

"I felt so good coming off of the practice session that I went in hard during the first qualifying round," stated Steph. "I wanted so badly to qualify. I thought E-Town (Round 3) was fast, but this course is blazing as you can see by Tanner's 96 MPH entry speeds. Combine that with the danger elements of the concrete walls and it makes for a really exciting event. I hope they keep this event and course layout on the schedule for next year!"

FD's inaugural Las Vegas event featured fast entry speeds combined with high danger inherent to wide clipping points in relation to concrete barriers...both cars have qualified for eliminations in all but one event in 2008...the team has five top 5 qualifiers (two seeded 1st, one (each) seeded 2nd & 4th, one unseeded 5th) one victory and a third place finish this season...Tanner is the current series leader and both Rockstar/AEM drivers are ranked in the top 30 series competitors...the next event is at Evergreen Raceway in Monroe (Seattle) WA on August 9th...

The Rockstar/AEM drift team is sponsored by Toyo Tires, Motegi Racing Wheels, Tokico Gas Shocks, Advanced Clutch Technology (ACT), Specialty Products Company (SPC), ChargeSpeed and C-West.