AUGUST 11TH, 2008, Hawthorne, CA-The team was pumped heading into Round 5 at Evergreen Speedway in Seattle, WA, having two full days of practice prior to the event to get familiar with the track and set up the cars. However, all this preparation was academic, as the perfect conditions during practice turned slippery in the rain during competition.
Tanner was coming off his Silver Medal effort in Rally competition at the X Games the weekend before, with just enough time to pull his rally suit out of the bag, put the drift suit in it, and jump a plane to Seattle. "The first time I relaxed was when I got to the track, because Steph and the Rockstar/AEM team had everything ready to go! We just went about setting the car up for the track."
The efforts in practice went south once the skies opened up on Saturday, and every team was scrambling for a new strategy to deal with the wet tarmac. The track was dry during Tanner's first qualifying pass and he earned enough points to make the show, but during the second qualifying run he must have been experiencing flashbacks to his ice racing days, as Tanner cranked it up a notch and captured the #2 qualifying position behind Sam Hubinette and his Viper.
The sliding 16 round paired Tanner against Kyle Mohan and his FC RX-7. Tanner drove very well in the conditions, commenting that the slippery surface was "fun," and while Kyle drove well, a mistake caused him to spin and Tanner advanced. In the Great 8 round, Tanner faced Michihrio Takatori and his R34 Godzilla. Takatori made a mistake in transition and hit Tanner hard-which gave Tanner the round-but in the crash moved the engine a full inch on the engine mounts (which are slotted for adjustability) and set the turbo on top of the steering tie rods making it difficult to turn right.
In the Final Four round Tanner faced Rhys Millen and his Solstice. After two passes it was too close to call and the judges called for a "One More Time," during which Tanner made a small mistake in the first right and allowed Rhys to advance by one point. During the consolation round against Robbie Nishida and his 350Z, Tanner again had trouble in the first right and Robbie advanced to the podium. In all, Sam Hubinette's #1 qualifier and 2nd overall finish advanced him to first overall in the Championship race and placed Tanner second overall, just 12 points behind Sam. With a mere 54 points separating the top four drivers, expect some intense battles heading into the final two rounds.
"After the crash it was a challenge to turn the car to the right, but it was drivable and I can't make any excuses," commented Tanner. "We made a lot of changes to the car this season-the new Toyo tires, more steering angle, making the car lighter-and they will serve us well at the remaining two events. It's going to be a battle for first place all the way to the championship, and we are ready."
BIG PAPA'S RESULTS
Steph had great runs during Thursday practice and went into Friday's practice session feeling confident, but he got too close to the wall during one pass and it sucked him in. Unfortunately, the Rockstar/AEM S2000 uses many custom parts for the suspension and brakes, and the team did not have a few critical items to put everything back together, ending Steph's chances to qualify for eliminations.
"It was horrible not to compete this weekend," said Steph. "Especially when you saw the tandem competition in the rain. That was awesome. Plus, there's just something about this event that brings out incredible drifting and tandem rounds. Everyone was on their game, as you can see by the 92- to 96-point spread in the qualifiers. Maybe it's the fans! The house was full even with the rainy weather!"
FD Round 5 at Evergreen was the first FormulaD event held in the rain...both cars have qualified for eliminations in all but two events in 2008...the team has six top 5 qualifiers (two (each) seeded 1st and 2nd, one seeded 4th, one unseeded 5th) one victory and a third place finish this season...Tanner is currently second place in the series championship standings (12 points off the lead) and both Rockstar/AEM drivers are ranked in the top 30 series competitors...the next event is at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma CA on September 13th...