The fifth showing of FormulaD at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, CA culminated in an impressive weekend for the Rockstar/AEM drift team. Considered a challenging course, replete with elevation changes and a fast downhill straight leading into a right-hand turn, Infineon has made most drivers look both unstoppable and generic at times depending on course strategy. This weekend, flawlessly prepared vehicles combined with a sound plan of attack launched Foust and the team back into first place in the series as they prepare for the "Final Fight" at Irwindale Speedway in October.
While admittedly challenging in tandem competition, it's no secret that for individual rounds, Infineon is not a favorite for several drivers. This is because when competing solo, the big braking zone prior to the first right is the most technical element of the course. In tandem, it leads to close competition, but solo it creates a make or break situation. In the first qualifying pass Tanner hit the left pedal too late, leading to a poor score that threatened to keep him out of the Top 16. The pressure was on for the second run. "I knew I had to nail a solid pass and make a clean transition off the straight, so I was more conservative upon entry," noted Tanner. His efforts paid off, culminating in the #2 qualifier spot among seeded drivers with a 96.67 to #1 qualifier Sam Hubinette's 97.00.
Tanner faced Michihiro Takatori and his Super Autobacs Skyline in the Sliding Sixteen. Tanner's strategy for tandem competition was to use big speed when leading to draw the competition in on the first turn, and then choose a smart line at the apex to create a gap between the cars and pull away in the infield course. This plan was well executed against Takatori, allowing Tanner to advance.
Tanner squared the Rockstar/AEM Z off against Vaughn "JR" Gittin in the Great 8, and his strategy worked well while he led. When Tanner was following, JR went wide after the first turn and Tanner had to hold the drift until the car essentially stopped on the course. "I chose not to pass JR, and held the drift for so long that I lost it." Both drivers received a zero for the pass, giving Tanner the advantage after an 8-5 decision when leading JR.
Tanner faced Bill Sherman in the Final Four round. "Bill was on fire this weekend!" added Tanner. "(He was) definitely having one of the best events I've seen him have and he is competitive." That said, with the help of a fresh set of sticky Toyo R1Rs, Tanner was able to stick to his game plan and send Bill to the consolation round where he would finish third overall. "He had an awesome event and it was great to see him podium. I was very happy to get past him," finished Tanner.
In the final, Tanner faced Rhys Millen and the Pontiac Solstice. He knew he would need as much grip as possible and would not be able to speed away from the lighter car when leading. "I stayed in 3rd gear through the first corner so I wouldn't have to shift going into turn 2, and the torque from the Garrett turbo-boosted VQ gave me the acceleration I needed to pull away from him," said Tanner. "When it came time to follow, I just committed 100% to sticking to him. At the end of the run I knew we had beaten him-it was a great feeling!"
BIG PAPA'S RESULTS
Steph was feeling good in the Rockstar/AEM S2000 after making the suspension repairs from the Seattle event and posted the second highest score in unseeded qualifying competition with a 96.9 to Bill Sherman's 98. Steph went after it in his second pass and was not as clean, but earned enough points to grab the 14th spot in the unseeded field. On Saturday, Steph recorded a blazing entry speed of 97 MPH en route to a 23rd overall finish, which did not allow him to advance to tandem eliminations.
"Sonoma has always been a challenge for me, but this year I felt really comfortable on the course. Despite not scoring enough points to advance to tandem rounds, I had a good weekend with fast entry speeds and high points for my first qualifying pass. As I continue to work on consistency, the payoff will happen with more rounds in tandem eliminations. On the upside, I was able to get to the tower early and spot for Tanner's tandem runs! He had an awesome event and earned that win."
FD Round 6 at Infineon was the fifth FormulaD event held at the track...both cars have qualified for eliminations in all but two events in 2008...the team has seven top 5 qualifiers (two seeded 1st, three seeded 2nd, one seeded 4th, one unseeded 5th) two victories and a third place finish this season...Tanner is currently first place in the series championship standings (26 points ahead of the #2 driver) and both Rockstar/AEM drivers are ranked in the top 35 series competitors...the next event is at "House of Drift" at Irwindale Speedway in Irwindale CA on October 11th...
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.