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AEM-Sponsored Formula D Pro 2 Driver Dirk Stratton Starts Sophomore Season Strong

Formula D Pro 2 driver Dirk Stratton drifts at Orlando Speedworld, Photo by Valters Boze

Formula D Pro 2 driver Dirk Stratton drifts at Orlando Speedworld, where he earned a Top 8 finish

Dirk Stratton, finished his rookie season of Formula Drift in 4th place overall, and the early, consistent results in his second season have him on pace to continue his success. Despite working through some issues both mechanically and weather related in the first two rounds, the team is happy with a pair of Top 8 finishes and is preparing for continued success in the final two rounds of the season.

Stratton started the season in his Lingenfelter Performance/Stratton Racing Chevrolet Corvette at Orlando Speedworld with some electrical issues in practice that would test the team early. The team was quick to track down the issue, but a replacement alternator was required, and precious practice time had been lost. Despite the lack of practice, Stratton qualified 5th overall, which the team was happy with given the circumstances. The Top 16 tandem pairings put Stratton against Matt Vankirk, who had qualified 12th. Stratton put down one of his best lead runs of the weekend and was able to progressively close the proximity between the cars in his chase run to earn the win.

Dirk Stratton nears an outside clipping point in Formula Drift Pro 2 Photo by Valters Boze

Dirk Stratton nears an outside clipping point in Formula Drift Pro 2 competition

As Stratton moved into the Top 8 in Orlando, the team knew they were up against a tough opponent in Kevin Lawrence, who was driving strong all weekend and calls Orlando Speedworld his home track. Lawrence had lost a gear in his transmission in practice, so Stratton was a bit cautious in his chase run unsure of how the missing gear would affect the initiation. Unfortunately, Lawrence got away from the line slow and initiated much later than Stratton expected, which left Stratton scrambling for the rest of the run. Stratton put down a solid run in his lead, but it wasn’t enough to influence the judges into the tandem win. Lawrence went on to win the event, which shows just how strong and consistent his runs were over the weekend. Coming away from the weekend, Stratton felt that the team performed strongly, and they learned a lot about how to adjust to follow slower cars when chasing.

Dirk Stratton leads Kevin Lawrence in his Top 8 tandem battle in Orlando Photo by Valters Boze

Dirk Stratton leads Kevin Lawrence in his Top 8 tandem battle in Orlando

The second event of the Pro 2 season took place at Road Atlanta. Stratton was excited to get back to Atlanta as he never really felt comfortable driving the track last season. Qualifying went well, with Stratton qualifying second overall, which gave both Stratton and the team a huge boost of confidence. Unfortunately, Mother Nature threw a monkey wrench in the plan by bringing heavy showers for the practice and Top 16 round of tandem. The elevation changes of the Road Atlanta turn 10a complex that Formula Drift uses for drifting would mean drastically different levels of grip throughout the course, which would prove to be tricky for all the drivers.

Stratton’s Top 16 tandem battle in Atlanta was against Crick Fillipi. Shortly after initiation, Fillipi colliding with Stratton as he had misjudged the entry speed given the reduced grip levels. Stratton was able to save his car from sliding off course, but had a pretty substantial hole in the door after the collision. On the follow run, Stratton left a gap to account for the difference in grip, then closed it down entering the keyhole area of the track, and all three judges awarded the tandem win to Stratton. Looking ahead to the Top 8, Stratton knew that the drying conditions would continue to make the track treacherous, and the team made adjustments accordingly.

Stratton earned a pair of Top 8 finishes at his first two FD Pro 2 events Photo by Valters Boze

Stratton earned a pair of Top 8 finishes at his first two Formula D Pro 2 events of the season

Stratton would face Randall Waters in the Top 8, who had upset European driver Gyorgy Szilveszter in the Top 16 round. Both drivers would misjudge their entry on their lead run and slide off course. Due to the way the Road Atlanta course loops back on itself, a run is often red-flagged if the lead car slides off course to prevent a collision. With both drivers making nearly identical errors in the same location, the judges sent the tandem battle to a “one more time” round. The second set of runs would be much cleaner, with both making complete runs. Unfortunately, Stratton dropped a tire off course on both his lead and chase runs, while Waters would open up a large gap on his lead run to earn the tandem win. Overall, the team was pumped to have back-to-back Top 8 finishes, which puts them in 5th in the championship standings at the halfway point of the season.

In the three month layoff between Atlanta and Seattle, Stratton has continued to drive the car at events to better prepare himself for upcoming tandem battles. Stratton made appearances at both the Street Driven Tour in Virginia and GridLife Midwest in Ohio, where several other top drifting drivers were also in attendance, to continue to gain experience following drivers of different skill and grip levels. Stratton has no major changes or upgrades lined up during the layoff as both of his losses in tandem were due more to driving mistakes than mechanical issues. Last year, Stratton earned a Top 4 finish in Seattle, but knows that the event will be a tough battle as three of the top four drivers in the standings all claim Evergreen Speedway as their home track.

The Formula Drift Pro 2 season resumes at Evergreen Speedway, just outside of Seattle, Washington.

Stratton has continued to drive at several events during his 3-month break Photo by Valters Boze

Stratton has continued to drive at several events during the 3-month break between Formula D rounds

The distinctive C6 Corvette taillights peak through a cloud of tire smoke Photo by Valters Boze

The distinctive C6 Corvette taillights peak through a cloud of tire smoke on Dirk Stratton's Chevy


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