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Kristaps Bluss Earns Second Consecutive Podium Finish at Formula Drift New Jersey

Kristaps Bluss earned 95 points in qualifying at Formula Drift New Jersey, Photo by Larry Chen

Kristaps Bluss earned 95 points in qualifying at Formula Drift New Jersey, a career high for him

Kristaps Bluss piloted his HGK Motorsports / Wisefab BMW E46 to P4 in qualifying and earned third place in the tandem competition at the fourth round of the Formula Drift Pro Championship, currently sitting in sixth place overall in the championship at the halfway point of the season. Bluss has earned back-to-back third place finishes at Round 3 in Atlanta and Round 4 in New Jersey, and will be looking to capitalize on the success for a career-best finish in the final championship standings. In his third year of competition in Formula Drift, Bluss has progressively moved up the overall standings, finishing in 28th position in his rookie season, and 12th position last season. Bluss is confident that he and his HGK Motorsports team will continue their success this season.

Kristaps Bluss dialing in his HGK Motorsports BMW E46 at Wall Speedway Photo by Larry Chen

Kristaps Bluss dialing in his HGK Motorsports BMW E46 during practice at Wall Speedway

Leading up to New Jersey, Bluss had only lost to some of the top names in the series, and was looking to continue his success. In Long Beach and Atlanta, Bluss lost to Aasbo and Essa respectively, both in the round of 16. Bluss made contact with Aasbo in his chase run in Long Beach, and made a few small mistakes in his lead run against Essa in Orlando. As Aasbo is the 2015 champion, and Essa is the 2013 champion who has returned to the same E46 chassis he won the championship with, Bluss knew that the matchups would be a tough test for the team. With those losses in the rear view mirror, Bluss entered Atlanta with a newfound motivation for success.

In Atlanta, Bluss qualified in third position, a season high which gave him an automatic bye into the Top 16 round. Bluss then defeated Nate Hamilton in the round of 16 and fellow European driver Piotr Wiecek in the round of 8 to advance into the Final 4. Bluss would push Kearney to not one but two “One More Time” rounds with his aggressive driving. Unfortunately, contact with Kearney in the final run of the first “One More Time” round was narrowly unrepairable within the competition timeout window, which allowed Kearney to move on by default. Bluss still earned third place by virtue of his qualifying results, but he and the team were disappointed, knowing they were just seconds away from having the car successfully repaired.

Kristaps Bluss chases down Dean Kearney in practice at Formula Drift New Jersey Photo by Larry Chen

Kristaps Bluss chases down Dean Kearney in practice at Formula Drift New Jersey

Thursday’s practice in New Jersey went nearly flawlessly, the only casualties would come to the rear bumper and rear taillight, which had an unplanned meeting with the jagged guardrail which lines the top of the bank. Bluss and the team also decided to make a small change around the final sweeper after evaluating the data from Thursday’s practice session to reduce the wheelspeed and conserve a bit more grip for the second run on the same set of tires. Friday morning’s practice session confirmed that the test was looking solid, and the team was excited for qualifying. After the first qualifying run, Bluss earned 95 points, which is the highest score he has earned to date in Formula Drift. The second run resulted in a de-beaded tire after an increase in entry speed caused a small collision with the wall in an attempt to earn a higher score, putting the team in 4th place overall based on the score from the first run.

Although the qualifying position was one notch lower than Atlanta, the team was excited to earn the highest score to date and still would earn a bye run into the Top 16.

Kristaps Bluss defeated series points leader James Deane in the Top 8 Photo by Larry Chen

Kristaps Bluss defeated series points leader James Deane in the Top 8 at Formula D NJ

In the Top 16 round, Bluss earned an automatic win when Nate Hamilton collided with the guardrail and was unable to repair his car within the time allotted. Bluss would then face series leader James Deane in the Top 8, who had won both the Long Beach and Atlanta rounds in his rookie year with the series. Entering the matchup, Bluss knew he would have to be driving at his best as Deane had only lost a single tandem battle all season long. After putting together a pair of flawless runs, the judges narrowly gave the decision to Bluss. As the highest ranked driver in the Top 4, Bluss would be guaranteed a podium finish.

Kristaps Bluss celebrates his second straight podium victory at Wall Speedway Photo by Larry Chen

Kristaps Bluss celebrates his second straight podium victory at Wall Speedway in New Jersey

Bluss would be paired up against Michael Essa in a rematch from the Top 16 matchup in Orlando and a battle between BMW E46’s on Achilles Tire. After a pair of very tight runs, the judges decided in favor of Essa to move into the finals. Bluss has moved up to sixth place overall in the standings, just 90 points behind series leader James Deane. Bluss has confidence in his car and team, having only lost narrowly to drivers who all currently sit in the top 10 in the series points.

The upcoming fifth round of the Formula Drift series will take place at Autodrome St. Eustache just outside of Montreal, Quebec.

Kristaps Bluss celebrated his podium victory Photo by Larry Chen

Kristaps Bluss celebrated his podium victory alongside Odi Bakchis and Michael Essa at Formula D NJ


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