The 2011 Formula Drift Series headed to Palm Beach International Raceway for round three. The multi-track, state-of-the-art facility is owned and operated by a team of car collectors and racers, making it a motorsports enthusiast's nirvana, yet for drivers on the tour this was an entirely new stop, and expectations at first were dubious at best.
Chris Forsberg's score of 93.3 was the highest of the day at the new Palm Beach venue.
The AEM sponsored driver qualified first Palm Beach International Raceway.
"Without any previous experience at this track, I had no idea what to expect, and we did have some crazy moments, but all-in-all we had a great weekend," Chris Forsberg commented. Forsberg is currently the second most winningest driver in Formula Drift history.
Thursday's practice started off with a bang, literally, as competitor's entry speeds were well above the 100 mph mark, much faster than normal, and particularly unusual for a new venue. Couple that with what was termed an "unfortunate barrier placement" and it becomes easy to understand why so many drivers slammed hard into the wall during practice.
To their credit, Formula Drift officials quickly recognized that the track was a hazard to drivers, as well as fans, so they stopped practice and went to work on reconfiguring the course. The new design was simple, but turned out to be deceptively technical, as even a minute mistake glaringly stood out to the judges. So the track is where we started our conversation with Forsberg.
This was an entirely new and challenging venue for you, what made Palm Beach different, and what about it suited you so well?
"Palm Beach International Raceway was the first time that Formula Drift (or I) went to Florida for competition. We were expecting crazy hot temperatures, afternoon showers, and a mediocre crowd. Yet, we were blown away with the relatively cool temps, packed stands, and no rain. I feel that our team does a great job at dissecting racing lines and getting good runs right off the bat, where other teams may struggle to find the right line through the course."
Forsberg currently sits in the number two spot for the winningest drivers in Formula Drift history.
Talk about that 100 mph entry speed, what was up with that, and how unusual is are those speeds?
"We have come close and even broken 100 mph a few times, but it is very rare. Usually we are in the high 80's to low 90's, however, in testing, a few drivers hit nearly 110 mph. At first, the course had a very abrupt turn in the braking zone, sending several cars into the wall. Knowing that drivers would only start to feel more comfortable and push harder as the weekend went on, Formula Drift made the decision to revise the track to make it safer for everyone."
Your 93.3 score was the highest of the day, how good did that feel? And for those not familiar, give us an idea how judges score that aspect, is it all based on a controlled drift?
"I was very happy to qualify in first place. The judges focus on several aspects of drifting to come up with their score. The main criteria are speed, line, angle, and overall excitement (style). Speed is self-explanatory, it's simply how fast you go through the course. Line is in regards to the racing line, where you place the car on the course, and how close you get to the designated clipping points. Angle is just how it sounds, it's about how sideways your car is throughout the course while ensuring the car never loses drift, or spins out."
"Overall excitement is all about how hard you drive your car, how much throttle you use, how hard you flick the car from side-to-side, and how much smoke your car makes. It's the overall beauty of your car in drift."
Forsberg says the number one lesson he takes to each track is remembering to be smooth and consistent.
Give us a few insights about your semis running against Vaughn Gittin Jr., you mention him kicking up a little dirt, how did that affect you? Also, give his a little more detail about your run against McNamara?
"We faced off with Vaughn Gittin Jr. in the semi-finals. We put down a great lead run and Vaughn jumped the curb on the inside of the first turn, which kicked some dirt onto the track. When we went out for our second run, Vaughn lead into the first corner and swung a little wide, I tried to follow his line but ended up going even wider. The judges reviewed the footage and concluded that the dirt on the track may have been the cause."
"Personally, I can't be sure if it was the dirt, or simply driver error, but the judges decided to sweep the track and run us one more time just to be sure. I laid down another great lead run against Vaughn, unfortunately, I was not able to better his chase run and lost the round."
"We had one last chance to get on the podium if we could defeat Darren McNamara. I knew that he would be very close to me since his car is so fast, but he typically runs a shallower angle. To win, I decided to wow the judges with a ton of angle in the first corner, but I over shot it and spun. At this point, my only chance at the win would be for Darren to make a similar mistake, which he did not."
Did learn anything from the Palm Beach race that you might apply in the next round in Wall, New Jersey?
"This weekend, as well as throughout the season, I have learned that being smooth and consistent is typically what will take you to the top. And it is something I will remember when we get to round four at Wall Speedway."
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