2016 may only be his second year in Formula Drift, but Kristaps Bluss and the HGK BMW proved they are quickly becoming veterans to consider in the championship chase in 2017. Even the first ever Canadian round of Pro 1, Bluss and company were still able to bring home a twelfth place finish. Their result proves they are going in the right direction in both driving and vehicle development with AEM Induction.
Rain can't keep these guys from drifting Long Beach
The first round of the season is tough but more so at Long Beach. Not only do you have to knock out the cobwebs from 2015 to 2016, but you also have to deal with the tight confines of a street circuit. Then add rain to the mix and it becomes a powder keg of the unknown and potentially disastrous. However, Bluss and HGK were able to take home a Top 16 finish, including a One More Time against fellow AEM Driver, Matt Field. “First event of the season and I felt much more confident than the year before,” said Bluss after round one.
Round Two was the infamous and longest running event for Formula Drift since its inception, Road Atlanta. It’s hard not to argue why it’s a favorite for drivers and fans – historic track, great elevation changes, and high speeds at night make for a very entertaining show. However, an off track in practice prior to Top 32 caused a pebble to lodge in the drive belt for the alternator and problems continued from there to result in a Top 32 finish.
Bluss on the way to a twelfth place finish in points
Round three saw a tire size change for Bluss and it showed in the results with Orlando. The tire size went from a 265mm width to a 275mm and the car gained grip. While a debeaded tire caused him to impact the wall before qualifying, the team with MA Motorsports’ Dylan helping, were able to bring it all back for a podium finish right behind AEM Induction driver, Fredric Aasbo. “Nothing could stop us that night,” said Bluss, “We managed to climb all the way to the 2nd position, I have to admit we almost won that round, just a small technical failure with the car on my lead run, but we made our first ever FD podium and it was a great result for all the team.”
Just before round four at Wall Speedway, the team changed to a new clutch but the flywheel would end up being steel instead of aluminum. This made the car feel much more different than it ever had, enough that it upset the feel Bluss had with the car. Contact prior to Top 32 didn’t help the situation either, after having to run two lead runs due to miscommunication with the following car and not stopping to change his tires. Doing this put heavy wear on them as Wall is known for its sandpaper like surface that eats tires away. With no grip left, Kristaps spun and was hit by the follow driver. However, even with only an hour, his team and additional hands from AEM Driver Michael Essa’s team, were able to make repairs and move on to Top 16.
Orlando would prove to be a great result for Bluss by taking second place
Round six would prove difficult for the entire team this time, as the transport truck broke down on its way. Thanks to Formula Drift driver Dan Burkett from RAD Industries, the car was transported to Seattle in a non-stop fifteen-hour drive, which didn’t include the fifteen-hour drive to reach them from Southern California. Despite only thirty-hours of sleep in the nine days prior to Thursday practice, the team pushed on. In his second qualifying run, the driveshaft broke and the team worked into the night. The results unfortunately showed with a Top 32 loss, though he did take the driver to a One More Time. “The car wasn’t dialed in at all and we couldn’t expect more after all these adventures. After the event we took the car back to California to the RAD Industries workshop and finally fixed it correctly.”
There were many times Bluss looked like a veteran contender despite only his second year in FD
From California, the team with “Rad Dan” and RAD Industries went all the way to Texas Motor Speedway for round seven. With proper repairs and a car that felt more like it used to, like a car that could take him to his first win like it nearly did at Orlando. However, Bluss advanced all the way to a Final 4 finish where he faced off against Matt Field for the second time in 2016. “We were in good shape,” said Kristaps, “the car was flying through the course and we felt like ‘this is it, we were going to win this event’, but then just a tiny mistake chasing Matt Field in the Final 4 and we were off course. In my lead run, Matt was far behind, but still it wasn’t good enough to earn at least a One More Time.”
Texas had a change and it was possibly for the better, it was certainly good for Bluss
The final round, Irwindale Speedway, is considered the grand-daddy of American Drifting. It’s hard not to see that when you consider that it held the first ever D1 Grand Prix event in 2003. It’s also the event that teams push their vehicles the most. “We knew we had to put out all of what we had that night and we were doing pretty well. Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough practice on Thursday due to fuel pressure failure.” While they were able to get it fixed, another issue developed, “Our differential broke down just an hour before qualification started and again it was a big challenge for the team to make it and get back on track on time. We had to call five-minutes to be able to make it but we did. Our qualification run wasn’t perfect, but at least we qualified.” Kristaps would take on Mike Essa in Top 32 with a One More Time but in Top 16, he wasn’t so lucky with the judges. Even with a second One More Time, Bluss finished out Irwindale with a Top 16 finish and ended 2016 in twelfth place in points.
Despite missing one round, Bluss was able to end 2016 solidly in twelfth place in points
2017 is shaping up to be another great year for Bluss and HGK. A new car is in the works but they are sticking with an E92 BMW chassis and dubbing it the “Eurofighter.” “We’re going to try to prepare it as good as possible, so we can adapt right from the first runs in Long beach,” Bluss says on the E92 build. "While we still wait on some of the details, you know it’s going to make the most power possible thanks to an AEM induction system. 2017 couldn’t get here quick enough for us, it’s shaping up to be an amazing one."