The Midwest Drift Union kicked off its seventh year as the region’s Formula Drift pro-am feeder series last Sunday at Gateway Motorsports park just outside St. Louis. There were a lot of new drivers, a lot of familiar faces, and a definite hunger between them to rise to the top.
One of those new faces was Alec Robbins, who brought the only truck to have ever competed in MDU.
“I’ve had the truck since high school,” Robbins said. “My dad was the original owner of it and I’ve just been playing with it since high school. I got into drifting three or four years ago and started to really modify it for that and it slowly turned into this.”
The old Hardbody sports an LS2 with an LS9 cam putting down 403WHP through a T56 and Dana 44 rear end with a full spool and dual caliper setup. Suspension duties are handled by QA1 coilovers up front while the stock leaf springs remain in back.
“It’s the only thing I’ve ever really drifted,” Robbins said. “It’s what I’ve had and it’s what I’ve used. It’s crossed my mind (to go to an S-chassis) but it’s fun to do this and be different.”
Returning to defend his 2015 title was Dirk Stratton.
A newcomer to the series himself last year, Stratton made waves by not only clenching the title and earning his Pro 2 license, but doing so without a podium finish, owing to his consistently high qualifying and placements in each of the four rounds.
Speaking of Pro 2, Andrew Lewis, who earned his license through MDU, was out doing a shake down before he headed to Atlanta later in the week.
Perhaps lending itself to just being the first event of the season for some, several drivers found their cars being introduced to walls. Matt Lynch experienced this twice.
Completely undeterred, he ripped off the panels and just kept hammering it.
Some of the other returning MDU regulars included Steve Topping’s E36…
…Shane Whalley and his GTO…
…and Sam Henry in his S15-befaced S13.
But perhaps no face is as familiar as Mike Feiock, who began his rise to the top by taking the number one qualifying spot. With his RX-8 still not quite ready for competition, the inaugural MDU champ resorted to his backup FC, which isn’t too far off from the car he clenched said championship with.
Top sixteen kicked off with Feiock knocking out Daniel Nikov and his M3.
“I went against a fairly stock BMW as far as I know, I mean it’s an M3 and the guy is a pretty good driver,” Feiock said. “I think the battle went pretty easy on my side. I don’t know what he did behind me but I put down a very good lead run. I gave him a little space because my car was faster and ended up catching him in the carousel and they gave me the win.”
Sam Henry dropped a wheel, as so many other drivers did, but still took the win over Chance Crooks.
Austin Matta knocked out Paul Beiswenger and his red S14 to advance to the top eight.
Geoff Donati defeated Dustin Reeh and his third-gen Camaro to claim his spot in top eight.
“I just wanted to put down a really solid lead run like I’d been doing all day long,” Donati said. “My follow run was not the best, my nerves got the best of me, but luckily we both messed up so I got to move on.”
Last year’s champion muscled his C6 past the bruised, battered but nonetheless hard charging S13 of Matt Lynch.
Robbins made quick work of Preston Enyeart’s S14 to advance the truck to the next round.
Steven Fishel took out one of his best friends, David Mesker, to move on to top eight.
“He’s one of my best friends, so I just threw the whole competition thing out the window and was like whatever, this is just friends running,” Fishel said. “I put down the raddest run I’ve ever had with him and thought I was going to slam into his beautiful car. I held off just right, and after that I was really stoked on the competition.”
To round out top sixteen, Hooman Rahimi, who’s got a new LS-powered 350Z for 2016, defeated Steve Topping.
Feiock then found himself against Sam Henry’s turbocharged LS-13.
“He’s got a turbocharged LS car and I’m a little scared of those,” Feiock said. “It was fine when everybody had LS’s but now everybody’s boosting them and it’s getting a little hairy. I went out and put on a really good lead run and I guess he bobbled or straightened behind me and got a zero. With me behind him we basically had a difference of lines. Everybody does this track their own way to get through. Our lines didn’t agree and I had to straighten as well and they called a one more time. We went one more time. I put on a pretty good lead run I thought and got wedged in behind him. I tried to put on a good show for the fans and I like being close it’s just more fun when it’s close. He bobbled in front of me again and I very narrowly missed wrecking into him. Since he bobbled I got the win.”
Matta was left in Donati’s trail of smoke as the latter advanced to the final four.
“He’s an amazing driver who’s been driving for a while and he’s got a sweet car,” Donati said. “I just wanted to put down a lead run I was proud of. Follow run I didn’t want to be a hero, just wanted to do what I’d been doing all day. I think he had a correction at the end of the straightaway and that gave me the win in that battle.”
In the next pairing, Statton came in perhaps a little too hot and clipped the back of Robbins’ truck, sending the C6 into the wall.
The Corvette wasn’t hurt too bad having avoided the concrete barriers and instead hitting the tire wall, and Stratton and his team had the car ready to go again for Pro 2 at FD Atlanta four days later. And with Fishel knocking out Rahimi, it was time for final four.
To kick set things up for the finals, Donati squared off against Feiock. The former champ proved too much for the newcomer, and the S14 was eliminated.
“He’s a new kid in his second competition event,” Feiock said. “He’s got good people around him. Tuner Tools know how to set up a car right and he seems to be a talented driver. He did well behind me and we went again and he did a very similar line to mine so we were able to put on a pretty good show. Maybe the best tandem for me today. I was able to keep close where everyone else tended to bobble so we linked up pretty good and I was all over him in the carousel. Things just went my way and I got the win. No discredit to him at all.”
It was up to Fishel and Robbins as to who would square off against the FC in the finals, and Fishel edged out over the truck to get the win.
That victory set the final match between Fishel and Feiock, with Feiock taking home another victory at Gateway.
“Against Feiock, I was like shit, I know I’ve got to work for this one,” Fishel said. “I gave him space because I was shaken up and didn’t want to hit him, and he followed me perfect.”
“He was on fire today,” said Feiock of Fishel. “He was taking on all the big dogs and taking them down. Me and him have a very similar driving style. You either hit the line 100% or you don’t and you bobble, and that’s how I drive. I don’t make a lot of corrections usually, so if I don’t do what I’m supposed to do every time, it’s a big mistake, not a little one I can fix. I think our car is a little faster so I put a gap on him out of the first turn but his car is hooked up and he caught up to me. There were no mistakes from either of us. On his lead run I know he’s a good driver so I stuck on his door and was able to stay there. Credit to him because you can’t have a good follow without a good lead, so that’s what we did.”
Donati walked away with third place in his first MDU event after knocking out Robbins in the battle for third.
“I came in today with really no expectations at all seeing as this was my first real MDU event and first time at this track,” he said. “Practice started slow because I didn’t know how my car would do on this track because of the gearing. Once I got the hang of it I started having fun, got a ton of seat time and killed ten tires. I had no expectations to come in third place, it was more than I could ever imagine. It was amazing.”
As previously stated, Feiock’s win was made possible by his backup FC.
“I haven’t driven an FC competitively since 2011, Feiock said. ” I set it up how I setup my old car and actually ended up making some suspension pieces for it myself and everything worked really well. The car is way better than I anticipated it to be. It looks like it’s a bucket of bolts but it’s way good. It’s so comfy of a car to drive. The RX-8 is a very good car but it’s more comfortable for me to drive this. It’s like cruise control and just happy.”
That said, the RX-8 should resurface in Indiana for round two in June.
“The RX-8 went under a lot of development over the winter and I kind of ran out of time,” he said. “It’s got a new turbo, new engine, Wisefab and a new body kit. It will be a very different car when it’s done. I’m switching to ethanol and Ignite Fuel is hooking me up with that. I’m hoping it makes it to the next round. Turbo by Garrett hooked me up with two GTX4088s for winning Street Life last year. I got Carbine wheels and NEO stepped up and payed all my entry fees to MDU events so that’s a big help. I don’t practice as much as the other guys because I don’t bring enough tires. I had issues with my emergency brake. On the RX-8 it’s hydraulic so you barely touch it and it locks them up, but this car is a cable, and for whatever reason it wasn’t locking up and I went off track several times this morning because of it. We worked it out and we did a pretty good job.”
Round two will take place inside the oval at Lucas Oil Raceway Park just outside Indianapolis in June 25. Going into that round, the current standings are as follows, showing qualifying/finishing order points and the overall score.
2016 MDU Round 1 Competition Results
|Position||Name||Qualification Points||Competition Points||Total|