Midwest Drift Union returned to its Indianapolis roots last weekend alongside the NMCA All-American Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway Park. Though MDU has held events at Lucas Oil Raceway since, it was 2013 the last time Formula Drift’s pro-am feeder series took to inside oval. And for the first time in MDU history, a total newcomer to the series would walk away with first place.
Unlike the 2013 event which took place under heavy cloud cover, it was sunny skies and mild temperatures this time around.
Thomas “T-Diddy” Lange was giving pointers to drivers, many of whom had never driven the inside oval.
Grid man Doug Cox was doing the same. In fact, the majority of drivers competing this year weren’t even around the last time MDU visited the track.
The most difficult part of the course is the awkward transition from the bank of the oval through a 90-degree right turn into the infield. Most of the morning was spent figuring out the best approach to this corner.
As you can see, getting too close to the apex of the corner prompts three-wheeling action, as demonstrated here by Caleb Nichols.
Misjudging this turn would send cars into the flooded infield for a dip in the small lake. Track crews spent the night before the event pumping over 1,000 gallons of dihydrogen monoxide from the infield, but there was still a lot left.
Rookie of the year contender Geoff Donati was the first to realize his car wouldn’t double as a flotation device, and proceeded to do the only logical thing: take selfies.
One of the first drivers to nail the entry, and go on to snag the fourth qualifying spot, was Hooman Rahimi.
“Honestly, it was just the course,” Rahimi said. “I’ve driven these style courses so much, like Kil-Kare and Nashville, both the Superspeedway and the fairgrounds, are similar in terms of going in hard and having to cut speed. I feel like that was my huge advantage in being able to come off that huge bank and transition smoothly with the left foot brake.”
Some drivers weren’t so lucky with either the smooth transition, or even the water. Jeremiah Muniz trashed his Corolla when it understeered into the k-rails.
At least he got to see the instant replay on-site.
While the car was trashed, Muniz and the LS engine were unscathed. Whether or not he’ll return in another car for round three remains to be seen.
Dirk Stratton took the top qualifying spot.
Steven Fishel came in at number two, looking just as strong as ever.
Alec Robbins, coming off of a fourth place finish at round one, grabbed the third spot.
“It was a lot of fun,” Robbins said. “It was a lot harder track than I thought it’d be coming into this. The pictures and videos don’t do it justice. It’s tough coming off that bank, that’s really the hardest part.”
With the top sixteen bracket set, one final meeting was called before the track went hot.
Top sixteen kicked off with Stratton taking out Chance Crooks. Even after dozens of water drops, there was plenty left on the outside of the first turn.
Next up was Mike Feiock against Stu Kelly in a battle of Wankel vs. LS. Feiock’s RX-8 was still undergoing some changes at round one, so this was the first time the car has seen competition this year. He would take the win over the FC.
Adam Ouziel used to be an MDU regular and now usually makes one appearance per year. He bowed out to Donati in their top sixteen match.
Rahimi would then defeat Jason Turner’s Cressida to find his spot in the great eight.
Next was a battle of two MDU veterans, with Whalley taking the GTO to the next round over Nichols.
It’s not often you see a Nissan hardbody on a racetrack competing with a Lexus SC300, but that’s what happened at LORP, because drifting. Alec Robbins took his truck to a top sixteen win over Dan Perlenfein, who made his first appearance in competition.
“I know his follow run was really consistent,” Robbins said. “I looked back a couple times and he was right on me. On his lead run he had a bobble in the corner and pulled off, came to a stop and I passed him and finished the run.”
Sam Henry, who made a strong showing at round one in his brown S13/5, fell to Dan Nikov’s E46.
Rounding out top sixteen, newcomer Noah Michaels defeated long-time MDU competitor Steven Fishel.
“He put the pressure on,” Michaels said. “That was one of the closest ones. He qualified second and he’s an amazing driver, as you can see there’s a tire mark on the quarter panel where he got real nice and close putting on the pressure.”
Top eight started with a battle of the giants, as Feiock and his rotary took on yet a larger turbo V8 from Stratton.
The original MDU champ knocked out last year’s champion to take the RX-8 to the final four.
Up next was Rahimi and Donati, with Rahimi’z 350Z advancing on.
“I think it was a close call,” Rahimi said. “I know when he was chasing me he was really close and when I was chasing him I was decent, so it was a good solid battle.”
The next battle between Robbins and Whalley went one more time, but mechanical issues caused Whalley to bow out.
“He had a really good lead run, I had a really good lead run and we both had good follow runs which went one more time,” Robbins said. “Unfortunately he had engine issues. He came into the corner really slow and I didn’t know if he was going to clutch kick and drop it, so I just followed him but we got halfway around the corner and I knew something was up so I just finished the run.”
Despite this colorful presentation, Nikov was knocked out by Michaels to round out great eight.
Rahimi was gifted the win in the final four when Feiock’s alternator decided it was going on strike.
“It’s unfortunate because that would have been a fun battle, I always love driving with Feiock,” Rahimi said. “It was nice, but not really. I’d always rather drive.”
With Rahimi now in the finals, his adversary would either be Robbins or Michaels, and it was the 240 of Michael’s to battle Rahimi.
That put Robbins in a battle for third against what would have been Feiock, but with the Mazda out of commission, Robbins was gifted the win and a third place finish.
It was a close battle, but Michaels went from a 15-th place qualifying run to victory, the first time a newcomer has ever done so.
“Hooman was right on me and I was right on him,” Michaels said. “I honestly had no idea who won, I was just beyond all to be in top two. It was more than I ever expected. I just wanted to qualify, and if I didn’t, so be it. I wanted to qualify just to get a tandem in. I’m really happy with the people I got paired up with. It was a good learning experience. I’ve never had this good of drivers to tandem with which was awesome.”
That win put Rahimi in second, the same place he finished to Brian Peter in 2013.
“He’s a solid, solid driver,” Rahimi said. “I’d never met him or anything. I’d love to see him drive in our region more, or maybe I need to go see him. I know he said he drove Club Loose a lot. He was consistent all day. Honestly, I didn’t see his qualifying so I’m surprised it was only fifteenth by the way he was driving in the battles.”
Michaels, who hails from Medina, OH, has been drifting for about three years. His car uses a true LS1 with just a cam and exhaust, putting down around 400 horsepower to the wheels. It’s backed by a Z32 transmission, which he admits is probably his weakest link.
“Last year I was like, dude, I have to do MDU next year, but my car wasn’t quite to that spec, and it was a convertible, so I was skeptical about that,” Michaels said. “All this winter I told myself I was going to do pro-am. I had a 5.3 in it, but I blew that up at the first event this year so I couldn’t make it to round one, but I was like, I’m going to make it to round two. I per-registered the second it opened and was making sure I was here. I’ll be here at the other rounds no matter what.”
After two rounds, MDU O.G. Mike Feiock keeps a six point lead over rookie Alec Robbins, with Donati not far behind. With two rounds still to go, there’s a lot of points that can be shifted. Will we see an MDU veteran take the top spot, will Dirk Stratton make it a repeat championship or might we see an MDU first-timer take home the crown? Join us September 17 at Kil-Kare Raceway in Xenia, OH for the next exciting round of Midwest Drift Union
2016 MDU Round 2 Competition Results
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