This week in our Throwback Thursday series, we revisit the first round of the 2011 season.
The following article appears as it did in 2011 when originally posted to OMGDrift. Photos have been re-edited, but otherwise remains the same article.
The NOS Energy Drink Midwest Drift Union kicked off its 2011 season April 3 at the Sportsdrome Speedway in Clarksville, Ind.
Though the MDU is only in its second year, the inaugural 2011 event saw intense action from some of the most talented drivers in the Midwest. A feeder pro-am series for Formula D, MDU is headed by Edgar Sarmiento, who has also handled Drift Indy events for the past six years.
Sarmiento said the Sportdrome is the slowest track the drivers will see all season; the fastest entry speed was 59 mph, set by Brian Peter in his blue FC.
“Being the first event of the season, we wanted something fun and decent to shake the rust off that the (drivers) had during the off-season,” Sarmiento said.
And shake the rust off they did. Thirty-three drivers tore up the track (and for some, their cars), putting on a spectacular display of smoke, angle and horsepower on the small Indiana track. Each driver had two qualifying runs, judged on line, speed and angle to determine overall score, adjudicated by three to four officials. The top eight drivers moved on to final tandem competition; top 16 qualifiers earn points towards a Formula D license.
Here’s Tom Blangiardo in his Volvo 240 Turbo during a practice run early on:
And here’s Caleb Nichols also during practice. His front bumper would disappear and reappear throughout the day:
Jake Maturen (gold) and Ryan Nalezyty go at it during tandem practice runs early in the afternoon:
Last year’s MDU champ, Mike Feiock, was on hand doing some exhibition runs in his FC, before serving as a judge to the day’s competition.
Kris Hackenson, who finished seventh in last year’s standings, claimed victory despite losing both bumpers and experiencing a couple wall impacts. Here’s his car in one piece:
And then, by the end of the day:
“My car handled great, probably better than this chassis has ever handled,” Hackenson said. “Now I have to rebuild it again, but it is what it is, and I did good, and I had a happy day today. Mission accomplished for sure.”
Though Hackenson hadn’t had time to fully assess the damage to the car immediately after the event, he said he would need new wheels, front sub-frame and front control arms before round two next month. He added he ran the same set of Nexen rears all day, not even bothering to check the tire pressure.
Hackenson had said before the event that his car had been put back to being street legal from last season, including tags and insurance.
“I was going to use it as a daily again, just for fun,” he said.
He said he also raised the car a bit and did some different alignment and suspension tweaks in the off-season.
“(I) didn’t really change much other than the body and straighten a few things out that were out of whack, but they are severely in whack right now,” Hackenson said as he laughed and pointed to the damage.
Second place went to Nick Thomas, who made it through the event with only minor body damage.
“I gave the wall a kiss on the way around, but hell, I loved that,” Thomas said.
While physical damage almost eluded him, mechanical issues did not. Thomas said he was having problems with his fuel/ignition relay, causing some low lines in qualifying and the final round. Other problems included overheating due to a bad thermostat and his steering locking up during the final round because the tires were touching the frame, causing the front to drag.
“I think I can turn it up a lot more,” Thomas said. “I think I did well adapting to the track and coping with the issues with the car. I think we will be way more competitive in the next round as soon as the bugs are worked out of the car.”
Here’s Kris and Nick during tandem finals:
Third place went to Mike Pollard, who wasn’t even driving his own car. He said he hadn’t planned on driving on Sunday, but brought all his gear to the track in case the chance came along. A local shop had brought a tandem-ready car to the event, and since their driver was just starting, said Pollard could drive since they knew who he was. Pollard ran three practice runs and qualified first for the top 16.
“I had a blast driving with my Midwest bros,” Pollard said. “I just wanted to drift and have fun, so mission complete.”
Pollard said aside from a wall tap on his first run, the car suffered no serious damage. He said next time, he’d like to have his own car at a highly competitive level.
Here’s Pollard tearing it up with Brian Peter:
“I just wanted to have fun with friends and compete, as well as get the drivers in Midwest to push harder and prepare themselves for Formula D as this is a pro-am series,” Pollard said.
Chris Gonzalez, who traveled 28 hours from his home in Winnipeg, Canada to be at the event, finished twelfth.
“It was a blast,” Gonzalez said. “This is only my sixth time drifting, and I had the time of my life. That tandem competition that went on out there? That was the sickest thing I’ve ever seen. You don’t see that in Canada. Not even close.”
Gonzalez said there’s still some work to be done before the next event.
“I had a lot of rubbing issues up front,” he said. “I’m still getting used to the car. We just finished the V8 swap the Friday morning before I left for here, so I’m still getting a feel for all the power compared to what I used to have in my SR20.”
Round two of the MDU will be held in Clio, Mich. on May 15 at Autocity Speedway.
“I am very happy to say that the bar has been raised and there is no question that the best drivers in the Midwest are driving in this series,” Sarmiento said.