Formula Drift in New Jersey: Points Leaders Miss Podium, and Controversies Ensue

Hello, Drift fans. The weekend of June 2nd concluded another heart-pounding New Jersey event at the Wall Raceway. Every season, this track tests the merit and ruling ability of the Formula D empire and this year was no exception.

As Formula Drift grows and expands, so do the rules and regulations. As these aspects change, driver meetings become inherent with every event, outlining scoring aspects and what the judges expect from the drivers. This year the course was changed back to the “peanut” shape, with no cross over in the infield layout as it was last year. Immediately after seeing the change, I personally took note and figured this event should be quite interesting.

Qualifying went about as good as one can hope. The main issue with Formula D qualifying is that there is no standard to base runs off of. Since the track, lines, and clipping points change from year to year, where is the basis for a 100 point run? It’s all judging the day of, and unfortunately that does not go in some peoples favor. The judging criteria has 3 main subjects: “Line, angle, and style.” All carry some sort of relative scoring percentage. Not severely trumped by one another as to have a perfect run, these judging areas need to harmonize perfectly. Controversy of judging this year came from some areas that can be pointed out in run scores. For example, Chelsea Denofa, who is having a fairly upside down season with large amounts of inconsistency in driving style and inability to maintain general vehicle composure on the track, somehow pulled out a 1st place qualifying pass, even though many may argue the 96 point run can be compared to some runs sub 80 points. Denofa off the bat failed to fill the entire outside Zone 1, yet still stands in 1st place for qualifying. Speculation against judging for favoritism and being more exciting than precise have murmured for some time.

The Tuerck Bakchis debacle. This begins with inside clip 1. The track flow and acceleration map as described by the judges has slown down on throttle areas of every course. Throughout the day these have had little offense by drivers, and seemed to be well placed by the judging staff. Odi Bakchis on inside clip 1 against Tuerck can be seen slowing down and being completely off throttle, being a transition area you can see Tuerck surge forward, expecting Bakchis to be more fluid and on throttle, causing Tuerck to lose his line and the run. Shortly after, Tuerck’s team calmly contested the issue and it was turned over to an OMT (One More Time) decision. Here’s where things get tricky. The decision by the judges to make an OMT turnover seems reasonable, but is it? If Tuerck were to make contact into the back or side of Bakchis’ car, the run would be reviewed more in depth, and whomever was faulted for causing the collision would most likely lose the battle. Since Tuerck had a quick reaction to avoid contact by a very clear mistake made by Bakchis, he is somehow penalized into an OMT decision for avoiding damages. There are a lot of theories and speculations as to how the judges approached the issue, and if you watch the event, one judge takes the offense seriously and gets audibly frustrated and angry with the other judges’ opinions.

Matt Coffman’s competition timeout to make a small repair etches fans close to a mutiny towards the judging panel. Matt Coffman appeared to have a simple fluid leak before his run started against Bakchis. Coffman’s team called for a standard competition time out. A competition timeout can be called by a driver for 5 minutes off track to repair, or adjust something. These time outs come in handy; however, each driver is only allotted 1 time out per event. At the close of 5 minutes, the driver’s vehicle needs to be running and begin its move back to the field. Coffman’s fix took right around the 5 minute mark. Watching the live stream, it came down to seconds. When Coffman attempted to start the car, it would not turn over because of an oversight by Coffman’s pit crew forgetting to turn his kill switch on, causing the car the go “about 10-15 seconds” over the allotted 5 minutes. It’s a rudimentary method in which the time out is clocked, and a single official sits behind the pit crew with a rectangle clock counting down from 5 minutes. The official can’t see the clock, and in somehow predictable fashion, the camera seems to be panned away from the clock for the small amount of time remaining. I am not crying out conspiracy theories, but the judges pick odd times to crush drivers with the rule book.

Formula D is in another year of research and development. This year is going very well from a fan stand point. All of the events’ live streams have been flawless and exciting. Internally, Formula D’s inadequacies are starting to show. An opinion-based scoring method has too many holes to list, and the judging panel seems as though it’s teetering on the reset button. For one judge, almost argumentative agitation came to light over the announcement speakers and live stream during the New Jersey event. Rudimentary rulings and methods distort views of Formula D’s rulings. Some cases involve following the ever-changing rule book word for word, and others feel like a coin toss or argued until one judge is singled out and the decision is bullied into place. I am excited to see if any notes were taken by the staff from New Jersey for the Montreal event in July.

Written by Nick Iosua

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