Last month we published the Twitter perspectives of a handful of drivers competing in X Games 17 rally events from Los Angeles (www.urbanracer.com/articles/anmviewer.asp?a=4940&z=2). The experiment for us was a clever way to see the Rally Car Racing and RallyCross categories through the eyes of the competitor, and also stitch a mosaic of the car racing at XG (and truth be told, we completely ripped off the concept from ESPN's website).
We're doing the same for this past weekend's Formula DRIFT Round 6: Las Vegas (though with a less clunky name) for what we think will be a regularly occurring column, so long as tweeting continues to be a popular medium of mass communication.
Saturday night 2005 FD champion Rhys Millen in the Red Bull Hankook Tire Hyundai Genesis Coupe found himself atop the Las Vegas Motor Speedway podium - his first win in some three years, and the first for the car maker - after eliminating Darren McNamara and the Falken Tire Saturn Sky in the finale, ending one of the most plot twist-filled Formula D contests in recent series history.
TEAM FALKEN CONTROVERSY
In what was likely the biggest story to emerge from Vegas (the penultimate round of the 2011 season), second-in-points Justin Pawlak lost his Falken Ford Racing Mustang in Thursday practice after an engine failure, putting a serious kink in his championship designs. Team Falken effectively removed Tyler McQuarrie, who was sixth in points, from the Falken Nissan 350Z and gave the car to Pawlak for the remainder of the event, offering McQuarrie the right hand-drive Falken Nissan Silvia formerly piloted by Calvin Wan and James Deane.
Tyler McQuarrie (@tylermcquarrie)
While we heard through the grapevine of McQuarrie's disappointment with the situation, he seemed incredibly professional about everything in public, saying he was "trying to make the best" of the circumstances, which in fact weren't all that great. Apart from having to jump in a brand new car just hours before having to qualifying with it, the S15 apparently needed some attention, as Tyler tweeted Friday:
"Thing still needs a lot of work"
And then again on Saturday morning:
"Had to pass on Top 32 practice last night because the S15 motor is hanging on by a thread. Fingers crossed it makes today."
Also Saturday morning, McQuarrie had breakfast with 15 family and crew in town to watch him try for his second straight Vegas win. The group unfortunately would bear witness to Tyler's first-round exit at the hands of Ken Gushi in the Team RS-R Scion Racing Hankook tC. McQuarrie sat sixth in points before Round 6 but his 2011 title hopes came to an end with the outcome, after which he messaged:
"Most frustrating race weekend of my career! Glad it's over..."
Neither Pawlak (@JTPawlak, eliminated in Top 16 but remains second in points after Vegas) nor Team Falken (@FalkenTire) had anything further to say on the matter via Twitter. Formula D (@FormulaDrift) solely played the role of messenger, publishing two tweets - with images - Friday morning to announce the vehicle changes, first of Pawlak's Z:
And moments later, this about McQuarrie's Silvia:
"@tylermcquarrie will be driving the Falken S15 at Round 6 - Las Vegas Motor Speedway"
CHANGING OF THE GUARD
Vaughn Gittin, Jr. (@VaughnGittinJr)
Vaughn Gittin, Jr. will not repeat as the Formula D series champion, which became official after Las Vegas; the driver of the Monster Energy Falken Ford Racing Mustang, who is a prolific tweeter, was sitting ninth in points before the round, mathematically still in the running, and started the weekend right with a strong qualifying effort Friday night:
"Qualified 5th! Feeling awesome! Pumped for main competition tomorrow!"
JR survived Cyrus Martinez in the Megan Racing 240SX for Top 32, but in the next eliminator fell to eventual Round 6 runner-up Darren McNamara in the Falken Saturn Sky roadster; his exit in Top 16 only garnered enough points to move up to eighth in the standings, effectively missing the cutoff to consider the 2011 title. His final tweet from the event reflected both his disappointment in his performance and appreciation for the fans that have sustained him:
"Losing never gets easy but beating myself is the worst... I threw it away tonight. Thanks for the unconditional support as always! You rule!"
Dai Yoshihara (@DaiYoshihara)
Dai is currently leading in the points and therefore the favorite to win it all at the Irwindale season ender in October; he was also leading in points before Vegas, and "super pumped" to qualify sixth in the Discount Tire Falken S13. He beat Ross Petty in the Garage BOSO Falken S15 in Top 32, but then in one of the early rounds' biggest upsets 22 qualifier Toshiki Yoshikoa in the Retaks Racing Cooper 240SX first forced a One More Time, and then took the unexpected win. Dai was bummed but kept it all in perspective:
"It was not a great day for me. :( But I'm still leading the championship. Can't wait for the final round at Irwindale!"
Kyle Mohan (@kylemohan)
By his account, Mohan was having a great weekend in Vegas with the Nexen MazdaTrix RX-8; he tweeted that he was first in qualifying after the first of two laps by all competitors. After qualifying ended Friday night, he wound up eighth and drew Dennis Mertzanis in the Konig Wheels Kenda Tires 240SX for his first tandem companion.
Mohan took out Merzanis and lined up a short time later against Mike Essa in the GSR Autosport BMW Z4 roadster for Top 16. The first set of runs amazed and confounded judges, so much they prompted a OMT; in the first of the extra laps Mohan found himself without brakes at the initiation point and had to slide his RX-8 sideways into the tire barrier near clip zone 2 at close to 100mph (the video: http://youtu.be/duQHfTG_DQg).
Many observers noted it was one of the hardest - if not the hardest - hits they've seen in FD history, with all four wheels coming completely off the ground, and while Mohan originally seemed to emerge from the high-speed collision unharmed, he was later transported to a local hospital for observation (he's since been released).
Somewhat eerily, as of Tuesday afternoon, Mohan's Twitter feed stops right before the pass, as he tweets:
"Made the Top 16 in our Nexen Tire, Mazdatrix, Mazda RX-8! Should be a great battle!"
Darren McNamara (@dmac86)
D-Mac battled Kyle Pollard's Driftspeed DOC Race Nissan Silvia K's, JR, Ryan Tuerck in the Gardella Racing Mobil 1 Chevrolet Camaro, and Matt Powers in the Need for Speed Nitto S14 to get to Millen in the money round; it's the deepest the Irishman has ever gone in Las Vegas. Maybe it was a sign of his focus on the task at hand, but the normally tweeting-heavy McNamara was pretty quiet during the weekend, using his channel to thank his team and fans for the help and encouragement; after taking second place - his third podium of 2011 - he ended his weekend with:
"Thank you so much everyone for the support. What an amazing night of balls out drifting. @FalkenTire @ASD_Inc rock!"
Rhys Millen (@RhysMillen)
Millen was also a man of few words, but what his tweets lacked in length they made up for with photos, linking people to snapshots of Rhys in the car, with the fans, etc. The 2005 series champion seemed a little hung up on the heat in Sin City - but then with average temperatures above 100 degrees in the day and hanging in the 90s well after midnight in the desert, we really can't blame him.
"Someone bring me a fan!"
Millen's trip to the Final went through twice series champ Sam Hubinette in the SHR Dodge Challenger in a OMT, Pat Mordaunt in the PM Racing Nu Movementz Nissan 350Z, Essa's GSR Autosport Nitto Z4, and Aurimas "Odi" Bakchis in the Bakchis Motorsports Forged Racing 240SX. He kept the messages short and sweet:
"Top 16 here we come."
"Top 8 here we come."
"Top 4 baby!"
Judges brought Millen's and McNamara's cars up to the judges' stand to get the verdict, and when the announcement came down Rhys was the classy winner, hugging D-Mac then jumping atop his Genesis Coupe to acknowledge his fans. His supporters received the most love on Twitter, and when he had a second during his victory celebration, Millen closed it out with:
"This one is for you guys!"