Formula Drift Orlando : Sunny Florida

I have always enjoyed going to a Formula Drift event. The excitement has never left me. But now, it’s more about experiencing everything with a more trained eye and enjoying it on a different level. We now visit these events with a sense of business, focusing on getting our shots and telling the story, which to some degree removes the ‘fun’ aspect but allows us insight and interaction like never before.

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Im not going to go too deep into the competition on this post. The obvious moments were viewed live or on the Formula D stream, and people interact with each other discussing rules, politics and many other aspects throughout the internet all day long.

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Personally, what I have always enjoyed about Formula Drift is the interactivity; the fact the fans can get up close and personal with many different personalities.

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This is the third track, within the last few years in Florida, that Formula D has engaged. While this has been arguably the worst track for media access in the eyes of many, I think it was great for the fans being up close, and some drivers publicly expressed their pleasure with the big banks and grittiness of the track itself.

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However, on the flip side, there is a displeasure across the internet of the simplistic of the simple / oval layout in general. It’s an interesting topic, which I think would make for a great discussion another time.

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Walking around the pits is also something that has no real barrier for the fans. You can walk around and see drivers and teams working on their cars, and take a close look at the different powerplants.

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The only area with some separation is the grid before drivers get out to do their damage, but, of course, we had an opportunity to get some tame shots of the cars with no obstructions.

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Every so often, you can find some of the drivers posing for photos when they catch you sniping, something I am sure they are very used to. ( Forrest Wang )

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There was no car show in this round. Normally, Offset Kings throws a large event every competition. This time, there were just some nice cars scattered around the vendor area as booth cars.

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One of the many that caught my eye was the Classic Skyline RIVSU imports brought along, which was a sight many did not expect, even with the knowledge that there would be a nice batch of cars. This is the unicorn for many JDM enthusiasts.

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As far as pro cars, one of the cars I was excited to see was Mad Mike’s Mazda MX5 jammed with a twin-turbo four-rotor. Being back on the U.S circuit, as excited as we were, we also knew everyone else was because it was very difficult to catch this car in the pit area without being surrounded by fans.

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The car, in every way shape or form, is worthy of all the awe. Many of the other cars were vehicles we have seen before, so having something new was quite the bonus.

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As far as the action goes, I found myself with different gear this time around. (I plan on making an investment next year into some longer lenses and faster cameras.) But this past weekend, we were field testing a 7D Mark II with a 300mm f2.8.

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It was very necessary this time because we found ourselves shooting through a chain link fence, and in some cases, double-barrier fences.

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So, not only did the double layers of separation make for a day of being more creative, as always, sunny Florida packed a punch and decided to save us from heat exhaustion.

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Fortunately, I brought some garbage bags for Day Two and found myself with a bag over my camera bag and a makeshift cover for my lens. All this to stand in the pouring rain just to get the right shot.

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I was not the only one doing whatever it took to get the shot, as we saw many other photographers figure out a way to cover their gear and find a spot to do what they needed to do.

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What sucks about the rain is it makes for poor competition. In Miami, people seem to forget how to drive when it starts sprinkling. Imagine pushing a 1000hp+ rear wheel drive car through a puddle of water…sideways.

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While it made for some good photography, it limited the driver’s potential to really push it to the limit during competition. But, it is part of mother nature, and one must adapt.

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Fortunately, as we got close to Top 4, the rain stopped. And after some draining efforts by the Formula D staff, the drivers no longer had to surf through the ocean and competition kicked up again, though some fell to weather and were eliminated.

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Masashi Yokoi ( Shown above ) , was a fan favorite and was doing very well until an unfortunate fire took him out of the competition, many feel he would have advanced if it was not for that incident. From my position I could not catch the intensity of the flame but you can see the fire reflecting off the water from underneath the chassis.

The other conflicting moment, which you will also find all over the internet, is the fact that Chris Forsberg had an intense backfire and had to use his fire suppression system. Fortunately (and unfortunately), the fire was not at the level he expected, so the suppression system was pulled prematurely. You just can’t take a chance when you hear someone yell, “Fire!”

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Ryan Tuerck earned his spot in a battle with Chris, but Chris could not get has car back up in time to give it a go for a final round and had to give up his chances at first place.

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Ryan Tuerck took first place with Chris Forsberg taking podium once again at second, and Ken Gushi placing third. What was funny was the fact that, as they were accepting their trophies, some fans walked by yelling, “NO LS’s on the podium!” Laughter erupted in from many.

Overall, we had a great time, and being in Orlando, we were able to catch up with many friends. I do, however, hope that by next year, they will provide some infield access for media because with the track layout, I think it will make for some pretty wicked shots!

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For a full gallery from our Formula D adventures, click here

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