When they first announced that Formula Drift was coming Orlando we were a little shocked. Even though we have had some big time car shows and meets in our little town, nothing on the level of Formula Drift has ever been here. I have to admit I was a little scared when I heard the event was being held at Orlando Speedworld's oval. If you have ever been there you know that the oval has always been the red headed step child of Orlando Speed World.
The road leading in was dirt, which is always great when taking you freshly detailed ride into an event. The paved areas next to the oval are minuscule and the bathrooms, oh the bathrooms. This has been fine for your occasional school buss x of death race or demolition derby but I was not so sure about a Nationally Televised Motorsports Juggernaut like Formula Drift using this facility.
The first blow for us was that due to the sheer amount of real estate needed for the drift teams there was just not enough space left over for a proper car show. Not wanting to be left out in the parking lot for the biggest event to ever hit Central Florida we immediately started putting out some feelers for booth spaces. Thankfully we were able to place 7 members throughout the vendor row. My FRS was at the Scion Racing booth, Russ's NSX and Ben's MR2 were at the Rays booth, Julius's 240 was in the Tein Booth and Ivan's GTR, Hue's R8 and Andy's BRZ were posted up at the UTI booth.
As I pulled up to the entrance and took the left to the track I noticed an odd feeling under the car, pavement. It looks like there were some improvements made in advance of the event. As I made it past security and into the infield I noticed a large paved area where the drift teams were set up, also new. The scope of the event was massive. There were huge tires, 2JZ's and and beautiful girls as far as the eye can see.
As improved as the facility was it was sadly still Speedworld's Oval track. When the time came and I had to visit the bathroom and it was vintage Speedworld. I felt like I had a 50/50 chance of catching Ebloa. The best part was that there was a bathroom attendant and a sign that said "Please Tip the Attendant. What Would This Place Look Like Without Me". The only plausible answer was "sewage treatment tank", given the state of the bathroom. When we went to go check out the action the grandstands were sketchy as hell. You really got the feeling that the boards could give way at any moment. Despite that we said our prayers, called our loved ones and headed up the bleachers.
However any reservations about the facilities melted away under the blazing hot Florida heat the moment those drift cars rocketed around that oval with what felt like enough smoke to blot out the sun. Unfortunately they did not and the heat was insane. Enough bitching, the layout they came up with for the track was exciting as hell. They really maximized the amount of full bore sliding in the runs. Plus there were two dips that caused the cars to hop as they went through the infield section. The drivers must have hated it as it cause all kinds of problems like debeading tires and worse, but the action on the track was intense. There really was some spectacular drifting going on right in our home town. In the end Ryan Tuerck and the Ryan Tuerck Racing / Retaks / Maxxis Scion FR-S took the win after Chris Forsberg's NOS Energy Drink / Hankook Tire Nissan 370Z caught on fire and could not continue. It was an "explosive" ending for real.
Ultimately Formula Drift was so good that all of the facilities short comings just vanished and the experience was amazing. Looking at attendance numbers I must not be the only one who thought so. Lets hope the Formula Drift people saw the love that Orlando has for the sport and the track makes some more improvements to keep this event on our home turf for many years to come. It also wouldn't hurt for them to pave another large area so that we can add a car show next year.
A huge thank you goes out to Lafa of Lafayette Britto Photography for the photos of the event. Check out his site for more images from Formula Drift Orlando and browse around because there are some amazing images on there. We also need to send love to Vinny from UTI for not only getting 3 of our cars in his booth on short notice and for providing us some AMAZING BBQ from his Jimmy Bear's BBQ Rig. Russ has a foodgazm while eating the "Bone In" ribs. We sure are looking forward to next year and possibly some other big time events seeing that Orlando is the place to be.
- James aka WBJ