The 2019 Formula Drift season begins with just one simple question: can anybody take down James Deane?
Fredric Aasbo put up a spirited fight, but ultimately fell four points short in last year’s season finale from Irwindale Speedway. Now, Aasbo, Deane’s Worthouse Drift Team teammate Piotr Wiecek, and the rest of FD’s finest will get to start from scratch in their pursuit to dethrone the worldwide drift king, starting this weekend on the streets of Long Beach.
The opening round of any racing season is due to provide a handful of surprises, and last year’s Long Beach tilt did exactly that. While we were initially deprived of a proper matchup between Deane’s Nissan S15 and Forrest Wang’s due to mechanical gremlins on Deane’s car, there’s no doubt that Wang’s return to the sport with a final round appearance was one of the most popular storylines of the weekend. He fell to Aasbo in the final round, while Wiecek completed the podium. A week later, Wiecek backed it up with a win in the Super Drift Challenge, a non-points event that brings more drifting action to IndyCar weekend.
Just about all of your favorite drivers are back for 2019, with big names like Ryan Tuerck and Vaughn Gittin Jr. set to return with similar programs to 2018. Matt Field has had a busy offseason; not only will he bring his old S14 out of retirement for Pat Goodin, but he’s also been hard at work helping to put together a Z06 Corvette for rookie Joao Barion.
But perhaps the most interesting car we’ll see on track this year is Napoleon Motorsports’ all-electric Camaro EL1, to be driven by Travis Reeder. With Formula Drift amending its rules in the offseason to welcome electric and hybrid vehicles, it’ll be interesting to see how well the car performs over the course of the season in a sport well-known for putting its mechanics to work in the early stages of a car’s life. (UPDATE: As of Friday, Napoleon Motorsports will be entering an S13 in Long Beach, due to a city ordinance preventing racing between electric and non-electric vehicles. The team expects to debut the new car in Orlando.)
As always, Formula Drift will live stream its qualifying and race sessions on Friday and Saturday on its website and Facebook page, with television coverage on the CBS Sports Network at a later date. The series has also launched its own FD Studios in the offseason, and partnered with Facebook Watch to distribute more than 100 hours of original content in 2019.