On Monday, April 2nd, 2012, Nick D’Alessio and his crew headed out to Long Beach California for the 1st round of Formula Drift. The team traveled out early for tech inspection scheduled for 3rd, leaving enough time to to take care of any loose ends that may have been overlooked and found during the tech inspection. Fortunately, Nick and his crew from R/T Tuning followed the rule book down to every detail and passed through the tech inspection with no issues at all.
With tech inspection out of the way, Nick had some breathing room to relax and enjoy some time out west. One of the stops he made was to one of his sponsors for 2012, Tomei Powered. Tomei Powered is located in Lake Forest California, roughly a 40 minute drive from downtown Long Beach.
They have a huge product line ranging from 2 way LSD’s (which Nick’s competition S13 is using) to fully built “Genesis” Racing Engines which are built from brand new OE Engines using all of Tomei’s high performance internals. D’Alessio’s S13 is currently running the Tomei M8280 bolt-on Turbine kit, along with their Metal head gasket and Technical Trax LSD Nick had also picked up some things that he had shipped there including his freshly embroidered Alpine Stars Racing suit. The staff at Tomei were excited to meet Nick as they have been dealing with him for years since he has been selling their product at his East coast shop, Elite JDM. We just recently received their new turbine outlet pipe and are looking forward to testing it on the dyno and the track!
Tuesday was also media day, this was an invite only day for top drivers. Since Nick was prepared for the event, passed tech, and car was sitting in the pit area, we decided to ask if he could participate, we were told no rookies which was understandable. As we watched cars line up, we saw the controversial “rookie” line up to grid, Diago Saito. Saito is one of the drivers that inspired D’Alessio in the recent years after watching him first hand at Ebisu Circuit for Autumn Drift Matsuri in 2009. If you follow drifting you will know Saito isn’t new to drifting. He has had countless podiums in the D1GP series in Japan, won the D1 championship in 2008, and most recently won Formula Drift Asia 2011 championship. But dont get it twisted, he IS in the rookie race for Formula D 2012. Nick watched and studied the 20 drivers as well as the track layout in preparation to the weekends competition.
On Wednesday, we met with one of our other sponsors, Body Armor. They delivered our tents and backdrops to keep us shaded while we work and maintain the car in our pit area, as well as provided us with unlimited drinks to keep us hydrated throughout the entire weekend. If you are un-familiar with Body Armor, it is not an energy drink, it is actually a health drink that tastes amazing!
After setting up the pit area, we headed out to The Pike for Vaughn Gittin Jr’s new 2012 ride unveiling. It was a great opportunity to check out the car before any battle scars, and hang out and party with all of our friends.
On Thursday, we unloaded D’Alessio’s car, parts and tools from Chris Forsberg’s rig and finished our pit area setup.
With the tight quarters of the venue, the rookies were set up in a lot on the other side of the course, so pit access while the track was hot was impossible. During our run session, we had to bring all of our tools, wheels, tires to the “Hot Pit” which was on the straight after the last turn. This made things a bit difficult, but it is what the venue calls for.
When Friday came along, Nick was pumped and ready to go. We had our drivers meeting and the new Judge, Brian Eggert was introduced. The judges then explaioned the changes in the scoring system, and what they wanted to see from the drivers.
Immediately following the drivers meeting, the first run group, which consisted of mostly rookies, went out for practice. It was supposed to be an hour and a half session, but was cut down to one hour because of a timing miscommunication. Unfortunately, our vehicle was plagued with drivetrain issues for the first few runs of the practice session, leaving Nick only one successful attempt to drift the course before the qualifying session.
Qualifying came around and despite the lack of practice, Nick was pumped to get out there and do what he loves. Qualifying order went reverse of the 2011 standings and rookies were in reverse alphabetical order. This put Nick after Chelsea DeNofa, another privateer originally from Philadelphia. Nick went out for his first qualifying run and had a clean line with smooth transitions, almost looking like he had been practicing all day.
He missed the minimum speed (53mph) by two and a half miles per hour, leaving 10 points on the board only giving him a 63. His 2nd qualifying run he tried to go 100% to try and maintain more speed and carry more angle to get a better score and put me him a higher qualifying spot. Nick made the speed in this run, but unfortunately, he failed to scrub enough speed after the last hairpin turn causing him to hit the wall.
That error resulted in a zero for that run. Nick’s qualifying fate was up to his first run. Here is the Driftstream footage from is first qualifying run.
“These tires really give me the grip I need to increase speed in drift to keep up with the higher power cars in Formula D” – Nick D’Alessio
Immediately following qualifying, the team brought the car back to the pits and started pulling the rad support and replacing the broken suspension components. Battle Version was on site with spares! In no time, the car was back to 100% operating order. Vince Hafner and Pat Dulcey of R/T Tuning really stepped up when it was time and had the car ready to get back out on the track. While they were prepping the car, Nick was in the drivers meeting getting the news that his 1st qualifying run gave him the 31st spot in the Top 32. This was the goal we set for our first Formula D event especially with a drivers pool of over 60 drivers and 20 of them rookies. It turned out Nick was one of five rookies that qualified for round one. The other four were, Daigo Saito, George Marstonovic, Chelsea DeNofa, and Jeremy Lowe. This qualifying position put us up against Rhys Millen, possibly one of the most experienced / diversified drivers in the field. Either way, Nick and the rest of the crew were pumped to make it to the big show.
Saturday came along and we got to the track early to prepare. Nick headed over to the drivers meeting for a more descriptive dicussion from each of the judges of what they wanted to see out of every driver during the competition runs.
Here are some shots from tandem practice
Nick was to follow Millen in their first run. Since Nick is more that 250 HP less than Millen, his idea was to come into the entry fast but time it right so he didnt have to scrub as much speed so he would have close proximity in the first transition. Nick’s timing was either a bit late, or Millen tapped the brakes too many times causing D’Alessio to make contact and come to a stop at the entry.
On D’Alessio’s lead run, he tried to run his qualifiying run with a bit deeper line in the second zone. He came in with too much speed and ended up clipping the wall sucking the front end in as well.
Here is the Driftstream footage of the battle between D’Alessio and Millen
Round 1 is in the books and we were able to put points on the board for the 2012 series. We are sitting in 27th place and look to move up the ladder for Round 2 at Road Atlanta.
“All in all it was a great first event and we learned alot about the series. I look forward to taking what we learned and showcasing it in round 2 at Road Atlanta.” – Nick D’Alessio
We had a few more days before it was time to head back east, so we decided to take that time to visit the rest of our west coast sponsors. First stop was A’PEXi USA. We were impressed to see the facility and finally meet the people on the other side of the phone.
And a nice piece of history tucked away.
Last stop was to see Alex at Battle Version.
It was nice to see where all the R&D for their suspension links takes place. Their shop is super laid back, but don’t get it twisted, work gets done!
I am looking forward to testing out a few of their new products they have in store for the S-Chassis for 2012 which were being produced while we were there. Stay tuned!
Brian Casse of Jerseystreets.tv cut this video of all the happenings between Philly and Long Beach really capturing the the vibe of the entire trip including visiting our 2012 supporters. We hope you enjoy it. Mark Lenardon contributed footage to this giving an additional angle and artistic point of view.
The car will go back to Croll’s Customs so Josh can work his magic as soon as it is back east to get a refresh for Round 2. Without a doubt, it will look as good as it did when we rolled it off the rig in Long Beach.
Liquid Powder Coats will also see a few of the wheels as well as some other miscellaneous parts to get a strong and appealing finish!
“Special thanks to Matt Petty of Club Loose for being a part of the team and not only giving me the feedback I needed to get me as far as I did in my first Formula D event, but also for getting me into the sport and providing me a place to lay the ground work for me to be the driver I am today.” – Nick D’Alessio
We hope to see everyone at Round 2, Road to the Championship, at Road Atlanta on May 11th and 12th
You can buy tickets here