The 2013 Formula Drift finale took place this weekend at Irwindale Speedway, referred to as the "house of drift" by most FD fans. Irwindale is known as one of the most exciting tracks on the Formula Drift season schedule and this year was no different. The competitors were pushing their vehicles hard, even in practice where 2 drivers flipped their vehicles, something never seen before in the sport's decade long history.
ORACLE Lighting Driver Dean "Karnage" Kearney had a solid practice session, confidently sliding the ORACLE Lighting Dodge Viper around the sweeping turns of the Irwindale track. Out of a field of 60 hungry drivers Dean qualified 4th with a score of 92.3 placing him ahead of Chris Forsberg, Fredric Asabo, and Diago Saito all top drivers chasing Michael Essa in points. Out of the top 10 qualifiers the Dodge Viper *posted the one of the fastest entry speeds at 71.3 mph (T) surpassed only by Achilles Radial team mate Robbie Nishida (75 mph).
In the first round of competition ORACLE Lighting driver Dean Kearney matched up with Diamond Lighting driver Pat Mordount in the Lexus SC430. The announcers did not miss the fact that the matchup pitted the only two lighting sponsored competition vehicles against each other and anticipated an exciting battle.
The Lexus' Twin-Turbo V8 did not stack up well against the Viper's Supercharged V10 and from the lead position the Viper screamed ahead at times 8-10 car lengths. Pushing the car this way did cause an issue though, this track is known for destroying tires and the performance of the Viper was making it difficult to use the same tires for two consecutive runs. The team was forced to take a competition timeout* in order to make a tire change. Each driver is given just one competition timeout and using the timeout this early in competition could be disastrous later in the competition. After the 5 minute timeout the vehicles lined up, this time the Viper would give chase. From the chase position the Viper stayed tight to the Lexus despite the huge smoke screen and the judges unanimously selected Dean and the ORACLE Lighting Viper to move on to the top 16 and next round of competition.
The opening ceremony began with the singing of the national anthem and the introduction of the Top 16 drivers. When the Dean "Karnage" Kearney was introduced standing next to the ORACLE Lighting Dodge Viper the crowd excitedly cheered.
The Viper was sporting a fresh set of headlights built by ORACLE Lighting of Houston just before Irwindale and they "outshined" the competition as the lighting helped the Viper clearly stand out from the field of cars in front of the huge Irwindale crowd. The ceremony closed with a fireworks display to celebrate the 10th year anniversary of Formula Drift.
In Top 16 competition Dean was going to face 10 year Formula Drift Veteran and Drifting Legend Ken Gushi in his Turbo Scion FR-S. From the chase position Dean was able to keep up with the Boxer powered Turbo FR-S but had to be conscious to not destroy the tires or push the car too hard because he no longer had a timeout to make any changes or repairs to the car if there were an issue. From the lead position Dean was able to create separation and although it was not a textbook run Dean and the ORACLE Lighting Viper defeated the veteran and moved on to the next round of battle.
In the next round of competition "The Great 8" the bracket revealed that Dean was going to face his Achilles Radial team mate and colleague Robbie*"Bushido Blade"*Nishida for a spot in the Finals. Robbie is a self proclaimed fan of Dean Kearney but is also a fierce competitor with an 800+hp Lexus SC300. The battle was close but when the Lexus was in the lead car position Robbie was able to pull away from the Viper after a missed 4th gear shift. Dean was not going to sit back and play it safe- he pushed the Viper so hard that (to the delight if the fans) the Achilles Radial rear tires actually exploded and burst into flames just as the Viper crossed the finish line. In a split judges decision (one of the judges wanted the pair to race again) Robbie Nishida was selected to advance and move on to the finals leaving Dean with a 6th place finish.
After the race Dean stated “...it was a successful weekend after the hardest year I've ever had drifting. My team and crew are fantastic and really pulled it out of the bag to give me a car that is capable of running at the front of the field this weekend. Sad feeling knowing the season is over but looking forward to having time to do the development we want. Thank you to all the fans, family, friends, crew and sponsors involved you guys have all kept me going.”
*6.7 COMPETITION TIME OUT-
To maintain safety in the competition, during tandem competition runs only, teams may call for a Competition Timeout to make any necessary repairs. Competition Timeout’s are not allowed for Practice or Qualifying. Competition Timeout’s are not to be used for strategic purposes. Only the designated team representative will be allowed to request the Competition Timeout, and it must be made through a FORMULA DRIFT OFFICIAL. Only the COMPETITION MANAGER may grant a Competition Timeout. Team will not be granted a Competition Timeout if it is believed to be unwarranted. Competition Timeout’s are allowed for a maximum of five (5) minutes and are to be administered by the COMPETITION MANAGER. Competitors who fail to make the necessary repairs the allotted time limits will be disqualified from the competition and forfeit to the opposing driver. Teams may only use one (1) Competition Timeout throughout the competition. Additional and concurrent Competition Timeout requests are not allowed unless cited in other sections of these rules. Competition Timeout repairs must be completed either trackside or in the pre-grid