The 19th season of the Formula Drift Championship surprisingly ended similar to the way it began… with Matt Field’s Corvette stuffed into a wall and a Toyota/Papadakis Racing Driver on top of the box. It started back in April when Toyota debuted the all-new Toyota Corolla GR at Round 1: Formula Drift Long Beach. That’s when Ryan Tuerck drove the GR Corolla all the way to the finals, and Aasbo crashed Matt Field into a wall, putting Field into the finals but unable to compete, forcing Tuerck to win. It was, however, the other Papadakis driver that won in Irwindale, Fredric Aasbo. Tuerck took second, and for the first time in his FD Pro career, Jeff Jones got on the podium for third.
As all of them seem to be, it was a crazy event. This one was plagued by rain, rain, and more rain. The top 32 started out cloudy, got dreary, and ended in a downpour. Luckily, there were a couple of dry hours for the opening ceremonies, fireworks, and driver intros. Unfortunately, the dry did not last, as more rain came, making the track incredibly slick. For much of the season, Matt Field, the Falken Tires C6 Corvette driver, was leading the championship. All the way to the Top 16 driver intros, he was ahead of Aasbo by a mere 11 points. Field came up to battle Adam LZ, but the track had recently received a misting from the sky, which made the banked entry corner quite slick. Field and LZ both took sight laps to get a footing on the level of grip. This resulted in both of them having over-rotations in testing it out and then being re-racked at the start line with Field to lead. He did his run-up and initiated, LZ close-by in the chase; they held the angle but with much less speed due to the wetness of the track. Field’s Falken Tires found an area lacking in grip. He spun and stepped on the gas to get out of the way for LZ but ended up slamming his front right corner hard into the wall. He was unable to make the necessary repairs in the 5 minutes allotted, forcing him to concede the battle, giving LZ the win.
Because Fredric Aasbo advanced on to the great 8, he was awarded enough points to win the 2022 Championship. This was his third championship and second in a row after winning in 2021. This means that Stephan Papadakis has a total amount of five wins as a team owner. Papadakis racing has led two drivers, Tanner Foust and Fredric Aasbo, to five championship-winning seasons. As well as Aasbo’s five seasons of being runner-up. Stephan Papadakis is both an accomplished engineer and a drifting strategist. Through the many battles each season, Papadakis is the man speaking to Aasbo through the comm system, always giving him feedback and guidance. Fredric Aasbo has now won two championships in his high-strung 1,200-horsepower Toyota GR Supra, wearing the chrome-gold Rockstar Energy Drink livery. He also has now joined a small club of incredibly talented drivers to have won at least three championships, a group that previously included only Chris Forsberg and James Deane.
Across the 2022 season, the rain was a predominant factor. There were several moments at the eight rounds in which rain slowed down the drivers significantly by limiting their grip, causing slow and slippery battles. The best example of this, perhaps, was the iconic battle between Dylan Hughes and Travis Reeder in absolutely pouring rain. This was a few minutes after a tornado warning had passed through Orlando. Once again, at Round 8 in Irwindale, California, the rain wreaked havoc, slowing the event down with sight laps and less grip, and at one point, evacuating the grandstands due to lightning in the area. The in-person viewership experience at the final round of the season ended up being a confusing one because as fans had to evacuate the stands, the competition continued due to a track curfew.
Toyota had a dominant season in the Manufacturer’s cup, with four rounds won and eight podiums by three drivers over the season. In what could be considered ideal marketing results, both of the newly debuted GR models secured victories. The GR Corolla, driven by Ryan Tuerck, won in Long Beach, and the GR 86, driven by Ken Gushi, won in Utah. To cap this off, Fredric Aasbo won two rounds and his second in-a-row championship in his GR Supra. Toyota Finished the Auto Cup for this 2022 season with 1,326 points, a few hundred more than second-place Chevrolet, who notably doesn’t even sponsor any drivers or the series itself. Nitto, who is the tire supplier for Aasbo and Tuerck, as well as Chelsea Denofa and LZ, took home the Tire Cup with 1,333 points, about 100 over second-place GT Radial.
Overall, the 2022 Formula Drift season was one for the history books, with the first seven events having a different winner each time. This is the result of some younger and less-funded drivers getting their first-ever podiums and event wins, including Dylan Hughes, Travis Reeder, and Kazuya Taguchi. Rome Charpentier and Jeff Jones also had much-deserved podiums, showing off their hard work and driving abilities, getting long-awaited results for their small but well-built programs. It was an exciting season for fans of various drivers, filled with progression and craziness. This was refreshing compared to the last few years, which were dominated by just a few top-tier drivers and teams.
It leaves teams, fans, and sponsors alike looking forward to next year’s 20th anniversary season of Formula Drift.