Formula Drift implemented a new qualifying method for 2013. Before, each driver would get two nonconsecutive runs, starting with the lowest ranked driver and working up the list. Now they start with the highest ranked driver and work their way down, and after the first run the top 16 drivers are locked in and don’t get another run. The remaining drivers then take their second run and try to claim one of the remaining 16 spots. The implications of the change aren’t small, either. Many drivers formerly used the strategy of a safe first run to make sure they qualify, and an aggressive second run to get a high of spot as they can. But if they failed on aggressive run, the first run was there to fall back on. Now they drivers have to be aggressive from the start, but still careful enough to make it through the course in one piece. A mistake on the first run means the best they can hope for on the second run is 17th place.
To go along with the new qualifying format is a more objective scoring system. As with any judged sport, there’s always a struggle to maintain fairness and consistency. Hopefully the new system with provide the transparency needed to convince the drivers and teams that the judges were being honest and deliberate.
After qualifying I sat down with the judges to discuss how the new systems fared during their first real-world use.
Pitts: Now that the first qualifying session of the year is complete, how do you think the new scoring format is working?
Lanteigne: It had a couple of hurdles, mainly with how our tablets interface with the actual Livestream feed, but the overall judging and scoring went really well. We have tested this so much already that we knew exactly how it would work, and that definitely helped. The way we have the scoring grids laid out might be confusing at first, but we know what we’re doing with the grids, so it makes sense and helps out a lot.
Pitts: That was the only question in my mind about the new system… “How will they compute all those numbers during a run!?” It’s good to know that you guys are already so well acquainted with it. So when the first two runs of the session ended up having their scores amended, what was the issue?
Yen: They tabulated the speed scores wrong, but because of our backups we were able to fix it immediately. In addition to writing down the speed scores physically, they are logged by our computers, and the Livestream guys’ computers. Communication got mixed up somewhere, but we caught it within the first 3 runs so we were just like “wow” and fixed it.
Pitts: What did you guys think of how quickly JTP’s team fixed his Mustang after crashing on his first qualifying run?
Eggert: Him and Field! Field came out there and threw it in almost the exact same way he did on the first run when he crashed. So it was either “I’m going to wreck again” or “I’m going to throw down an awesome run”, and he did awesome! He could’ve taken a shallow line and played it safe, but he threw it out there a second time.
Yen: Exactly like Eggert said. Their first runs, they went balls-out and it didn’t work for them, but they didn’t take it easy at all on the second runs, they still went wall to wall and held the throttle all the way through. I’ve got nothing but respect. Those guys did great.
Pitts: Thank you all very much for your time. See you tomorrow for the main event!
Lanteigne: It was our pleasure!
I also caught up with the Falken guys to hear what they had to say.
Pitts: How did JTP’s crash go for you guys today?
Opie: It came in completely destroyed and we had to replace the entire rear end and the right front corner. Then we had to pull the frame to try and straighten it. It took every man we have just to get him back out there. When he went back out the alignment was slightly off, but other than that the car was straight. He put in a decent second run, which was enough to get us in the show, so we’re all very happy. Especially the driver!
Pitts: You guys are like a Formula 1 team! Do you practice removing and installing parts to get faster?
Opie: Yup, every time he hits a wall! Hehe.
Pitts: Good answer.
Opie: We weren’t this fast in the beginning, but this is our 3rd year with this car so it’s definitely easy now.
Here’s the complete qualifying list for tomorrow:
Photos by Bohan