Fredric Aasbø’s new 2019 Toyota Auris* drift car excited America’s motorsport community with a smoke-swelling win in the opening round of the 2018 Formula Drift championship in Long Beach, California. Only one week after its debut reveal at the New York International Auto Show.
The forthcoming 2019 Toyota Auris received an overwhelmingly positive response, its TNGA-based architecture and new hybrid powertrain options promise a high-powered driving experience. The Aasbø’s prototype Auris is a very different animal compared to the series production model soon to commence.
Built in seclusion over a brief, three-month period by Papadakis Racing, the project included designing and manufacturing a wide-body conversion, including exchanging the original front-wheel drive powertrain for a turbocharged and nitrous-injected 2.7-litre engine. Its 1,000bhp output transmits to the rear wheels via its four-speed manual transmission.
“We got this car three months ago and it was a brand new prototype that we couldn’t talk about,” revealed Aasbø. “It’s taken everything we have and then some, but we’re really relieved. Honestly, I had no expectations of ending up on the podium”.
“Winning the event is a testament to the team but more so to the car,” he continued. “It’s crazy saying that because the [Auris] didn’t start off as a natural drift car, but it has that aggressive stance. It lends itself to [drifting] and I couldn’t be happier with the car choice.”
Regulations surrounding Formula Drift are flexible in that they allow for almost any engine and chassis combination to be used – providing the end result is rear-wheel drive. The fact that the Aasbø’s Auris engine also comes from Toyota ( based on the 2.5-litre 2AR-FE unit installed in the US market RAV4) enables the team to compete in the manufacturers’ championship.
Posing as one of the world’s fastest-growing motorsport series, Formula Drift is the foremost professional drift championship in North America. In its fifteenth season, the 2018 series consists of eight rounds and one invitational event – this year all to be held within the USA.
There are up to 32 drivers within the top-level Pro class in which Toyota ambassador Fredric Aasbø competes. Drivers are categorised in terms of their individual vehicle manufacturer and tyre sponsor and additionally supported by numerous lifestyle partners.
A Formula Drift race weekend consists of entertaining practice sessions and qualifying on the first day, with further practice and the main competition rounds on the second day. The drivers have two chances to qualify for participation in the Top 32 tandem drift elimination round before the halftime break. The most successful drivers go on to compete in the Top 16 tandem drift elimination, the main event of the weekend.
Each tandem battle consists of two runs – one conducted as the leader, the other as the chaser. The lead driver sets the pace attempting to score as many points as possible whilst attempting to lose the chase car. The chase driver is then expected to stay as close as possible to the lead car, mirroring its speed, angle and line, while attempting to intimidate the lead driver into making a mistake.
Formula Drift - Judging
Drifting is primarily judged in terms of execution rather than speed. Points are awarded in three categories: Line, Angle and Style.
Line: The judges outline their criteria for the ideal drift line for each event. Usually pushing drivers to the extreme edges of the track, from precise clipping points on inner apexes to broader clipping zones on the track’s outer corners. Occasionally these clipping points are solid concrete walls, some competitors leave their mark without coming off too worse for wear.
Angle: When driving through the defined drift line, judges look for slip angles that are as perpendicular as possible to the direction of movement. Straightening up during the middle of a drift incurs a deduction in point penalties.
Style: Throughout, drifting should be carried out with style. Initiations (the moment the car is pushed into oversteer) should start as early as possible and the drift held for as long as possible. Mid-drift steering adjustments should be kept to a minimum, and competitors should swing confidence and with fluidity through each left-right/right-left transition.