If ever there was any doubt about the seriousness of the Worthouse Drift Team entering the 2017 Formula D season, it has been convincingly erased by not only Irish sensation James Deane but also by his Polish teammate Piotr Wiecek. While Deane was deservedly always in the spotlight this year, earning an amazing four event victories among an equally staggering six podium finishes, Wiecek was always on the hunt, biding his time for the right opportunity. That opportunity presented itself at Round 8 of the championship, the season finale, where he took down two past champs on his way to the win.
Much earlier in the day during Top 32, Deane needed just to take a single car bye-run lap in order to secure the 2017 Formula D drivers title – that’s how huge his points advantage was in the standings coming into Irwindale (the bye run was for qualifying high at P3). In fact, Deane went unopposed until the Great 8 round because neither of his would-be Top 16 competition got out of Top 32 (Dean Kearney in the Oracle Lighting Viper blew up an engine and Ken Gushi’s Greddy Performance 86 had season-ending suspensions damage). In his only battle of the event, the Falken S14 of Odi Bakchis went a bit too aggressive as the pair slid into the short oval’s inner bank, creating with Deane’s 2JZ-powered S15 and knocking the Worthouse car into the wall. Bakchis was deemed at fault, but Deane’s team couldn’t fix the car in the allotted time to advance so he had to be happy with third place for qualifying higher than the Final 4’s other also-ran, Vaughn Gittin, Jr., in the Monster Energy Drink Mustang RTR.
Wiecek started tandem eliminations with a Top 32 bye as well, but then had to face Kristaps Bluss in the carbon-Kevlar clad HGK Motorsports E92 in Top 16, no easy task, and it got harder from there. In Great 8 he dispatched 2015 champion Fredrick Aasbo in the Rockstar Energy Drink Corolla iM, and then was supposed to go up against Deane in the Final 4, but because Deane’s weekend was done Wiecek stepped right into a finals battle with 2011 champ Dai Yoshihara and his Turn 14 BRZ. Wiecek would not be stopped, and while Dai put up a valiant fight, the night belonged to Worthouse Drift.
Falken Tire swept the podium and won the Tire Manufacturer championship for a second straight year. Toyota won its fourth consecutive Manufacturer championship. But really 2017 was about one driver, James Deane, and one team, Worthouse Drift. Look for expanded coverage from Round 8 of the 2017 Formula Drift Championship on pbskids Online this week.