When last we left The Drift League's 2019 pro-am championship, an extremely wet Round 1 was in the books and Tony Cisneros in his S14 240SX earned a hard-fought victory (fighting Mother Nature mostly, to be honest) to start off the season on the right foot. That was three months ago, though, which to us feels like a long time between events; even Formula DRIFT does it with its Pro 2 championship, and it begs the question: what do these long stretches in between rounds of competition do to focus and momentum?
We ask because two drivers who were on that Round 1 podium did not return for Round 2 - granted both are Pro 2 licensed, and indeed last season's TDL champ, Rome Charpentier - who incidentally won Round 1 - actually competed in both Rounds 1 and 2 of Pro 2. Some "new" blood took their place at Irwindale Speedway, one of those not really new because he's been on the competition side of drifting in some way, shape, or form on and off over the last 15-plus years; OG driver and one-time Formula D judge Ernie Fixmer arrived with an equally bolt-out-of-the-blue (or green, in this case) car, an R34 Skyline sedan. Ernie got into the swing of things quickly on the modified "Road Atlanta" course, adapted to the House of Drift's banks and paved infield; he qualified 12th and faced upstart Keoni Rodrigues and his S13 in the Top 16, Keoni able to lay down far more aggressive laps. Still, it was really awesome to see Fixmer out there again.
Other newcomers included Bear Rzesnowiecky and his highlighter yellow E46, who also exited Top 16, this time at the hands of Shawn Hartum and his FD3S RX-7. Reza Mousavi brought out a wild looking widebody S13, and Carlos Cano Estrella introduced a A80 Supra to the field, which he then slid sideways into the wall leading in his Top 16 run against Cisneros; the car didn't look too banged up but it sounded like a pretty good thud - luckily driver was ok, but unluckily that ended his day.
Meliton Villamor, whose 2JZ S14 we featured here, had probably the best comp of his pro-am career. Qualifying mid-pack in 7th, he battled Aaron Velazquez's 240SX in Top 16 and won, only to face Micah Diaz in his Hold Fast E46; just a few weeks prior Diaz won the Top Drift opener and had moved into Great 8 by defeating Margaritis Katsanidis in the Essa Autosport E46. It was a tit-for-tat fight but Meliton came out on top, getting Cisneros in the Final 4, which ended in a loss; this put Villamor in a tandem with the always-on-the-hunt Pablo Cabrera and his S13 for third place, and while the two fought mightily, taking the match to the night's only One More Time tiebreaker, in the end Meliton had to settle for fourth place.
Jon Shaffer and his S14 qualified P1 and looked destined for a perfect event. He dispatched Don Boline's 350Z in Top 16; RJ Contreras's Big Duck Club E36 in Great 8; and Cabrera's V-8 240 in the Final 4 looking fairly poised and efficient, seeming extremely confident with his car and the track. But then he lined up against Cisneros to close out the night, and at that point all bets were off. When it came down to a judgment, it was likely a proximity call, with Cisneros having the better chase, but our vantage was not all that great, and if it did come down to proximity judges were likely splitting hairs. Tony nabbed his second straight win, Shaffer and Cabrera their first Drift League hardware of 2019.
What was a 19-point lead over second place in the table is now a 54-marker advantage with 2 rounds to go out of the 4-round calendar; Cisneros is trailed by Shaffer and then Diaz. Round 3 happens August 3rd at Irwindale Speedway, and we're planning to be there to cover it; for now, check out the sweet action in our gallery from Round 2.