PRI Team Gets in the Cockpit at the Formula DRIFT Media Day in Long Beach


By SEMA News Editors

The PRI Team was in Long Beach, California, last week for Formula DRIFT (FD) media day ahead of the Long Beach Grand Prix, and PRI's own Jack Haworth, coordinating editor, is giving PRI News readers an exclusive peek into what it was like to cover the event--and join the on-track action--on the streets of Long Beach.

The iconic street race includes action from six different race series--NTT IndyCar, IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, Formula DRIFT Super Drift Challenge, SPEED/UTV Stadium SUPER Trucks, GT America, and the Historic Indy Car Challenge--but on the day of Haworth's visit, Formula DRIFT cars were taking their first runs on track ahead of the season-opening event.

In addition to some time in the paddock and an update from Grand Prix Association of Long Beach President and CEO Jim Michaelian, Haworth had the opportunity to strap into the passenger seat of an Acura NSX pace car and FD Pro driver Jhonnattan Castro's Toyota GR86.

Read some of Haworth's first-hand observations below, including what it's like to be between the concrete walls on the streets of Long Beach:


Upon arriving at the track, we were greeted with the welcomed sound of roaring engines and screeching tires, with Formula DRIFT cars getting their first runs on the track in anticipation of their season-opening FD round this weekend--Round 1: Streets of Long Beach.  

We made our way to the FD paddock, where teams were tuning and adjusting their cars after the initial shakedown runs. Seeing the cars and teams up close in the paddock is a spectacle for any racing or car enthusiast. These cars are pushing 1000 horsepower or more, but how they get those numbers varies wildly. You’ll see different car platforms, unique engine swaps and power adders, endless modifications, and drivers from around the globe with plenty of personality. Beyond the variety of unique builds, I also noticed how the teams would help each other—freely sharing both advice and tools with their on-track competitors. The FD paddock is a great atmosphere that anyone remotely interested in motorsports would appreciate.

Following lunch, I had the opportunity to strap in an Acura NSX pace car and get a taste of what the 1.97-mile, 11-turn street course feels like--between the walls. Upon leaving pit road, the professional driver mashed the gas, and I was thrown back in the seat, quickly surprised by the sense of speed and how fast that turn one wall was coming at us. Of course, the driver smoothly navigated that turn and explained how he was attacking the track throughout the lap. Use some curb here, swing out wide there--it was a fascinating new perspective of the track I’ve watched races at since I was a kid.  


Once back in the pits, it was time for another new experience in the form of a high-adrenaline ride-along in a Formula DRIFT car. After putting on a helmet, I got in a Toyota GR86 driven by FD Pro driver, Jhonnattan Castro. After warming up the tires by sliding the car around and doing donuts, Castro lined up and waited for the starter’s cue to launch into the drifting portion of the track--the technical complex of Turns 9, 10, and 11. Once it was our turn, Castro dropped the hammer and slammed through the gears as we launched toward Turn 9--a 90-degree right-hander. Within moments, Castro pulled the handbrake to put the car into a slide and modulated the throttle to get the rear wheels spinning. As we drifted through that turn, our view out the windshield was a concrete wall. With the engine roaring and the wall approaching, Castro expertly swung the car back left at the last moment, setting us up to drift through the sweeping left-hander at Turn 10. A final pull of the e-brake swung the Toyota GR86 back to the right, as Castro navigated and accelerated out of the Turn 11 hairpin to complete the run. My eyes were burning from the tire smoke, but there was a huge smile across my face.  

For more behind-the-scenes insights from Long Beach, look out for Haworth's upcoming article in the June issue of PRI Magazine, which will take a detailed look at the overall planning, execution, and logistics involved with putting on a successful street race. It will highlight select street races including the Long Beach Grand Prix, NASCAR Chicago Street Race, and Grand Prix of St. Pete--and explore the different approaches and challenges each team must overcome at these different locations.