As Formula Drift prepares for its new round of competition at World Wide Technology Raceway just across the Mississippi River from St. Louis after a Falken Tire podium sweep at Evergreen Speedway in Monroe, we have some time to consider the motorsports history of some of the stars of the sport’s early days.
Samuel Hubinette was the first driver to win a Formula Drift championship in the United States when the series debuted in 2004 — he and his Dodge Viper won again in 2006. He had begun his driving career in rally racing winning first in several races including the Laughlin International Pro Rally Open Class but then moved on in 2003 to the D1 Grand Prix drifting exhibition event.
Ditto for Rhys Millen, the 2005 U.S. champion (driving a Pontiac GTO). Both Hubinette and Millen moved from Formula Drift to find success in the Global Rallycross series.
Meanwhile, Tanner Foust was known for his success in various rally racing series, including the X Games, and in 2007 and 2008 was the first driver to win back to back Formula Drift titles. He competed steadily in Formula Drift for five years, first in a Nissan 350Z, later in a Scion TC and ended in a limited appearance in 2015 in a Volkswagen Passat.
Formula Drift’s 2009 champion was Chris Forsberg, who ended the rally drivers’ 5-year winning streak. Sparked by drag racing, Forsberg’s interest grew into drifting at an early age after watching Initial D and Option Videos. Prior to Formula Drifts debut in 2004, Forsberg was a course designer and instructor for DG Trials, a series of events focused on bringing more awareness and drivers to the sport. Forsberg has competed in Formula Drift since it’s beginning in 2004 and continues to today with three championships under his belt.
A successful Formula Drift driver still competing in the series is Ryan Tuerck, who started in motocross. One of the highlights of his motorcycle racing career was placing seventh in Loretta Lynn’s Amateur Nationals at the age of 16. He also was fifth in the in the 125cc Canadian Nationals.
Tuerck moved on into drifting after seeing videos others drifting on the internet.
Formula Drift Pro1 driver Tyler McQuarrie is a great example of a multi-faceted driver that started racing in SCORE off-road trucks and has competed in the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge and ARCA stock cars. In addition to his drift driving, he continues to race and Audi R8 in IMSA competition.
Drivers also have gone from drift into other forms of racing. Vaughn Gittin Jr., the 2010 Formula Drift champion, recently won the Ultra4 East Coast off-road racing championship in a Ford Bronco.
Skills learned in one facet of motorsports translate into other arenas. It will be interesting as new drivers enter Formula Drift to learn their histories, and to watch what other motorsports attract the current drift drivers.