Irish drifter first three-time Pro Champion of Formula Drift

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James Dean 2019 Formula Drift Champion
James Dean 2019 Formula Drift Champion | Daniel Nikkhoo photos

With a 19-point lead heading into the 2019 AutoZone Title Fight presented by Rain-X at Irwindale Speedway, Irish drifter James Deane had to avoid early elimination that would risk his grasp on the championship.

Denofa finished top qualifier for Round 8

Fredric Aasbo, Odi Bakchis, and Deane’s Worthouse teammate Piotr Wiecek were all in position to take the championship depending on how the final round unfolded, and the high-speed banking of Irwindale Speedway made sure it was a tough battle.

Several drivers, including João Barion and Jeff Jones, found themselves making contact with the safety walls.  Barion lost an entire wheel, rotor and brake assembly after contact on the first bank, but was able to make repairs to make it back for his qualifying runs.

Papadakis Racing team pits

Aasbo’s team had mechanical issues that were the result of a $0.10 part causing a misfire.  The Papadakis team made the executive decision to retire its Corolla after his first qualifying run to avoid risk of engine failure, and it turned out to be the right decision.

Chelsea Denofa topped the qualifying bracket with 95- and 93-point efforts in his BC Racing/Nitto Tire Ford Mustang RTR Spec 5-D, with Ken Gushi and Tyan Tuerck following behind.

Heading into the Top 32 heats, Deane battled Kevin Lawrence for a win to head into the Top 16 to face Forrest Wang.

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Forrest Wang and James Deane battle at Formula Drift Irwindale
Forrest Wang and James Deane battle at Formula Drift Irwindale

The deciding battle in Deane’s championship was a nail biter.  After the first battle, the judges sent the two into a “one more time” which resulted in yet again another “one more time.”

After three battles, Deane emerged, solidifying his third championship.

Three time champion James Deane
Three time champion James Deane

Ken Gushi pushed to the top and podium to win the Irwindale event in his GPP Toyota Racing / Achilles Tire Toyota 86. Deane finished second and Michael Essa finished third.

Ken Gushi podium finishes first for Round 8

Overall for the 2019 Championship, Deane finished first in his Worthouse/Falken Tire Nissan Silvia S15, with Aasbo second and Bakchis third.

Final 2019 PRO Championship driver standings
Formula drift final standings

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An experienced automotive motorsports photographer and enthusiast of all things with wheels, Rebecca Nguyen is the Marketing Manager of ClassicCars.com. Former Marketing and Project Coordinator for several aftermarket brands, Rebecca has a unique perspective developed from being on several different sides of the automotive world. From developing innovative automotive products to doing her own DIY modifications on her 2003 Subaru WRX and 2014 Ducati Monster, Rebecca’s passion for the hobby brings fresh ideas to The Journal. In addition, she has spent many years publishing event coverage for events like SEMA, Formula Drift, and Global RallyCross while coordinating the annual Future Collector Car Show in Scottsdale Arizona.

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