The 2021 Formula Drift Pro Championship season opened this past weekend at Road Atlanta, where it all began back in 2004, with 33 drivers including 5 rookies entered. When the tire smoke cleared, Aurimas “Odi” Bakchis of Lithuania emerged as the winner in his rejuvenated Falken Tires/Feal Suspension Nissan S15.
The track provides a special challenge for the competitors thanks to its high-speed approach, flowing turns and 6-story elevation change, Formula Drift noted in its post-event news release.
With competition starting in daylight but ending after dark, all cars were equipped with under-vehicle LED lighting.
Bakchis’ car was bruised early on when, in his first round of competition, rookie Jonathan Hurst’s Nissan G37 suddenly lost power and was struck by Bakchis’ Nissan S15. Bakchis was cleared of any blame in the collision and advanced to the Top 16 round, where he defeated Travis Reeder, whose BMW M3 dropped two tires off the track and suffered suspension damage and was unable to be repaired within the allotted time.
In the Top 8 round, Bakchis was challenged by 2020 rookie of the year Adam LZ, also i a Nissan S15. Excess speed sent LZ’s car into Bakchis’s and sent both cars into the pits for repairs. Bakchis advanced to the Final 4 after LZ’s car was not repaired within the time limit.
Bakchis beat Jeff Jones and his Nissan 370Z and then went into the finals against his own teammate, Matt Field, driving a Chevrolet Corvette. Again, there was a collision, but this time Bakchis was found to be at fault, with Field given additional time for repairs.
Back on the track, Field suffered understeer in a turn, the run was ruled incomplete and the pair started over. When Field needed to make a small correction on the downhill Touch & Go stretch, Bakchis was assured the victory.
“I’m stoked to win but it was a tough one,” said Bakchis. “We got bumped a lot and had to go through some really tough drivers to get here, but we did it thanks to hard work from the team to get me back out after each tussle.
“Getting to battle Matt in the Final has been a long-time coming,” he added. “We train together, share a lot of data and info, practice together; so it was surreal that both of us made it to the Final. We battled really hard, but I went a little too hard on the first run and bumped him hard.
“After that, I got super-lucky when they called One More Time. I was then able to lay down a couple of killer runs after my team had to put the car back together yet again!”
Field finished second with Vaughn Gittin Jr. third in a Ford Mustang RTR Spec 5-D.
The Formula Drift season continues May 21-22 at Orlando Speed World in Florida.