The Formula Drift season finale – traditionally held at “The House of Drift,” which is more widely known as Irwindale Speedway – is preceded by a plethora of fascinating storylines year in and year out. That’s hardly a surprise, considering how it tends to be the championship-deciding round, and how a win on this tarmac dance floor perched among the gravel pits can serve as a delicious dessert to a less-than-palatable campaign, and give the victor some needed momentum to carry through the long off-season. But this trend really manifested itself in the 2013 edition of the Irwindale round, held this past weekend.
For starters, Formula Drift would be crowning its first car manufacturer and tire manufacturer champions in this, the series’ 10th season. However, most eyes were fixed squarely upon points leader and SoCal local boy Michael Essa, and with good reason: Wheeling a self-built, largely-self-funded (through his shop, GSR Autosport) 2005 BMW M3 E46, Essa is a goldfish swimming in a school of great whites (i.e. former champions and other superstars in factory-backed, heavily-sponsored machinery). Calling him an underdog would be about as accurate a descriptor as any. But you wouldn’t know it by the results he’s posted this season, having come out on top at Palm Beach and Texas.