Fredric Aasbo fifth in Long Beach with new car

LONG BEACH, California (April 1, 2017) — The Rockstar Energy Drink / Nexen Tire Toyota Corolla iM showed winning potential in its Formula Drift debut this weekend in Long Beach. Driver Fredric Aasbo scored a solid fifth-place finish in his first outing with the brand new car.

“We qualified well and I felt like the Rockstar Energy Drink / Nexen Tire Toyota Corolla iM was a match for anything out there,” said driver Aasbo. “The Papadakis Racing team has built another winner and I can’t wait to get back behind the wheel at the end of the month in Orlando.”

Toyota unveiled the vehicle less than a week ago at the NASCAR race at Auto Club Speedway in nearby Fontana, California. The Rockstar Energy Drink / Nexen Tire Toyota Corolla iM is a rear-wheel-drive converted hatchback that produces 1,000 horsepower from its Toyota 2AR-FE engine.

The Formula Drift opener in Long Beach saw plenty of upsets, with several surprise eliminations in early rounds. But Aasbo showed himself to be a contender.

“We’ve got a package with winning potential right out of the gate,” said team owner Stephan Papadakis. “We would have loved to take a podium right away in the new car, but we know what we have to do and it’s all about making refinements at this point. We’re going to come back swinging at the next round with a car that we know is capable of taking this championship.”

Aasbo qualified fourth and earned a bye into the Top 16, where he advanced past Latvian Kristaps Bluss. In the quarterfinal round, he met Alex Heilbrunn. Judges deemed their exciting head-to-head battle too close to call and initiated a One-More-Time rematch.

As the higher qualifier, Aasbo led first in the rematch and he put in a confident performance to take the early advantage. The duo swapped places for the second half of the battle, with Aasbo giving chase. As he was reeling in his rival, the clutch slipped and he briefly straightened out. He recovered quickly to resume the fight but the stumble was enough to cost him the match and it was Heilbrunn who advanced to the next round.

Team owner Papadakis said the team has a clutch upgrade on standby and plans to move to a four-disc setup for the next round. “The three-disc clutch has some performance advantages when it comes to drivability but it just wasn’t up to the power we threw at it this weekend,” said Papadakis. “Our new clutch will be able to handle the 1,000 horsepower we’re making out of this 2AR-FE engine.”

The Formula Drift season traditionally opens in Long Beach at a venue that offers one of the most challenging stops on the calendar. Drivers threaded the needle between intimidating track walls, sliding sideways at 90-plus miles per hour through Turns 9, 10 and 11 of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach street course. The event is an annual sell out that sees enthusiastic fans pack into the venue, overflowing grandstands and crowding into the vendor display and pit areas during scheduled breaks in the action.

Drifting is a high-skill, high-powered motorsport with an emphasis on car control. Drivers compete in knockout heats on a closed course, sliding sideways in trials judged on speed and style. With origins in Japan, it is one of the fastest growing forms of motorsport in the world.