This passed weekend Kevin Lawrence took home the win at Formula Drift Orlando in the Pro 2 series. It was even more exciting knowing that Kevin was able to secure the win at his home track and in front of so many friends. Kevin runs through his experience in the latest edition of the KONIG GUEST BLOG!
FORMULA DRIFT ORLANDO – PRO 2 Round 1
Photos by: Corey Denomy / Video by: Corey Denomy / Enjuku Racing
After a brief season opener drivers meeting it was time for the first Pro2 practice of the season. I took a few chase runs in this practice to see how the car would hold up against the field and after a few runs knew that the crazy hot track temps were hindering my grip levels, so we made a few changes to the car before going out to second practice.
Second practice I used to get more lead runs and dial in my line for qualifying. The changes made to the car helped gain some grip into the car and I felt good going into qualifying.
First run I took a mild approach to the wall as to not over do it and make sure I put down a score. Judges ruled that first pass to be an 80 so I was going to push a bit harder on the second pass. Second pass started off better on the bank but after the transition in the infield my transmission started showing its evil side of falling out of 4th gear, which was an issue last season for me that we thought we had figured out. Either way the gear popping out tossed me off line and I ended up plowing through the second front clip thus not bettering my first score of an 80. But after all the cars had made their passes my 80 point first run was high enough to earn me the 4th place qualifier in the season opener on the first day at the track.
Top 16 practice I went out with the intention to get as many follow runs as I could to again judge the cars grip level compared to the rest of the field.
First run out the car falls out of 4th gear upon initiation but luckily not sending me off into the wall. Thinking this had to just be a fluke and there is no way the car could do this again I went out to take a second pass. This time nervous of the car having the issue again I attempted to run a lower line on the bank just in case, Sure enough again just after initiation the car was banging off the limiter in neutral. Frustrated at this the team and I decided to try and swap the rear end gear in the car to make an attempt to find an ideal wheel speed for the car to run in 3rd gear the entire lap.
There was only enough time left in the practice session to get 2 more passes before our opening ceremony and after those 2 runs I could tell the gear change wasn’t 100% ideal for what we needed and seemed to slow my car down even more unfortunately. But being nervous to make another change and then jumping into my first battle I decided to leave it as is and run it for competition.
My first battle was up against former Pro1 driver Danny George. After Danny had a pretty hard hit in practice, him and his team were able to scramble together and get his car out to the line just moments before it was time for our battle. Me being the higher qualifying driver was up to lead first, I left the gate with my best attempt to get the car up to as much speed as possible before initiating on the bank and making an effort to run a solid 100+ point lead run. During my lead run Danny had some issues mid bank and had some big corrections from what I assume to be issues with the car from his recent wreck in practice.
Switching positions it was my turn to chase. I tried to get a early advance through the start lights and as I started rolling, I hesitated to continue right as Danny started through the chicane and blew past me on the run up. I did my best to catch back up to him on the run up before initiating but he had built up way more speed than me from my hesitation. Danny ran a pretty low line on the bank thus creating a big gap on me through out the run. But after the Judges review they deemed his mistakes behind my lead run were more of a deduction than my low proximity to Danny which gave me the win and advancement into the great 8 up against Dirk Stratton.
Again with the higher qualifying score I was up to lead Dirk Stratton first. His car is insanely fast in drift and he had been running an amazing line all weekend on track. As the start lights dropped I left the start to try and get to the bank with as much speed as possible. As I left the gate I had a flash back to last year of my wreck in the great 8 on my lead run taking myself out of competition and as I got to the initiation point of the track I hesitated a second to initiate and almost had a late initiation onto the bank. I ran the same high line I did in front of Danny on the bank with big angle and tight proximity through the front clips and completed the run. Dirk had taken a bit of a shallower line that I to keep proximity with me but ultimately he came off the banks wall earlier than I had and choked him self up some behind me trying to take a early dive at the first front clip. This looked to have caused him to have to check back for a second to clear hitting the first front clip giving me a bit of a gap on him through the transition that he later made ground on before the end of the final turn.
Me now in the follow position again knowing the speed Dirks car has I gave it my all to get a early start out of the gate to initiate as close to him as I could with the hopes of keeping a tight proximity through out our run. 3/4 through the bank I could see Dirk pulling distance on me so I did what I could to try and take angle out of the car and had a slower transition through the center of the track to try and keep some speed in my car to keep up with the corvette. In the end Dirk had put a big gap on me before the finish line leaving the judges to have to judge our runs solely off our leads. After a few moments of the judges going over the replays they awarded me the win, after personally reviewing the runs I assume it was my slightly higher line on the bank and keeping my car in the apron on the final turn with out lifting rear tires on the bank behind it giving me the win in this set of battles advancing me into the final 4.
Final 4 and 2x OMT
I was up against Brandon Schmidt and again was up to lead first. My lead run started nearly as a mirror reflection from my previous lead runs in the 16 and 8 with a high line up on the wall. As I started to make my way down to the front clip I see Brandon make a big leap forward on me which triggered my natural reactions to steer away a bit from him to avoid a collision which altered my line coming off the bank and me taking a very wide pass through the first front clip. I quickly did my best to get myself back on proper line after the transition to then finish out the run on the wide line through the finish line while Brandon was making some noticeable corrections to his car through out the run.
On my follow with Brandon, I make the mistake and not take the early start out of the gate and have to play catch up on the run up to try and initiate with him. I threw too much angle on my initiation, causing him to start pulling out a gap on me and he was taking a much lower faster line than me on the bank which was just aiding to his proximity gap. I again did my best to pull angle out of the car through the first front clip and through the transition to pickup some ground which started to work but I ended up over doing it and taking a wide line entering the second rear zone where Brandon was able to pull some ground on me again. The judges being not too happy with either of our follow or lead runs called for us to battle again in a one more time.
OMT 1 ￼ Our OMT battle was very similar to our first however this time Brandon gave me a bit more room on the bank as he knew his car was going to be faster than mine. He had a correction or two in his follow run but was able to finish out behind me with great proximity. Following Brandon this time I know I have to pull out all the maneuvers I can to enter close to him and keep up! I get a pretty close initiation to him but hesitate slightly to get on throttle fast enough. I then work the car to a bit of a lower line than him to gain some ground before dropping off the bank for the first front clip. I again make the dive up to him after the transition but I'm about 3' too shallow and take out the second front clip with the front of my car before finishing out the run behind him. After some time I believe the judges again based their calls off of our lead runs and called for us to battle yet again! OMT 2 Again I take the high line up on the top of the bank however this time Brandon taking a much lower faster line to keep up. He made a few corrections on the bank to try and bring his car up to the higher line with me but was unable to do so and had to dive down off the bank very early to keep his speed up through the front clip. After the transition I take the wide line to the end while Brandon takes the shallower line to keep proximity. On my follow I had yet another hesitation on my initiation behind Brandon on the bank who gains some good ground on me. However through the duration of the bank Brandon seems to have a lot of trouble keeping his car up on a high line and right at the end of the bank has a big correction and straightening going into the first front clip. More ground is gained on me at this time and I’m doing everything I can to catch up to him but with his wavering shallower line he pulls a large gap. After this run the Judges ruled his lower line behind my lead run and his big correction in his lead run would give me the advancement into the finals.
At this point I’m literally shaking since I’m so stoked to have made it in the finals. A quick tire change and I’m back out at the line, my final battle is against Travis Reeder. The start light drops and off I go, initiate high on the bank with a tight line on the first inner front clip. I had a bit of a correction after the transition but it put me right on the ideal outer line to finish the track with Travis right behind me lunging at my door at any chance he could get.
Switching positions, I know I’m on my last set of tires and have to get the a decision from the judges on this battle as I wouldn’t have a spare set to run a OMT call. I take an extremely early start on the run up and as I’m looking for Travis to blow my me by the second initiation cone I have to make a quick lift off the throttle for him to catch up and pass me so I can enter before the last marker and right with him. This time the timing is nearly perfect and I enter right with him and am actually able to carry enough speed to keep up with him through out the whole bank. I did my absolute best to keep up with him and sacrificed a lot of angle to do so. Upon entering the final rear zone Travis seemed to have lifted tires on the bank a bit early and again towards the end of the run. I believe that was all the judges needed to make their call.
They call us to the main grand stands to announce the winner. A few seconds later Jarod comes over the mic and announces in front of the crowd that I had taken the win the opening round of Formula Drift Pro2!!
This is the first time for me to take the win at a Formula D Pro2 round and I truly cant thank my Team, Sponsors, Family, and Friends enough for all of their help and motivation along the way. For my first win to be at home was an amazing thing to accomplish and I’m so honored to share that moment at my home track with all of my close family, friends and supporters. Atlanta is in 2 weeks and you can bet that I will be out there ripping the S14.3 just as hard as I was here at home!
Thanks again everyone I’ll see you in Atlanta!