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Kelsey Rowlings talks FD Orlando

Kelsey Rowlings took a few minutes to run through her experience at Formula Drift Orlando. It’s not everyday that you can climb in the mind of a professional driver and really know what they were thinking and feeling. Kelsey takes over the rest of this blog to do just that! Check it out below!

Round One of Formula Drift’s Pro 2 at Orlando Speedworld was a solid start for my team and I. We had a few hiccups starting in Thursday’s practice where we had to deal with a low oil pressure issue that we thought we had fixed during testing. The issue popped up again during Thursday practice when the oil pressure would drop below 35psi ever so briefly, and trigger a “safety mode” we set on our Haltech ECU. That safety would set the rev limiter to 5k RPMS to save any damage to the engine without cutting all the power in case it were to happen at a bad part of the track. It is a great safety feature, but drifting the OSW bank when the power is limited is still extremely sketchy!

Besides the low oil pressure issue, we noticed that the amount of blow-by coming from our driver-side head was not normal. We were getting too much blow-by from one side and not the other. Worried we had an internal issue, we compression tested the engine. To our relief, the numbers were perfect, but we did notice another issue while looking over our data logs. The engine ran so cool that the oil temperature was not rising above 200 degrees. We also discovered that the breather on the passenger side head that led to our catch can had a PCV type valve in it. We drilled out the valve to allow more breathability, and we covered a portion of our oil cooler with tape to make the cooling less efficient. With these few small changes, we fixed the problem and were back in business!

Once we got the car settled, I started feeling more prepared and ready for qualifying. When we went out for our qualifying run, I realized the sun was right in my line of vision for the entry making it extremely difficult to see and judge the distance before entry. Without a tinted visor or sunglasses, I knew I had to just go for it. I committed to my entry and threw the car hard. Once I was entering I realized I was just the slightest bit late, setting me up for a really high line… too high. I tap the wall with a decent amount of force, but I correct and floor the throttle. I tap again, lighter this time and again stay in the gas. I steer my car down off the bank and past the first inner clip almost perfectly. I transition slightly cautiously through the infield, knowing I had a close call on the bank and that I needed to clean up my act towards the end. I pass the second inner clip with good proximity and push out into the final outer zone. I make my way around the apron and finish the run that would be my high score, a 73, putting me in 10th for qualifying.

My qualifying position meant I was against the number 7 qualifier from Australia, Josh Robinson, in his imported Holden Ute. I was excited to drift with a car that we don’t have in the US. During top 16 practice, my spotter informed me that Josh was having trouble during the transition through the infield, and spun almost every time due to some issues they were having with the car. Josh was also kind enough to let me know before the battle of his struggles with the car so I wouldn’t be surprised on track.

Knowing Josh’s Ute was much slower than my Coyote powered rocket ship, and knowing he was having issues, I decided I was going to give him some room for the entry so I wouldn’t get stuck behind him during initiation. Unfortunately, Once I started to take of from the line, I realized I may have been in fourth gear instead of second, the gear I normally start in. I quickly took the car out of gear and slam it back into second to be sure and take off as fast as I can behind Josh. I wanted to give him a little room… but it turned into playing a game of catch up!

I round the bank with my eyes set on the Ute. I gain on him quickly as we head down the bank towards the inner clip. In my head, I’m wondering if he is going to make the transition successfully. I navigate through the smoke and once I see his car settled the other direction, I hammer down. I bump the second inner clip as I get closer and closer, positioning myself on his door for the last few seconds of the run.

Knowing my follow run wasn’t ideal, I wanted to put down the best possible lead run. That is where I got in my head. I floored it and clutch-kicked into the bank on a really high line. I tap the wall lightly followed by a larger tap and a big correction. I stay in the gas and throw more angle to keep the front end away from the wall. I over-corrected, bringing my car down the bank a bit too early, putting two tires off course to the inside coming down the bank. I correct and make it past the first clip, transition to the second inner clip where I stay in it for a solid finish.

Unfortunately, I beat myself as soon as I tapped the wall, forcing me to over-correct and go tires off. I wanted to put down an amazing run but just went a bit too hard! Although we were knocked out in the top 16, I’m happy with my driving overall, and I look forward to Round two at Road Atlanta, where I plan to go 100%… instead of 110%… 🙂

-Kelsey Rowlings