The fifth round of tandem drifting competitions for Esports Drift Association (ESDA) shook up the championship standings as drivers visited the virtual Teretonga Park in New Zealand, currently the oldest running race track on the island.
Thai driver Thunnawat Wongphoowithsin – known to fans and the production crew as “Thunny the Hunny” – was the top qualifier with an outstanding score of 95.8, outscoring points leader Alexander Element by just over half a point.
Wongphoowithsin continued their dominance the next day in bracket eliminations, winning every battle they faced in Next Level Racing Group One up to the Great 8. Vaidas Šipaila was a new face to the brackets, driving a rare sight in drifting – a 2000’s Mercedes CLK.
Kawayne Ebanks and his Nissan R34 took him out early on his path to the Final Four, but it was still a pleasant surprise to see a luxury coupe at a drifting competition. Ebanks went up against Wongphoowithsin for the final spot in podium battles, but Thunny the Hunny and his Nissan S15 took their heat check in stride and secured the first spot in the Final Four grouping.
The surprises kept rolling in as Japanese E36 Wagon driver Masashi Yoshida strolled to the line in MOZA Racing Group Two. Yoshida’s Top 32 and Top 16 battles were won with ease as Olivier Blais collided with the outer wall in the third outer zone, and Daniil Migunov shunted Yoshida’s rear quarter panel into the same zone which caused Yoshida to crash into the same wall.
The wagon had a much closer fight with Ilya Storozhev’s A80 Supra for the second Final Four spot, but Masashi’s huge angle in his lead run was the deciding factor as the Japanese driver advanced into podium eliminations.
One of the most incredible feats of dedication to the sport occurred in Big Duck Club Group Three, with Ernestas Jakubėlis driving his Nissan with a broken hand and malfunctioning clutch pedal. Despite this, he advanced through Steven Jarboe to the Top 16 where he was then eliminated by Vakaris Aliukas.
“I don’t know how he’s driving,” said ESDA Chairman Harold Mckinney during the broadcast, “Props to Jakubėlis, that’s crazy.”
Mustafa Amine would eventually win the penultimate place into the Final Four, claiming enough points to surpass DeSean Hack for 2nd place in the standings and giving him the opportunity to take 1st place in points with a first place finish at the event.
3DRAP Group Four was also eventful. Robert Kwiecinski slammed into Austin Zalewski’s passenger side door, pushing him off track and giving Zalewski an advancement into Top 16. The troublesome Ferrari 599XX’s that proved dominant in previous rounds suffered shocking upsets in New Zealand as Artem Chulkov was eliminated by 3rd qualifier Darius Ostreika.
Ostreika would face off against Austin Zalewski in the Great 8, but Ostreika’s incredibly tight chase run gave him the edge into Final Four battles.
With Wongphoowithsin, Yoshida, Amine and Ostreika now occupying the final spots, the final bouts to determine the podium finishers for the fifth round of ESDA competition were set. First qualifier Wongphoowithsin went up against Yoshida for another heat check, but Yoshida dropped his tire off the track three times to move Thunny the Hunny into the battle for first place.
Minor mistakes from Amine in his battle against Ostreika crushed Amine’s chances to claim the top spot in the points standings in New Zealand, but brought him well within fighting distance of Alexander Element with only a 42 point difference between the two.
Yoshida and Amine were then stacked up for a battle for third place. Yoshida once again had the back end of his BMW wagon tapped into the only wall on the track – this time by Amine’s RX-8 – to give Yoshida the third place finish.
“This is my first podium,” said Yoshida of his performance in ESDA. “I am so happy!”
The final battle was between Ostreika and Wongphoowithsin, guaranteeing a brand new round winner on the season. Both drivers had a ridiculously tight battle with high angles, ludicrous speeds and tight chase runs from both drivers. After a significant amount of consideration, the judges crowned Ostreika the king of Teretonga Park.
“In the start of the championship I passed qualification, then I [lost in] Top 32. Now, finally, I am feeling very good,” Ostreika said during the closing ceremonies of the event.
The championship is only heating up as ESDA packs up and heads over to Japan for their next round of tandem drifting competition. Just don’t tell the commentators Keenan Kusan and Joe Piro they’re stuck in the cargo bay of the 747 again.
ESDA returns on September 30th with qualifying on the Traxion Twitch channel at 5pm EST, and bracket eliminations on the Traxion.GG YouTube and Twitch channels at 12pm EST on October 1st.
ROUND FIVE AT TERETONGA PARK – RESULTS:
- 1st Place: Darius Ostreika (+100 points)
- 2nd Place: Thunnawat Wongphoowithsin (+80 points)
- 3rd Place: Masashi Yoshida (+60 points)
- 4th Place: Mustafa Amine (+50 points)
CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS AFTER ROUND FIVE:
|POS||DRIVER||R5 QUAL||BATTLES||SEASON TOTAL|
Images courtesy of Apex Action Photography
ESDA 2022 SCHEDULE:
Round 1: June 17-18 Round 2: July 8-9 Round 3: July 29-30 Round 4: August 19-20 Round 5: Sep 9-10
- Round 6: Sep 30-Oct 1
- Round 7: Oct -21-22