An exciting season opener gave drifting fans a great look into what’s ahead for the Esports Drift Association tandem simulation drifting championship, presented by Traxion.GG. The weekend started with qualifying on Friday, June 17th at the virtual final sector of the Long Beach GP Circuit.
Many drivers struggled with the unique Three Motion Rule, which prevents drivers from changing directions more than twice on the lead-up to the first corner. In spite of this, the entrants put on a show and gave viewers a taste of what was to come the next day.
DeSean Hack had the strongest run of the bunch with a near-perfect score of 97 on his second run, giving him the top seed into eliminations on Saturday. Darren Baker was close behind with impressive consistency to boot, scoring 93 and 96.7 in his qualifying attempts.
Kawayne Ebanks had a shaky start to qualifying with his first run being invalidated due to the Three Motion Rule, but he continued unphased and received a 94.5, taking the third seed.
Saturday started with some disappointment from the paddock as the young kid on the grid Nico Stelea failed to show up for eliminations. All drivers who were seeded below him then moved up a seed, shifting the lower end of the bracket significantly. Dylan Fink, who scored a run of 82 the previous day, was then seeded 32nd as the reserve driver.
The drivers were separated into four groups of eight, with the groups battling until the best of each group was decided. The top seed in DeSean Hack knocked out reserve driver Dylan Fink, then Pavel Gunin on his way to the Traxion Final Four. Brandon Gardner shook the bracket from the 25th seed to take the top spot away from Hack in Next Level Racing Group One.
Moza Racing Group Two kicked off with Jared DeVore’s fire-spitting Infiniti toppling fourth seed Wojciech Wawryka. DeVore continued the war path through Daniil Migunov’s Nissan Z. Alexander Element’s 599XX would extinguish DeVore’s fiery run through the field however, putting Element into the second Final Four spot.
The event continued with the Big Duck Club Group Three bracket. Darren Baker eliminated Thailand representative Thunnawat Wongphoowithsin, but was convincingly dispatched by Drift Masters Virtual Championship winner and ESDA veteran Rhys Tatterson. Austin Zalewski would try but fail to match Tatterson’s 370Z, giving Tatterson the win in the group.
The 3DRAP Group Four bracket was the last group of eight drivers to slug it out for the final spot into the Traxion Final Four. Jamaican Kawayne Ebanks slid through the bracket, eliminating Alwi Shahab and teammate Edgar Rojas on his way to the Great 8. Joachim Hauge came to play from Norway, taking the win against the Jamaican to fill the final spot heading into the podium bracket.
The Traxion Final Four would set the track on fire, with the best drivers of each group now competing to take the lead in championship points for the season. Element’s Ferrari was stacked up against Gardner’s Infiniti Q60, but Element made too many mistakes in his runs to see himself battling for first place.
On the other side of the bracket, Hauge would make a critical error heading into the first corner and crash his Nissan Silvia into the rear quarter panel of Tatterson’s 370Z. Hauge put on an impressive second run, but Tatterson drove safely from the chase position to complete the run and guarantee a win into the battle for first place.
The third place battle was now set to take place between Element and Hauge. Element made a mistake through turn one and lost a significant amount of drift angle at the inner clip, but Hauge drove into the power alley too aggressively and slammed the wall just before the third outer zone on the track.
Element took a page from Tatterson’s book and gave lead driver Hauge some space through the second run. Element was awarded 60 championship points for finishing third and an additional 10 for qualifying.
The winner of the first place battle was much harder to decide for the judges, however. Tatterson and Gardner drove both runs to near perfection, with the decision coming down to tiny mistakes made by both drivers.
Tatterson would ultimately be victorious, taking home 100 championship points for winning the competition and an additional 12 for his qualifying efforts. Gardner is only a few steps behind with 90 points accumulated through the weekend.
Tatterson was seemingly impressed with the quality of competition coming out of ESDA. “The field was about the same [skill level,]” said Tatterson during a post-event interview. Tatterson switched away from the Nissan Silvia he was using previously in Assetto Corsa drift competitions, but found comfort in his 370Z as his result from ESDA Round One will show.
Gardner was thrown off by “the qualifying situation” the previous day, referring to the Three Motion Rule unique to ESDA, but he didn’t let it sway him during bracket eliminations.
“I was going into today looking to push through, and I did. Sadly I did lose to Rhys [Tatterson], but he’s a really good driver and it motivates me to do better next round,” said Gardner after the conclusion of Saturday’s events.
The next ESDA event is set to take place in July, with qualifying broadcasted by the Traxion Twitch channel on the 8th followed by bracket eliminations the next day on both YouTube and Twitch. The location is said to be somewhere in Brazil, but the specific track will be announced closer to the date of competition.
Skellingtor97 put together some highlights from the opening round, available to watch on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Check it out in the embedded Tweet below!
ESDA 2022 season calendar
ROUND ONE: 17th-18th June
ROUND TWO: 8th-9th July
ROUND THREE: 29th-30th July
ROUND FOUR: 19th-20th August
ROUND FIVE: 9th-10th September
ROUND SIX: 30th September-1st October
ROUND SEVEN: 21st-22nd October
Images courtesy of Apex Action Photography