One of the undercards on the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach weekend was the Formula Drift (a.k.a. FD) hosted the Motegi Racing Super Drift Challenge, where drivers get sideways in drifting to end the days of Friday, Saturday, and Sunday on Turns 9-10-11 of the 1.968-mile street circuit.
The actual FD event occurred a week earlier, April 4-5 and won by Chris Forsberg, but the Super Drift Challenge provided a showcase for FD drivers to bring their A-game on the actual TGPLB weekend.
For Newgarden, there was symmetry to sync up with Michael Essa, the 2013 Formula Drift champion. Essa’s BMW M3 produces more than 750hp – for reference, a tick more than Newgarden’s IndyCar in road or street course configuration – and was built by his shop, Essa Autosport, in Anaheim.
The pair met through Brett King, who paints both of their helmets, at an open house at Brett King Design. The drift car was there, Mike and Josef got to talking, and Mike offered to take him for a ride during the practice session. The practice session was for Saturday night’s Motegi Super Drift Challenge.
Once Newgarden’s ride was complete, Pagenaud took his turn in Essa’s passenger seat. It was a wild ride, as well.
They went onto interesting weekends in the IndyCar race – Newgarden was on pace for a podium before he got by Ryan Hunter-Reay. Meanwhile, despite getting hit by Will Power, Pagenaud rebounded to fifth.
On Monday, the Formula 1 schedule finally allowed teams to be in Europe before heading to Abu Dhabi for this weekend’s season finale.
And as such, that provided a window for now four-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton to return to the Mercedes AMG Petronas factories in Brackley and Brixworth to be celebrated for taking the driver’s title, as Hamilton an Valtteri Bottas delivered Mercedes its fourth straight constructor’s title.
Hamilton was at Brixworth, the home of Mercedes-AMG High Performance Powertrains (HPP) and its highly successful Mercedes-Benz Power Units first before heading to Brackley, where he was welcomed with a “guard of honor” as the entire team came out to greet him.
The champion was overwhelmed at the response and the welcome.
“This a very emotional day. I was not expecting this, thanks everyone for the warm welcome,” he said. “Today is something that I will never forget, turning up at the front gate of the factory and seeing everyone out on the street to welcome me – I’m blown away.
“This has been an incredible year, it’s been an incredible journey together. There’s a huge amount of respect and appreciation I have for everyone. I’ve been in the sport for a long time now, but to see the work ethic in Brixworth and Brackley really inspires me. Every time I come around, I see everyone operating at 100%, which encourages me to bring my best performance.
“Thank you all for helping me achieve my dreams, it would not have been possible without you. This is the best championship year, because we’ve been fighting another team and because we’ve had the difficulties and challenges we’ve had – that just makes it so much greater.”
A social roundup of images and videos are below, all via Hamilton and the Mercedes team on social media.