Vaughn Gittin holds off late charge by Aasbo and Forsberg to take Formula DRIFT event in Atlanta

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Not only was his Monster Energy/Nitto Ford Mustang hitting on all cylinders, so too was Vaughn Gittin and his team as Gittin held on to win Formula Drift’s Round 2: Road to the Championship event Saturday at Road Atlanta.

“Tonight my team and I were truly one,” Gittin said. “We communicated and worked super hard. These were some of the most hard fought battles that I remember ever having and it says a lot about our sport, where we are going and what we are doing. And I’m just super proud to be standing on the top step.”

Gittin held off runner-up Fredric Aasbo  in the Hankook Tire Scion Racing tC in the finals. Chris Forsberg, who won the season-opening event three weeks ago at Long Beach, finished third in his Hankook Tire Nissan 370Z.

The win also pushes Gittin up to second place in the overall Formula DRIFT points standings, while Forsberg remains in first place.

“It’s wonderful to see the growth in attendance each year at Road Atlanta, where we held our first Formula DRIFT event eleven years ago,” said Formula DRIFT president Jim Liaw. “The fans of the South are so passionate for the sport and we love coming to this venue.”

Round 3 of the Formula DRIFT series takes place May 3031 at Homestead-Miami Speedway in south Florida. For more information visit:www.formuladrift.com and find Formula DRIFT on Instagram @formulad, Facebook www.facebook.com/formuladrift and Twitter @FormulaD.

Formula DRIFT Round 2: Road to the Championship Event Results
1. Gittin Jr., Vaughn Monster Energy / Nitto Tire Ford Mustang RTR Winner
2. Aasbo, Fredric Hankook Tire Scion Racing tC 2nd Place
3. Forsberg, Chris Hankook Tire Nissan 370Z 3rd Place

Formula DRIFT Professional Championship Presented by GoPro 2014 Standings After 2 Rounds

1. Forsberg, Chris Hankook Tire Nissan 370Z 173.00 Points
2. Gittin Jr., Vaughn Monster Energy / Nitto Tire Ford Mustang RTR 145.50 Points
3. Aasbo, Fredric Hankook Tire Scion Racing tC 137.00 Points
4. Moen, Kenneth Bridges Racing Nissan 240SX 135.50 Points
5. Pawlak, Justin Falken Tire Ford Mustang 103.50 Points
6. Bakchis, Aurimas Feal Suspension / Nitto Tire Nissan 240SX 102.00 Points
7. Wang, Forrest Get Nuts Lab / Hankook Tire / STR Racing Nissan S14 93.00 Points
8. Essa, Michael Essa Autosport / Yokohama BMW M3 91.50 Points
9. McNamara, Darren Falken Tire Nissan S14 84.50 Points
10. Nishida, Robbie Achilles Radial / Bridges Racing Lexus SC300 83.00 Points
11. Gushi, Ken GReddy Performance X Scion Racing Drift FR-S V2 70.00 Points
12. Grunewald, Conrad Megan Racing / Top 1 Oil / BRE Chevrolet Camaro 70.00 Points
13. Saito, Daigo Achilles Radial Lexus SC430 68.50 Points
14. McQuarrie, Tyler GoPro Mobil 1Chevrolet Camaro 61.50 Points
15. DeNofa, Chelsea BC Racing Nitto Tire BMW 3-Series 57.00 Points
16. Tuerck, Ryan Retaks Maxxis Tires Air Force PSI Scion FR-S 55.50 Points
Manufacturers Championship Standings After Two Rounds
1. Ford 249.00 Points
2. Scion 224.50 Points
3. Nissan 209.50 Points
4. Lexus 151.50 Points
5. BMW 148.50 Points
Tire Championship Standings After Two Rounds
1. Hankook 310.00 Points
2. Nitto 247.50 Points
3. Achilles 218.50 Points
4. Falken 188.00 Points
5. Yokohama 109.00 Points

IndyCar’s ‘Phoenix’ flying into 2023 season: Romain Grosjean enjoying the pilot’s life

IndyCar Romain Grosjean pilot
Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment
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PALM SPRINGS, Calif. – The IndyCar driver known as “The Phoenix” already has taken flight before the 2023 season, and newly licensed pilot Romain Grosjean also got a head start on the opener.

Fulfilling a dream several years in the making, the Andretti Autosport plunged into aviation training over the offseason. Since beginning with online studying last August, Grosjean quickly progressed to earning his licenses for multiengine planes and instrument ratings while completing 115 hours of flight time.

He has landed twice at Albert Whitted Airport, whose primary runway also doubles as the front straightaway on the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg street course.

“Just to land on the start-finish line, that was pretty cool,” Grosjean said during IndyCar Preseason Content Days ahead of the Feb. 2-3 test at The Thermal Club. “The air traffic control guy was like, “Yeah, left on Acre Five, turn, and then back. I was like, ‘Oh, yeah, that’s the last corner of the racetrack, I’ll take it and go back to the pit lane. He was like, ‘Oh, yeah, yeah, that’s true.’ So it was quite funny.”

Grosjean, 36, said he had wanted to become a pilot since he was 30 but was discouraged by Europe’s complicated and time-consuming licensing process (“to go to ground school twice a week, and with our life, it’s impossible”). He was inspired again last year by (now former) teammate Alexander Rossi, who flew to some 2022 races after earning his license a couple of years ago.

“I thought that was pretty cool,” said Grosjean, who had grown “bored of waiting in the airports.”

He plans to fly to nearly all the races this year (“if the weather is good enough, I’ll be flying”) and jokes about being “commercial by the end of the year, so then I can take Roger (Penske). Roger can pay me to fly him around to races if things go bad with racing.”

Grosjean’s social media has been filled with posts about his new hobby, which afforded him the opportunity recently to take his wife to Key West for lunch from their home in the Miami area. The trip took 37 minutes there and 41 minutes on return and highlighted why Grosjean loves flying: “Freedom. Freedom to go anywhere you want, anytime you want. It’s the beauty of it. We can go to the Bahamas for a day if we want to. Anywhere. I think that’s just great to know that you can do whatever you want.”

It’s reminiscent of the cross-country trip across the Midwest in an RV that Grosjean took with his family during the summer of his 2021 rookie season.

“There’s one thing that I told my kids, and I told my friend about America, and for me, that’s the biggest difference between Europe and here, is here everything is possible,” said Grosjean (whose “Phoenix” nickname was derived from a brush with death in his final Formula One start). “If you have the wish, if you give yourself the possibility of doing it, everything is possible. It is different in Europe. Much more boundaries on the way. Much more steps that you need to do in a certain order. But if you want to be extraordinary (in the United States), if you want to do something different, you don’t need to do those steps because you can work through.

“Yeah, I like doing things, and when I do them, I like doing them well. But here I think just the opportunity of driving the RV, flying planes, for my kids to do whatever they want to do, we love that here. Yeah, it’s been the best discovery for us.”

The Swiss-born Frenchman already has flown himself to a race this year, jetting up the Florida coast for his Rolex 24 at Daytona debut last month. It was his debut as a Lamborghini factory driver, and his new deal will continue with the Twelve Hours of Sebring and possibly the Petit Le Mans while he also helps develop the automaker’s new hybrid prototype (LMDh) for next year.

Grosjean, who finished a disappointing 13th in the 2022 points standings with one podium for Andretti in his first full season, said IndyCar will remain his priority in 2024.

But he hopes the IndyCar schedule will afford racing in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship endurance races and perhaps another his longest plane flight yet — a return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

“I’ll keep my fingers crossed like that we get the weekend off from IndyCar,” said Grosjean, noting that 10 IndyCar drivers were in the Rolex 24. “I think it would make a lot of sense. I think for both series it’s amazing. If we can get Le Mans, it’s also amazing because it’s just cool.

“I remember Mario flying across the Atlantic doing Monaco and the Indy 500, and those guys, they were racing everywhere, Formula 3, Formula 2, Formula 1. They were doing the races in opening of the Formula 1 race, and I think that’s very cool for us. So yeah, looking forward to the project. There’s going to be a lot of development coming on. By the time we finish the IndyCar season, the LMDh will be here in the States, and that’s when I’m going to spend a lot of time on it.”