While the first two rounds of Formula Drift were different than previous seasons because of the changes made in order to run a season during Covid, the third and fourth rounds were even more unique. These two rounds took place in Monroe, Washington, just outside of Seattle, one of the earliest hotspots for Covid-19 in the US at the beginning of the year. Washington has had more restrictions than other parts of the country when it comes to events and crowds, which meant running a spectator free event.
When you first think about it, it seems silly to run an event with no spectators. But with social media and livestreaming, having zero spectators doesn’t mean the same thing that it would have if this happened ten years ago. Sure, there are a lot of fans that don’t get the chance to see the action in person, but at least they can still experience a lot of it online. I’ve talked about my passion for livestreaming over the last few years, and if anything, this year is an indication of all that you can achieve through streaming. With no ticket sales and merch booths, this event truly was one for fans via livestreaming and social media.
I didn’t really know what to expect when it comes to a spectator free competition. FDSEA is typically packed with fans in the stands and walking through the pits. It usually feels crowded, vendor booths and a car show fill the paddock. If I’m being honest, however, it was a surprisingly nice and refreshing experience because with no spectators, it was intimate, which I don’t think I have ever referred to a drift event as. The only people in the stands were drivers and their teams, we weren’t walking through throngs of people to get anywhere. It felt open and it felt like a place where we all could go do what we love without the hustle and bustle of a packed event. Top 16 introductions for Pro 2 and both rounds of Pro were the most intimate introductions I think I have and ever will experience. It was entirely different kind of feeling to have no fans in the stands cheering for drivers while still experiencing the excitement on track.
Aside from the unique intimacy of a spectator free event, we dealt with the elements you can expect from being in Washington at the end of September. At first, I had been concerned we would have a lot of smoke from the large amount of fires that the west coast has been dealing with for the past month. However, we got rain. While Thursday’s practice saw some showers, Friday’s Pro 2 competition was drenched. To my recollection, I don’t think I’ve ever been at a Formula Drift round in Washington that rained so much as the event usually takes place in July. Pro 2 had the brunt of the rain for the weekend, certainly making for some very challenging conditions on an already challenging track. Most of the rain let up on Saturday, and we had a dry and at times sunny Sunday for the third and fourth rounds of Pro. The driving throughout the weekend saw so many changes in conditions, but was just as exciting as ever.
Perhaps it’s because I’ve missed drifting so much, combined with the intimate experience of having an event with no spectators, but I just loved this round (even with the rain). Without the crowds, I could enjoy little moments with the people around me more, which I believe I may have a greater appreciation for after months of isolation and an uncertainty for what the future held. I had more opportunities to see others without the pressure of spectators and fans present.
While this wasn’t an ideal way to run part of this season, I can’t help but take away a positive experience from this unique one. We continue to work with what we’ve got in order to keep moving forward, rather than sit back and let something we love just fade away due to something out of our control. I believe many of us experienced uncertainty and fear over the future for pursuing our passions, and it’s admirable to see the people persevering and pushing on with the cards we’ve been dealt. I love drifting and I love Formula Drift, the moments and people make up so much of my life and my heart, and I’m grateful to have been able to share such a unique event with the people that have shaped so much of who I am today.