Formula Drift at Long Beach – Click above for high-res image gallery

While many forms of motorsports are cutting back with less sponsorship money and fewer teams, Formula Drift actually grew this year with a bigger list of entrants and plenty of brand new cars. For the opening event in Long Beach, CA, Rhys Millen brought out his Hyundai Genesis Coupe, Tanner Foust traded in his 350Z for a NASCAR-powered Scion tC, and Vaughn Gittin Jr. upgraded his Mustang to a 2010 model. In the end, though, a pair of older cars landed a spot in the finals with Sam Hubinette in his NuFormz Racing / Mopar Dodge Viper SRT10 challenging Ryan Tuerck in his Gardella Racing / Mobil 1 Pontiac Solstice for the top spot. It was Tuerck who was victorious in the drifting duel, who captured his first ever Formula D win and took the initial points lead in the 2009 season. We've put together two high-res galleries, one for practice and qualifying and another for the main day of competition. Hit the jump for more details on the opening race of the 2009 Formula Drift season.


Related Gallery2009 Formula Drift Long Beach Practice and Qualifying

Related Gallery2009 Formula Drift Long Beach Round of 32

Photos copyright ©2009 Drew Phillips / Weblogs, Inc


PRESS RELEASE:

Long Beach, Calif. – April 11, 2009 – Formula DRIFT Round 1: Streets of Long Beach kicks off their 6th championship season to a sell-out crowd. Ryan Tuerck and the Gardella Racing / Mobil 1 Pontiac Solstice took home the victory and leads the 2009 Professional Championship Point Standings.

The Long Beach Grand Prix Street Course hosted the season opening event to a standing room only crowd. The infamous track is the only course that is held on actual city streets making it one of the more unique drifting courses in the nation. The 2009 season included the addition of the veteran driver, Tony Angelo, as a new judge to the series. It also marked the first 2-day event structure of the season and the change of competition formats. This season will be the first time a Top 32 format will be utilized in the Pro Championship series creating more drifting competition rounds and more action for the fans.

"Despite the current economic state, Formula DRIFT has continued to push forward and the success of this season opening event has proved that drifting has continued to grow," said Ryan Sage, vice president of marketing and co-founder of Formula DRIFT. "Without the support of the fans, teams, and sponsors Formula DRIFT would not have been able to pull off this exciting event and we look forward to the rest of the 2009 season."

The event showcased some of the most exciting drifting to date and the introduction of the Top 32 competition format brought a new element to the event and more action. The season opening event unveiled a few highly anticipated vehicles including Rhys Millen and the Red Bull / RMR Hyundai Genesis Coupe, Vaughn Gittin Jr. and the 2010 Falken Tire Ford Mustang GT, and returning champion Tanner Foust in the Rockstar Scion Racing tC, who finished in third place after a very intense and close battle with Robbie Nishida in the Hankook Tire / Dynamic Autosport Nissan 350Z in the consolation round. The finals pitted 2-time Formula DRIFT champion, Samuel Hubinette in the NuFormz Racing / Mopar Dodge Viper against Ryan Tuerck and the Gardella Racing / Mobil 1 Pontiac Solstice. Tuerck edged out Hubinette with very consistent driving throughout the event taking the first victory of the season.

"It's an amazing feeling starting the season off on top," stated Ryan Tuerck, Round 1: Streets of Long Beach winner and driver of the Gardella Racing / Mobil 1 Pontiac Solstice. "This isn't a one man show and I wouldn't have been able to do it without the support of the Gardella Racing / Mobil 1 Pontiac Solstice team. It's very satisfying to stand at the top of such a talented field of competitors."

The 2009 Formula DRIFT season continues on May 8-9 in Braselton, GA at Road Atlanta for Round 2: Proving Ground. Tickets are on-sale now.