Six months after the season opener in Long Beach, Formula Drift closed out its seven-event 2013 schedule in front of a sell-out crowd of more than 20,000 spectators at Southern California's Irwindale Speedway this past weekend. Daigo Saito, driving a Lexus SC430 with a 1,200 horsepower turbocharged Toyota 2JZ, took the event win on Saturday night, with Michael Essa (above) earning the overall series championship.
Essa, driving a BMW E46 M3 with an 800-horsepower turbocharged BMW S54 engine, entered the competition as the points leader. While he qualified at the top early in the weekend, his inline-six seized as he crossed the finish line after his first successful run, sidelining him for the remainder of the event and putting his overall title in jeopardy. But his frustration wouldn't last long, as Chris Forsberg, driving a Nissan 370Z with a 800-horsepower Nissan VK56DE, lost to Saito in a later round. Forsberg's defeat meant his points would put him in second overall, and Essa would secure the championship. Saito would finish third.
The win for Essa, privately funded by GSR Autosport and sponsored by Yokohama Tire and Bilstein (but with no help or assistance from BMW), marks the first time a European vehicle has won the Formula Drift championship during the series' ten-year run. The series returns next April.