Fredric Aasbo returned to the top of the podium in the Rockstar Energy Drink / Nexen Tire Toyota Corolla iM on Saturday, scoring his 10th career victory to become the most winning driver in Formula Drift history.
The Montreal win vaults him to second in the 2017 points standings. He is within striking distance of the title with three rounds remaining in the season.
"We battled so hard all the way from qualifying to the final battle and coming out with this win feels amazing," said Aasbo, at the end of a night of treacherous competition that sidelined many contenders with mechanical or crash damage.
Even Aasbo was not immune to the chaos on the tight and technical track. Despite clean runs all the way to the final round, he found himself off-track in the last battle of the night when rival Kristaps Bluss punted him off course in an at-fault hit.
"Kristaps is a fantastic driver but he had nothing to lose going into that final battle and I was bracing for a crash," said Aasbo. "I knew he was really going for it when I felt him nudge me all the way through the first turn. When the hit finally came, it was big."
The Rockstar Energy Drink / Nexen Tire Toyota Corolla iM took cosmetic damage due to the contact but will be back to fighting form for the next round when the series swings west to Evergreen Speedway in Monroe, Washington, August 4-5.
Aasbo qualified fourth in mixed weather conditions on Friday, putting him in a strong position for Saturday's main event. After a Bye Run in the opening round, he advanced past Nate Hamilton in the Top 16 to face local favorite Marc Landreville in the quarterfinals, then points leader James Deane in the Final Four.
"The match with James was one of the most committed of my career. I was chasing him so closely that I nearly crashed into him more than once," said Aasbo. "That's the kind of competition we live for in this sport and we both came out of it with huge smiles on our faces."
It is the second win this season for the Papadakis Racing team's newest build. The 1,000 horsepower Rockstar Energy Drink / Nexen Tire Toyota Corolla iM debuted in April at the season opener in Long Beach, California. Team owner Stephan Papadakis said the victory reaffirms the team's commitment to ongoing development.
"We've learned that having a winning package today doesn't mean you have a winning package tomorrow, so you can count on us to continue to push the limits until the last race of the season," said Papadakis. "We're grateful to partners like Rockstar Energy Drink, Nexen Tire and Toyota for supporting us on this journey."
An enthusiastic crowd packed into the Montreal area venue this weekend, swarming the paddock to get a closer look at the Papadakis Racing machine. The turbocharged, rear-wheel drive converted Rockstar Energy Drink / Nexen Tire Toyota Corolla iM is the only hatchback competing in the series this year and a rare four-cylinder engine in a field dominated by V8s.
Overflowing grandstands and on-site camping create an air of revelry at the event, which Aasbo said reminds him of the grassroots feel of the events where he honed his craft growing up in Norway. "The fans in Montreal are incredibly passionate," said Aasbo. "I've been lucky enough to spend some time fireside with the on-site campers each year and it's fantastic to share in their enthusiasm."
True North is the only Formula Drift championship round held outside the United States, and serves as a round of both the Canadian and U.S. national championship series.
Drifting is a high-skill, high-powered motorsport with an emphasis on car control skill. Drivers compete in knockout heats on a closed course, sliding sideways in trials judged on speed and style. With origins in Japan, it is one of the fastest growing forms of motorsport in the world.
In 2017, the series again offers live and on-demand online coverage on the Formula Drift Livestream, its widely viewed online broadcast. Through a new relationship with Motorsport Network, fans can turn to Motorsport.com and Motor1.com for exclusive content. Formula Drift also returns this season to CBS Sports Network for 20 half-hour television programs. The fast-paced action featuring bracketed head-to-head match-ups anchors the coverage.
Following next month's Throwdown event in Washington State, the championship travels to Fort Worth, Texas, September 8-9, before wrapping up the year with the California season ender at Irwindale Speedway October 13 and 14.