Mark Gearhart
April 23, 2018

A trio of Mustang drifters debuted their updated 2018 Mustangs at the Formula Drift season opener in Long Beach. Actually, Justin Pawlak updated his 2017 car with a 2018 front end. On the other hand, Team RTR, consisting of Vaughn Gittin Jr. and Chelsea DeNofa, brought their latest 2018 chassis to party in Long Beach.

During the off season Pawlak concentrated his efforts on building his new 2018 chassis while sticking with his 2017 car for the beginning of the season. “The new chassis will feature a quick change rearend and also I plan to up the power about 100hp with the new 2650 supercharger. Pawlak is the only competitor in Formula Drift running a stock crate engine, an 11:1 Aluminator backed by a 2.3-liter Roush supercharger. With the new 2650 TVS rotor group launched, Pawlak wants to push the limits of the Aluminator even further.

Team RTR is known for their three-wheel motion. Because of this, they actually run one of the largest front tires in the series with a 295/30/18.
Chelsea DeNofa would get checked into the tire barrier by Federico Sceriffo’s Ferrari. The superficial damage to the front end was easily removed and the two continued onto their second run.

In addition to working on his new 2018, Pawlak made updates to his 2017 competition car. For the first time in three years he’s flying the Falken colors again. He also performed a 2018 front end upgrade, which he says is virtually plug and play.

The RTR camp introduced their new 2018 Mustang RTR Spec 5D, which is specifically designed for drifting. Their new chassis is considerably lighter than previous years, thanks to a full carbon fiber body.

With that reduced weight comes more horsepower via new 458ci Ford Performance/Roush-Yates engines. Based off an FR9 NASCAR engine, RTR’s small-blocks are not limited by rules. This means that these naturally aspirated mills are making 900 horsepower and 900 lb-ft of torque!

Sceriffo’s Ferrari would lose its motor coming into the first turn and suffered from a pretty bad engine fire! The obvious incomplete run gave the win to DeNofa.
Vaughn Gittin Jr. posing with his lighter 2018 RTR Mustang Spec 5D before Top 16.

Coming into Saturday’s eliminations, Justin Pawlak ended up as the highest qualified Mustang driver in fourth position. Chelsea DeNofa qualified 11th and his boss Vaughn Gittin Jr. in 19th.

Pawlak’s Top 32 run against Cameron Moore would prove an easy win. Moving to the next round, Pawlak would face off against seasoned drifter Odi Bakchis. Pawlak put up a clean lead run and then Bakchis would spin in front of Pawlak, giving up the round. In the Great 8, a hard-fought battle between Pawlak and Fredric Aasbo eventually lead to Aasbo taking the win, who also won the event.

Team RTR easily repaired DeNofa’s Mustang before the start of Top 16.
Justin Pawlak hanging out during driver introductions. He would advance the furthest in competition, taking out Odi Bakchis. Pawlak put up a clean lead run and then Bakchis would spin in front of Pawlak, giving up the round.

On the other side of the ladder, Chelsea DeNofa would get checked into the tire barrier by Federico Sceriffo’s Ferrari. The superficial damage to the front end was easily removed and the two continued onto their second run. Sceriffo’s Ferrari would lose its motor coming into the first turn and suffered from a pretty bad engine fire! The obvious incomplete run gave the win to DeNofa. In the Top 16 DeNofa spun against three-time champion Chris Forsberg at the hairpin, retiring his Mustang for the day.

Things didn’t go much better for Vaughn Gittin Jr., who had an easily Top 32 win against Dirk Stratton. Gittin would face Forrest Wang and would spin as well as he transitioned to the hairpin. Tough luck for our Mustang boys! Next round is at Orlando in a few, short weeks.

The spin heard around the world. After his win against Dirk Stratton in the Top 32, Gittin would face Forrest Wang. His Mustang would over rotate after the second turn and spin, handing the win to Wang.
DeNofa gave it all he had but would also spin in his Top 16 run against three-time champion Chris Forsberg.
In the Great 8, a hard-fought battle between Pawlak and Fredric Aasbo eventually lead to Aasbo taking the win, who also won the event.

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