Irishman James Deane scores a threepeat in Formula Drift with unprecedented third straight championship

The Nissan S14 of season champ James Deane, from above.

Fredric Aasbo came close to winning his second championship this year. He drives a 1000-hp Toyota Corolla. 

Irwindale winner Ken Gushi

Former champ Michael Essa drove his home-built BMW to second place at Irwindale. 

Vaughn Gittin Jr. drives a Mustang RTR

One guy is drifting a Ferrari 599

Vaughn Gittin Jr. 

Vaughn Gittin Jr. 


There have been threepeats in sports before: the Yankees 1998-2000, the Bulls ’91-’93, and Jimmie Johnson’s NASCAR championships in 2006-2010, which is actually a fivepeat. But this was the first time in the relatively short, 16-year history of Formula Drift that there has ever been a threepeat in drifting.

Irishman James “The Machine” Deane came over here and started driving sideways in 2017 and won titles every year since. For his part, he was flabbergasted.

“Coming from Ireland, being a huge fan of drifting my whole life, my ultimate goal was just to get a win,” said Deane. “And now standing here, with all my family and friends, at the track I love the most, I’m just the luckiest guy in the world.”

Indeed, there was some luck involved. Going into the final round of the eight-round schedule for this year, former champion Fredric “The Norwegian Hammer” Aasbo was within striking distance of points-leader Deane. That despite the fact that, at the previous round in Texas, Aasbo had been taken out by Deane’s teammate, Polish driver Piotr Wiecek, who crashed The Norwegian Hammer so hard into the tires that the car couldn’t be repaired in time to race the rest of that weekend.

In qualifying for this final round at Irwindale Speedway in Southern California, Aasbo skipped his second qualifying run because of an engine irregularity and had to start 10th  on the grid that day, Saturday, putting him on a collision course with – oh no – Wiecek in the second round. There was no collision between Aasbo and Wiecek this time, the young Pole simply outdrove him, knocking challenger Aasbo out of contention and all but giving the 2019 title to Deane.

Had Aasbo survived, he would have faced Deane in the semifinal. But Aasbo didn’t survive.

For his part, Deane finished third at Irwindale, after being knocked out in that semifinal round by local hero and fan favorite Ken “The Gush” Gushi. Gushi hadn’t had a win in what seemed like forever.

“Every single round win I’ve had today was just a blur,” said Gushi, to cheers from the fans. “Next thing I know I’m crying over at the finish line.”

Formula Drift’s 2020 season schedule will be announced at the SEMA show in a couple weeks.

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