Aasbo’s new Corolla put through its paces at Long Beach

18 April 2018

The Rockstar Energy Drink / Nexen Tire Toyota Corolla iM showed winning potential in its Formula Drift debut in Long Beach. Driver Fredric Aasbo scored a solid fifth-place finish in his first outing with the brand new car.

Toyota unveiled the vehicle less at the NASCAR race at Auto Club Speedway in nearby Fontana, California. The Rockstar Energy Drink / Nexen Tire Toyota Corolla iM is a rear-wheel-drive converted hatchback that produces 1,000 nitrous-boosted horsepower from a Toyota 2AR engine.

The Formula Drift season opener in Long Beach saw plenty of upsets, with a pair of first-timers in the final head-to-head match of the day, and several surprise eliminations in early rounds. But Aasbo showed himself to be a contender from his first competition run.

“We’ve got a package with winning potential right out of the gate,” said team owner Stephan Papadakis. “We would have loved to take a podium right away in the new car, but we know what we have to do and it’s all about making refinements at this point. We’re going to come back swinging at the next round with a car that we know is capable of taking this championship.”

Aasbo qualified fourth and earned a bye into the Top 16, where he advanced past Latvian Kristaps Bluss. In the quarterfinal round, he met Alex Heilbrunn. Judges deemed their exciting head-to-had battle too close to call, and initiated a One-More-Time rematch.

As the higher qualifier, Aasbo led first in the rematch and he put in a confident performance to take the early advantage. The duo swapped places for the second half of the battle, with Aasbo giving chase. As he was reeling in his rival, the clutch slipped and he briefly lost the line. He recovered quickly to resume the fight but the stumble was enough to cost him the match.

Team owner Papadakis said the team has a clutch upgrade on standby and plans to move to a four-disc setup for the next round.

“The three-disc clutch has some performance advantages when it comes to drivability but it just wasn’t up to the power we threw at it this weekend,” said Papadakis. “Our new clutch will be able to handle the 1,000 horsepower we’re making out of this 2AR-FE engine.”

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