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Fortunately for the drivers, many improved further into the qualifying, and the final table looked more familiar. The top spot came to the fans favourite Georgy ‘Gocha’ Chivchian at the wheel of a Nissan Silvia S15 (Forward Auto team), scoring 95.6 points. Some kind of a miracle came from ddKaba (a nickname of Sergey Kabargin): having changed the naturally aspirated Chevrolet Corvette for a totally different turbocharged 2JZ-powered Toyota Supra during the weekend the driver from St.-Petersberg made three cold-blooded qualifying attempts, all above 90 points (with the best one at 95) making it to P2. Gocha’s teammate Ivan Nikulin was third in qualifying, also scoring 95 points. Still, some of the favourites could not cope with the qualifying task and appeared at the end of the ranks: Andrey Pesegov, Artur Melkumian, Evgeny Satyukov, Evgeny Ruzheynikov, Sergey Sak found themselves at the lower half of the table.


The main competition day was equally packed with action. The Top-32, formed after the qualifying, already provided a number of interesting pairs, where the outcome was not that obvious. Those were, for example, Evgeny Ruzheynikov vs Sergey Sak, Vladimir Chivchian vs Artur Melkumian, Ekaterina Sedykh vs Andrey Pesegov. In the end Sak, Chivchian and Sedykh came on into the Top-16, after Pesegov and Melkumian eliminated themselves, not getting used either to the new track or new cars (Artur had his first outing with a Silvia S14, while Pesegov’s Skyline R32 received an all-new VR38DETT engine sourced from a Nissan GT-R right before the season start). Ruzheynikov, in turn, fell a victim of a technical problem: his engine broke down during the drivers parade, and the failure was too serious to be fixed in such a short time.


The defending champion Evgeny Satyukov, having swapped his usual BMW for a Nissan Silvia S14, although with the same 2JZ engine, also couldn’t climb high: whereas the first run turned out to be easy (Oleg Chernyshev driving a SIlvia S13 did not make it to the end of the course in both attempts), pairing with Gocha in Top-16 has left him beyond the Top-8.


The battle between Fedor Vorobiev and an RDA (Russian drift ‘second echelon’) graduate Lenar Rahimov was very intense. Fedor, driving his 2JZ-powered Lada 2105 for several years, made it to Top-16 after Lenar’s mistake: the BMW driver pushed his opponent off the track in the end of the course. Rookie Alexander Dmitrenko was the one to watch at. A young driver from Moscow competing at the wheel of a BMW M3 E92 with an American GM LSX under the bonnet showed a good drift during the whole weekend, but has overcooked it driving with Pavel Busygin and found himself off the track and out of Top-16. In general, the tsuiso passes allowed the spectators (amounting to over 5000 people, by the way!) to witness more than just one or two trips off the track, with spectacular dust clouds coming from both rookies and masters.

Top-16 runs were held on a warmed up and well rubbered-in tarmac, despite some clouds above the track. Besides Gocha, the Top-8 was comprised of Anton Svarinskiy (who performed notably better than last season), Arkady Tsaregradtsev, Sergey Sak, Nikita Shikov, Ivan Nikulin and Ekaterina Sedykh (who acted as a kind of a ‘backstop’ for Pavel Busygin’s Supra, who has thereby deprived himself of a ‘trip’ to Top-8). But the most intense battle unfolded between Alexey Golovnya from Kiev and Tuning Factory team’s ‘fresh blood’ (but by no means a rookie in Russian drifting - 4 times RDS East champion and Japanese D1 GP participant) Ilya Fedorov from Habarovsk. The drivers on two Nissan 200SX fought hard and for a long time. It took no less than two One More Time to identify the winner, which in the end was Alexey Golovnya.


The strongest quartet of the first stage was shaped up from the Fail Crew team representatives Arkady Tsaregradtsev (who was marked with an excursion beyond the track in a fight with Alexey Golovnya, but still made it into the Top-4) and Nikita Shikov and Forward Auto drivers Georgy Chivchian and Ivan Nikulin. Tsaregradtsev and Shikov managed to beat their equally experienced rivals ensuring an undisputed team victory at the first round. Gocha lost the place in the finals after missing a gear which left his yellow Silvia S15 resting alone in a respect zone. Sadly for him, the judges were uncompromising and no restart was assigned. Gocha was left with third after the victory over Ivan Nikulin.


The fate of the first place, however, was decided in a very dramatic way. On the one hand, in a pair of Tsaregradtsev and Shikov few would bet on the latter. On the other hand, after the a couple of dull seasons it seems that Nikita strikes back: the white Toyota GT86 of the Moscow driver built its way to the top through the Top-32 table and the first battle with his teammate was even: a One More Time followed. And while the first run the outcome was not obvious, the second one turned into a catastrophe for Nikita: the car clipped the curb with a rear wheel and freezed trackside in front of a grandstand after a frightening pivoting flight. Unfortunately for him, Nikita Shikov ended the day in second leaving the top spot to Arkady Tsaregradtsev.


It should be said that the leaders also had some hard time during the first stage. Gocha’s Silvia suffered from issues with cooling and gearbox which cost him a possible place in the final, not to mention that the engine, being assembled shortly before the event, was not very powerful: 420 horses is not an immense figure these days. Arkady Tsaregradtsev, in turn, could spend the weekend driving a spare car - the main one was only delivered to the track just before the qualifying.


Looking back at the Moscow Raceway weekend it seems that the Russian Drift Series is seriously concerned with increasing its drivers’ skills. The task ‘a la Federico Sceriffo’ appeared to be too hard for many competitors, and although there was not a lot of beautiful, tight pair drifting at the season opener, hopefully these difficulties will have a positive effect. By the way, when asked by us about the possibility of seeing his Ferrari at one of the RDS rounds Federico replied enigmatically: ‘If I bring it, I drive it’.


2017 Russian Drift Series Round 1 Results

Drifting is one of the most rapidly developing motorsport disciplines in Russia. The opening event of the new season was yet another proof of that fact: for the first time the Russian Drift Series came to Moscow Raceway near the city of Volokolamsk - the arena of Russian rounds of DTM, WTCC and World Series by Renault. An experienced Federico Sceriffo, with more than 10 years on the international stage under his belt, will spend the whole season as the chief referee. The entry list has increased: many of the skilled drifters from the east of the country plan to make it to all of the rounds. An entertainment program for the visitors was also rethought: drifting school, drift taxi, drift trikes, motorcycle freestyle show and even a beauty salon - all these could be found on site. Finally, it was decided to use a traditional Top-32 table for the tsuiso passes instead of the complicated double elimination scheme, at least during the first round.


The configuration turned out to be short (only about 25 seconds) and rather unusual: nearly half of the course with a single change of direction was a long third right-hander in front of the AMG grandstand with a clipping zone on the inner side closer to the end. Moreover, this part of Moscow Raceway is known for its relief: descend before the long right curve and the lift right after it. As a result, Thursday practices (as well as a significant part of Friday for many) were spent in attempts to simply get used to the track.


And even during the qualifying runs on Friday many experienced drivers surprised with their unstable results: first attempts ended up with complete zeros for standing champion Evgeny Satyukov and Nikita Shikov, as well as vey humble results for Andrey Pesegov, Artur Melkumian, Ivan Nikulin and Alexey Bobrovskih, while only 8 competitors scored 90 points or more. Although it would be fair to mention that many drivers had their first weekend with new and unfamiliar cars, with Alexey Bobrovskih driving a replacement car, engaged at the very late stage. To be said, due to a number of reasons we haven’t seen some frequenters of the Russian drifting, such as Andrey Bogdanov, Andrey Losev, Arkady Puchinin, Nikolay Tigaev, William Gukasian, Yaroslav Gavrikov. However, Yaroslav still hit the track at Moscow Raceway acting as a drift taxi driver.