LONG BEACH, Calif. — Five tire suppliers have firmed up their plans for this year's Formula Drift series, whose season kicks off March 31-April 1 in the streets of Long Beach in support of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach IndyCar race.
Heading the list is Sumitomo Rubber North America's Falken brand, which has secured a deal as the official tire sponsor of Formula Drift and is sponsoring six drivers in this year's championship.
The other tire brands with firm plans for 2017 are Achilles Tire USA, Hankook Tire America Corp., Nexen Tire America Inc. and Nitto Tire U.S.A. Inc.
Achilles — a brand owned/controlled by Indonesia's P.T. Multistrada Arah Sarana — is backing 17 drivers, including five in the top Pro Series.
"Formula DRIFT has been a wonderful partner for our brand in the U.S. and throughout the world," said Cheralyn Hale, director of marketing for Irvine, Calif.-based Achilles Tire USA.
The company will supply its team of drivers with 123S tires. The drivers are: Pro Series — Michael Essa; Robbie Nishida; Kristaps Bluss; Dean Kearney; and Charles Ng; PRO2 Series — Andy Hateley; Austin Meeks; Bear Rzesnowiecky; Blake Olsen; Brandon Schmidt; Chris Johnson; Dirk Stratton; Donovan Brockway; Hooman Rahimi; Kelsey Rowlings; Kevin Phillips; Luis Lizardi; and Randall Waters.
Drivers who take part in the AMS Racer Support Program and compete in an approved U.S. or Canada Formula DRIFT licensing series are eligible for the following contingency payout for the 2017 season: 1st Place — $200 Achilles Bucks; 2nd Place — $100 Achilles Bucks; and 3rd Place — $50 Achilles Bucks.
Achilles bucks can be used to purchase motorsports tires from Achilles Tires.
Hankook is returning to Formula Drift for the 10th straight year with a stable of six drivers, including 2016 Champion Chris Forsberg in a Nissan 370Z.
Other drivers are Ryan Tuerck (Toyota GT86), Pat Goodin, Nate Hamilton, Jeff Jones and Kevin Lawrence.
Donato Bonacquisto, Hankook motorsports and events manager, said the drivers this season will use Hankook's new Ventus R-s4 tire, which features an improved shoulder block design and tire compound for better cornering grip and steering response.
Nexen Tire is backing multiple Formula Drift champion Fredric Aasbo in a Rockstar Energy Drink-sponsored Toyota Corolla iM.
Papadakis Racing owner Stephan Papadakis called the Corolla an "iconic nameplate in drifting, and we're proud to bring it back to the championship."
Nitto Tire is supporting RTR Motorsports and drivers Vaughn Gittin Jr. and Chelsea DeNofa — the defending Long Beach race winner — in a pair of 2017 Ford Mustangs powered by Ford Performance/Roush Yates Engines RY45 V8 engines rated at close to 1,000 hp and running on Nitto NT05s tires.