June 22, 2012

Airmen drift for F-16 flight

by Airman 1st Class David Owsianka
56th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

Airmen and professional drivers pose for a picture during the Drift into the Blue competition at Toyota Speedway in Irwindale, Calif. The competitions were judged according to execution and style, rather than who finished in the fastest time.

Slamming on the brakes of a car and sliding around corners is typically a bad thing, but for four Airmen from Luke Air Force Base, it was actually very good.

Those Airmen took to the track May 17 through 19 to battle in the “Drift into the Blue” competition at Toyota Speedway in Irwindale, Calif. The event, sponsored by the Air Force Recruiting Service and Formula Drift, paired up the Airmen with four professional drivers who acted as personal driving coaches.

The winning Airman and driver will get F-16 flights at Luke later this summer.

Formula Drift was founded in 2003 as the first official drifting series in North America. The motorsport, which has been popular in Japan since the 1970s, involves intentionally oversteering the car to cause a loss of traction in the rear wheels while maintaining control throughout a turn.

Competitions are judged according to execution and style, rather than who finishes in the fastest time.

The Airmen selected to compete were Tech. Sgt. Brian Abel, 56th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron flightline expediter; Staff Sgt. Natasha Burroughs, 56th Medical Support Squadron diagnostic imaging technician; Staff Sgt. Steven Dauck, 56th Civil Engineer Squadron Explosive Ordnance Disposal team leader; and Senior Airman Semmi Quarles, 56th Operations Group F-16 intelligence analyst.

Preparation for the competition, the race itself, and the F-16 flights will be shown in five reality TV-style episodes on the Formula Drift website. The first episode, which shows the introductions and a sneak peak at the competition, is available to view at

Upcoming episodes will feature the Airmen’s challenges, their improvements and the camaraderie formed with their drivers. Those episodes are scheduled to air July 21, Aug. 25 and Oct. 13.

All of the Airmen agreed the competition was an unforgettable experience.

Burroughs’ father is a former drag racer, which she said gave her some confidence going into the competition.

“Growing up on the race track definitely allowed me to be at ease when I stepped into the car,” she said.

Quarles, who didn’t have as much exposure to the racetrack as his rival, said he was optimistic about the competition since he is usually fast at picking up new skills.

“After getting used to the performance cars, we began throwing the cars into a drift,” he said. “It was kind of crazy, because we were basically losing control of the vehicle and then learning how to control it after it was out of control.”

This was also Abel’s first racing experience.

“I think breaking it loose is going to be fairly easy, but controlling it is going to be the hard part,” he said in the first episode.

Dauck was the only contestant with prior racing experience.

“I’ve driven autocross and some other small-circuit racing, but nothing like this,” he said. “This experience taught me more about driving and gave me a different outlook on the Air Force. It was the best Air Force experience I’ve had yet.”

Stay tuned to find out which of the four will prevail.

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