A Day in the Life of a Formula Drift Judge: Ryan Lanteigne Gives Us the Inside Scoop

Formula Drift 2020 16 photos
Photo: Larry Chen/ Formula Drift
Formula Drift 2016- Forrest WangFormula Drift 2020Formula Drift 2020Formula Drift 2020Formula Drift 2020Formula Drift 2020Formula Drift 2020Formula Drift 2020Formula Drift 2020Formula Drift 2020Formula Drift 2020Formula Drift 2020Formula Drift Judge: Ryan LanteigneFormula Drift 2021Formula Drift 2021
Round 6 of Formula Drift is on this weekend at Evergreen Speedway near Seattle. As the leading series for pro drifting in North America continues to grow, more fans are joining in on the action. Given the complexities of judging for both the qualifying and tandem runs, we sat down with lead series judge, Ryan Lanteigne to give you a more in-depth look at what FD is all about.
Even though we have been following Formula Drift from afar for almost 14 years now, we learned quite a few interesting things after an hour-long discussion with Ryan.

Born and raised in Canada, it was there that he first got involved with fast cars. Growing up playing with Matchbox cars and riding in his father's 7-Up Fox body Mustang, he was hooked on the automotive scene as he knew he would play a role in it later on.

Ryan recalls his first car being a 1996 Hyundai Accent GT, which he drove around for several years learning the basics of car control. He became involved with the Canadian Drift Championship (DMCC) at an early stage.

And that led to him getting behind the wheel of an R32 Nissan Skyline GTS-T. He later traded this coupe for a sedan version of the same car that had a more capable engine, and that's how drifting became a huge part of his life.

Formula Drift Judge\: Ryan Lanteigne
Photo: Larry Chen/ Formula Drift
His love for the sport and skills would earn him a seat in a newly-formed team that had just imported two Pontiac GTOs from the States. After two years of competing in the DMCC, overcoming racing debt and the quirkiness of the GTO chassis Ryan was invited to become an official judge for the series.

He made his judging debut in 2010. DMCC and Formula Drift had entered an agreement in which FD judges would fly over to Canada to help develop the series.

And so, Ryan got the chance to work with pros like Tony Angelo, Ernie Fixmer, and Andy Yen. "I remember Tony Angelo designing unconventional tracks, he was the kind of guy that would challenge people. He would make things difficult so that they could learn and develop as professional drivers."

After working with Tony for most of 2010 and meeting up with Ryan Sage at the end of the year, Ryan would make the step towards becoming a judge for Formula Drift starting in 2011.

Formula Drift 2016\- Forrest Wang
Photo: Larry Chen/Formula Drift
Over the past 12 or so years, Ryan Lanteigne has judged hundreds of drift events in multiple countries including Canada, the United States of America, Brazil, Japan, Peru, and the Dominican Republic, to name a few.

He kicked things off in Long Beach and continued to receive support from Tony Angelo throughout the season. Judging a sport like drifting is not an easy thing to do, and we asked Ryan about some of his most difficult calls over the years.

The first battle that came to mind was the one between Chris Forsberg and Forrest Wang at Formula Drift New Jersey back in 2016. As Forsberg was chasing, Wang seemingly over-rotated while coming off the bank and past the inside clipping zone.

That slowed him down a bit, and Forsberg's Z made contact with the S15. The judge's decision was unanimous, but the crowd wasn't happy with the fact that Chris took the win.

Formula Drift 2021
Photo: Larry Chen/ Formula Drift
"This run set a lot of precedents for what a lead car should be held responsible for, and what a chase car should adapt to. The Internet went wild after our decision, people did not want to see Forrest being held responsible. He announced that he would be retiring from the series but later came back due to sponsor obligations.

It was revealed to us at one point that his car had suffered a mechanical issue coming off the bank, and that he barely prevented it from spinning before making contact with Forsberg".

As part of his responsibilities as an FD judge, Ryan also contributes to designing the track layout for each event. But that's not a judge-exclusive duty, as the people in charge of event safety have a strong say in the process too.

He is also in charge of driver briefings, as he has to explain the judging criteria at every given event. We asked about how the requirements are structured and conveyed to the competitors, to get a better understanding of the workflow and thought process.

Formula Drift 2020
Photo: Larry Chen/Formula Drift
"For a few years, we've started phasing out inside clips, as they tend to be quite tricky. Leads cars tend to create a choke point there, and the chase cars can't maintain proximity properly. We want everyone to be within the course boundaries.

So we've tried to design courses with as many outside zones as possible as that allows chase drivers to get close and have a good tandem battle. Speed is no longer a factor in FD judging. Everyone would rather see door-to-door action at lower speeds than high speeds with the two cars being far away from each other"

If you've ever seen a live broadcast from Formula Drift, you'll notice that things move pretty fast. A judge has a limited time frame to decide the result of a battle. In the event of a tandem run that seems very close, judges will typically decide for a "One More Time" if they can't make up their minds in 30 seconds or less.

For qualifying, each of the three judges will look at a particular criterion: line, angle, and what used to be known as "style". But in tandem competition, judges will be analyzing the overall run from start to finish.

Formula Drift 2021
Photo: Larry Chen/ Formula Drift
Ryan has been developing a program aimed at training judges for pro drifting competitions, which has been utilized in other corners of the world as well. So we asked him about the skills required to become one if any of you are contemplating a career in the sport:

"You need to be able to focus on multiple things at once. You're looking at the line, angle, transitions, flow, and momentum throughout the course. You have to be analytical, and you can't get distracted by what's going on around you.

It takes a certain kind of person to be able to, first of all, make the difficult calls, to defend them, and also explain your decision to the fans, teams, and drivers."
We'll give you more insights on what we've learned from Ryan in future stories, but until then be sure to follow today's race!

If you liked the article, please follow us:  Google News icon Google News Youtube Instagram
About the author: Dragos Chitulescu
Dragos Chitulescu profile photo

The things Dragos enjoys the most in life are, in no particular order: cars, motorcycles, diecast cars, and drifting. He's seen (and driven) many vehicles since he started his writing career back in 2009, but his garage currently houses a 1991 Mazda RX-7 FC3S Turbo II and a 1999 Suzuki SV650-S.
Full profile


Would you like AUTOEVOLUTION to send you notifications?

You will only receive our top stories