With Formula DRIFT 2023 just on the horizon, we sat down with Fredric Aasbo to discuss his previous championship win, which put him in elite company. We also discuss the upcoming season, and his future in the sport. With just one championship win to go before he makes Formula DRIFT history, could he be hinting at stepping out of his role and into a mentor position?
Fredric Aasbo’s previous Pro Championship win puts him in elite company. One more will make FD history.
First of all, obviously a big congratulations once again. Two years in a row - that's pretty big. Obviously in the moment of that victory, it's a really big deal. But now that it's all said and done, and the award ceremony is over, how does it feel in the months just after that happens?
It was pretty crazy. It's been sort of like a roller coaster ride all year. When you think you're lost mid season, which I was, and you come back and you end up clinching the championship, it's such a kind of relief. In one way, you're deflated and you're toast, and you’re done, and you’re exhausted mentally. In another way, you are hyped. You’re high on life. That time after winning a championship - those months after winning a championship is probably when I am the cockiest. We went into the desert with my friends - we were probably 50/60 people out there in the desert celebrating and raging and driving our old off-road trucks, and burning a few of them down. It’s a time to party for all of us involved.
Right on. So with the next FD season just on the horizon, what is preseason prep looking like for you right now?
For me, it's a lot of frozen lake drifting in the winter. Good conditions up here in Norway and Sweden, although we sometimes have to go further north to find good quality ice. But in a good winter, I get probably 15 solid days of driving,which is a lot of seat time. We log a lot of hours and a lot of laps in a day. Time to kind of work on the cars and service and prep, but also to just mentally recharge for everyone involved. One thing that we've found is that we all need to step away from cars for a little bit to come back hungry. That's not just me, it's also Steph and the boys. We try and take some time off in the winter. For 2023, we're working with Wisefab on revamping some of the rear suspension. We're working with RSR on some shock tuning, some minor details here and there, but that's pretty much it.
That's actually a good segue into what I wanted to ask next. You've got a pretty good winning formula figured out, obviously. Are there any major changes other than the Wisefab and the RSR stuff coming into this season? For either the car or the team?
There isn't. And on one hand, we've had a winning recipe, like you said. But the thing is, that's not static. The targets always move, and I think this year we're going to see some of our competitors get stronger. Some of them are changing tires, which I think will help them. We're getting new phases into the sport. Everyone's improving. In one sense, I'd love to push further and make some more moves and try some different things, but on the other hand, it's a little dangerous to go down the rabbit hole and change up too much. So I think we're going to start off with what we have. We have a decent grip on what we think will be needed, and then we'll work on adapting when we have to.
How about you as a driver? Is there anything that you say you had personally improved on over the last two years? Or is there something you work at constantly in that sense?
Good question. I think in ‘21, I was very focused and I had really given it my all that year and had been going into ‘21 with really dedicated winter practice. And after a few years where we had been more cautious with driving, and a little more controlled, and a little more reserved on track, we made the conscious decision to be more aggressive in ‘21. And sometimes that leads to more mistakes and more losses because the risk goes up, right? But we gambled a little bit in ‘21. I drove a lot more aggressively. We played more on the offense and it worked out. So I'm actually really proud of how everything played out in ‘21. Now going into ‘22, it was more of an up and down - and a little bit of a roller coaster ride - where I lost focus halfway through the season. I wasn’t as hungry in ‘22 as I was in ‘21, and that's always sort of been my thing - after a year where I do well, I almost fall back a little bit. I almost get a little complacent, and a little - I don't know - I lose some hunger, so I think we got lucky winning the championship last year. We didn't do that great of a job, it's just that all the other teams didn’t do that well either. Matt was on pace to really seal it up, and he did a killer job for six events but then it fell apart over the last two, and that's pretty much what gave us the title. So I’m not so proud of ‘’22. I wish I was more hungry, and a stronger competitor that year, but in the end it was enough for the championship.
So safe to say coming into this year pretty hungry for that three-peat?
Absolutely. And we have the opportunity to be the first to get a fourth championship. Obviously that would be huge, and a major goal, and at the same time, something that I'm very careful about dreaming of, cause I know what it takes. I know that it's gonna take more than we've ever put into it. Because we have everybody else getting stronger. We got lucky last year. It's hard to be lucky two years in a row. So I have a lot of respect for that challenge, but leading back to your question of how I'm preparing myself, I'm doing everything I can to combat getting older, perhaps a loss of reaction time and a loss of edge, and clocking seat time in the winter.
2023 is painting quite a stage - at least from a fan perspective. It would be your attempt at the 3 in a row, which would put you up with the only one to ever do it, James Deane. Your win last year puts you alongside James Deane and Chris Forsberg as the only drivers with three Championship wins, so you could be the first to hit four. Do you pay attention to stuff like that?
Yeah, I really don't pay a lot of attention to those stats. I know of them, obviously. We all want to be the best, right? But at the end of the day, thinking about that stuff doesn't lead to any wins. It's about the little details, the day to day, the turn to turn choices you make, right? That will make you win events. And with James coming [back] in, he's obviously going to do well. The bigger question for me is if it's going to trickle down into the rest of the RTR camp, you know, they’re such a strong and incredible outfit of a team, but they haven't been able to really turn that into championship titles over the last couple of years. When Vaughn departed, it's almost like they lost a little bit of that edge. So I think they made some really smart decisions this year with Vaughn coming back, seemingly focusing more on drift, and bringing James in. So I think with all of what they have combined, they're gonna be really strong. And I don't think we should, forget about the other guys that are coming in too. Some really solid names there too, right? Forrest Wang, Diego Higa, my old friend Kristaps coming in. I think it's shaping up for an incredible year.
Utah Motorsports Campus - a brand new venue for last year’s Championship - what were your initial thoughts on the place? Have you driven there before that?
I'd never been there before, and I loved it. I loved everything about it. You know, the scenic nature of that venue, you know, just the backdrop. It looks like something out of a Gran Turismo game or something like that. And the track was super fun. Really high speed entry, which is cool. It's seemingly a pretty simple course, but it's very challenging and coming out of that turn two - turn two was really tricky. Lots of hiccups into that corner, lots of hiccups out of that corner into the last corner. So I think it was a smart decision to go there by FD and even better, it was a great course layout for everyone.
So now that you've had a chance to experience all of the tracks that are upcoming with this new season, do you have one you're most excited for or one you're least excited for?
I've always said that Atlanta is my favorite track and it may still be my favorite track. We had an excellent week there last year. I think that was the one track where we really nailed the setup, and it's the fast-flowing nature of that track. It kind of reminds me of Europe. Utah is cool. Least favorite? Long beach is very treacherous and weird to drive, but it's epic to spectate and it's an epic show to be a part of, but maybe not my favorite track from a driving point of view. It's kind of one of those where you just want to get through there and you never know if you will.
Speaking of different tracks, can you touch on a little bit about how car setup might change between different tracks for you?
That's one of the big lessons we've learned over the last five years is the importance of really dialing in the car per track. I think that as a team, we have our limitations and challenges and things that I'm not good at, and things we're not collectively good at as a team, but one of the things we have done well is really dialing in the setup per track. And I’m very specific myself in what I want to try, what directions I want to go. I like to think that I have a good understanding of physics. I'm not a great mechanic, but I'm a decent mechanic, and I feel like I understand the concepts of dynamic alignment, and just general physics in race cars is a big topic for myself and we're always trying to push ourselves. We're big nerds, right? So I think that's where the battles have been over the last few years is who can really hit the ground running at each event. Who can have a good setup for that track? Who can have the most margin in the car? Who can make the car the easiest to drive and still have the pace needed? So all of those things will tip the scale in your favor or make you lose the battle. So we've been very specific with that. I pushed Steph into buying the whole catalog of sway bars and Geforce gears and Winters diff gears. We try to have a lot of options available.
I don't know if this is too soon to talk about, but last year you had expressed some interest in kind of stepping into a mentor role somewhere down the line. Are we close to that time? If you secure the consecutive three-peat and make FD history, is that your grand exit?
It's kind of a thought and an idea that's always in the back of my head, but I haven't turned that into reality or a formal thing yet. I do try and help some drivers here and there. I try and offer some advice. I try and give away some of the experience, but so far, it hasn't materialized into a proper mentorship or something that's expressed like that. It's something that Steph and I keep talking about, and who knows how long I'll drive for? Who knows how long I'm competitive for? It's still on the table. If I was to do it, I would want to go all in. I could care less about being part of an outfit or a team that wasn't set on winning. It needs to be a top of the line driver that's coming up that really has everything, has what it takes, that has the hunger and everything else to do it. I'm dipping my toes in a little bit with Hunter, my wife, who's going to do the Pro series here in Scandinavia this year, and there's some kids here in Norway that I like and believe in, and obviously lots of drivers in the rest of the world too. So a little too early to say I'm fully committed to that, but it's on the radar.
Right now the focus is obviously 2023 FD. So that's understandable. With that said dude, we obviously wish you the best. I think you're a really good ambassador for the sport. I've said that before. I'll say it again. Lastly, is there anything you want to say to all the fans that are watching out there?
Oh boy. Well, I'm excited for this year. At SEMA last year, Ryan Sage of FD said that FD's in a great spot, everything's looking up, there's incredible fan interest. Long Beach is probably gonna sell out again if it hasn't. So I'll see you all there, and I'm gonna do everything I can to deliver. So I’ll see you there!