The battle between driver and asphalt finally came to fruition Sunday despite dismal skies and multiple delays due to COVID-19 and a government mandate against sporting events.

With the sound of roaring engines and the smell of engine oil still lingering in the air, the island's top drifters got a chance to shake off the pandemic rust, kicking off Round 3 of Upshift’s 2020 Proline Drifting Championships presented by Napa Auto Parts/Valvoline and Monster Energy on Sunday at the Guam International Raceway Asphalt Oval Track in Yigo.

Sponsored by Fastenal, Hafa Adai Signs, Digital Kitchen and Jones Media, the five-round series faced more than its share of obstacles to get its third round up and moving. From pandemic delays to competition day weather and glitches, the drift battle was finally held this weekend without spectators and limited to a certain number of participants. 

Von Burrell showed out, leading in the qualifying rounds and taking the eventual top spot after a day on the asphalt. Andy Passauer and Karl Dumasig rounded out the podium.

With two more rounds left in the series, Dumasig increased his lead in point standings with 54 points. Passauer (44) and Jonathan Respicio (40) round out the next two spots. On the 2020 leaderboard, Julius Atoigue and Alex Greiner make up the top five overall. Burrell, with Sunday’s win, earned 20 points to place 7th on the leaderboard for the five-round series.

A testament to the lack of drifting practice for all the competitors and the long downtime since March, several of the cars experienced some technical difficulties. While some drifters were able to clean things up and finish, Respicio, who sits in third on the overall leaderboard, was unable to complete his run on Sunday due to a worn-out tie rod. 

On the day of competition, Mother Nature didn’t help, as morning showers and gloomy skies kept the asphalt wet and slippery for the seven competitors, said Tom Akigami, one of the organizers of the race. 

Despite the showers and the technical difficulties, Akigami said, the day was “a win for the drivers. They have not been out on the track since the second lockdown in August."

With so many sports still unable to compete, Akigami said, the event was a success and "despite all the challenges, the participants were so happy to get sideways again. Win or lose, they all had a really great time.”

Akigami said the organizers expect to finish the series before the end of the year now that Department of Public Health and Social Services has approved the protocols in place to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

"We’re working on finishing out the season without spectators and strictly competitors," he said. 

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