Having missed out on Drift Allstars round 3 (Malta) and round 4 (France) I had no excuses for round 5 with it taking place only 40 miles or so away from my base in Derby. 2011 has been a complete blur – its hard to believe that we are at round 5 already. My last visit to Birmingham Wheels was last year when we went to check out one of the regular Never-Lift grass roots events that runs there so I was about due a trip back.
The wheels circuit is your typical oval/stock car track. No serious competition drifting has taken place here for a long while now so its actually quite refreshing to see a professional level championship round take place at the venue. Nowadays events are typically now run at bigger venues, either proper racing circuits or massive car parks with much more freedom to design faster courses. It would be interesting to see how the vastly more powerful cars that now frequent a series like Drift Allstars get on within the tight confines of the steel-walled raceway. Its almost like a trip down memory lane for those who have been involved in the sport since the start of the last decade where drifting really started to find a following in the UK.
Generally speaking Drift Allstars run a full field of drivers resulting in top 16 battles onwards to the podium but due to various logistical issues and event clashes some of the mainland European drivers were unable to make it along. This left us with 10 Drift Allstars regulars with surprise guest entry 2010 British Drift Championship winner – Driftworks very own Phil Morrison!. The Driftworks head quarters is literally a few miles from the Birmingham Wheels complex and the venue holds many fond memories for the company – how different things must feel now after almost a decade of progress.
Ovals can often be a bit limiting in terms of the type of track layouts that are possible but the organisers managed to make good use of the available space. The judged part of the course began at the north west exit of the big bend, drivers then transitioned back through the central part of the oval and piled on speed towards the large 180 degree turn. Drivers then fired back along the top straight making a transition mid way along before transitioning back again for the 180 degree turn at the other end of the circuit – exiting the turn the drivers then flick back into the infield and loop back into the same 180 degree turn before crossing the finish line.
After 2 hours of practice qualifying kicked off to decide the drivers going through into the top 8 battles – so lets take a look at some of the action.
One of the first drivers to hit the track was Phil Morrison in the formidable Driftworks 2JZ-powered S15. Back in the early days of drifting in the UK Phil and most of the Driftworks ensemble frequented Wheels regularly as it was one of the few places in the UK where it was actually tolerated.
Well rested from Awesomefest only a few weeks ago Phil laid down some extremely aggressive qualifying runs filling the arena with the usual dense clouds of Federal tyre smoke.
Next up we had Walton Smith in the Jap Performance Parts/Garage-D RB26 powered wide bodied GC8 impreza. Solid runs from Walton – the Impreza seeming even more responsive that normal in the confines of the arena with very very fast transitions along the top straight.
Nigel Colfer had no issues…
You’ll notice Nigel’s car, like many, is running without a rear wing this weekend. The cars get so close to the high-sided steel armco they can easily be ripped cliean off – there is no point in causing damage for the sake of it.
Fillippo Pirini’s NB MX-5 is ideally suited to the Wheels track layout – the car is incredibly fast in the corners due to its light weight.
Filloppo has really gotton to grips with this little car since last time I saw him drive at Round 2 up in Sunderland. The tiny Mazda is never going to make as much smoke as the bigger more powerful cars with very wide rear tyres but the judges obviously take this into account. The little Mazda is one to watch today as the more powerful cars won’t get a chance to stretch their legs in the confines of today’s venue.
Championship leader James Deane didn’t need to long to get to grips with the track.
James put down a pair of solid runs and was sure of a place in the final 8 cars.
Anthony Morley’s squeaky clean R324 Bee*R kitted skyline looks just the part – with the car recently completed its somewhat of an unknown quantity. Anthony put down some steady clean runs.
Last time I watched Tom Yates drive was up at Sunderland where he was plagued with steering issues snapping a front outer steering arm several times over the weekend.
Unfortunately Tom tagged the back the car after one of the transitions along the top straight which tapped the front corner back into the wall. Damage wasn’t enough to stop Tom from putting in a final qualifying run but it goes to show just how unforgiving the steel lined wheels raceway is.
Prodrift regular Christy Carpenter is used to some of the tight courses over in Ireland and obviously felt straight at home at Birmingham Wheels.
Stood in the infield the car was deafening has it transitioned through the straight into the top turn with fire spilling from its exhaust.
Jungle Power’s R32 4door skyline entered the arena purging nitrous from between its headlights like a snorting dragon. Taking a tighter line round one of the 180 degree turns puts you close to a very bumpy rumble strip – this soon dislodged the front bumper which amazingly didn’t get eaten by the car for the last third of the course.
Bumper removed the skyline put in some very smooth consistent runs – almost sure of a place in the battles.
Brad Mcqueen’s Ouch Tattoos S14 is one of the least powerful cars in the series running a lightly breathed upon SR20 motor with approximately 300bhp. Brad has always taken the approach of adding more power when he feels he can exploit what he already has – its a very methodical way of improving things. Again – no problems here with a spot in the top 8 after some very consistent judged runs.
Top 3 drivers from the qualifying runs where:
1st. James Deane
2nd. Nigel Colfer
3rd. Phil Morrison
By the time the top 8 began it was 8pm and the natural light of the day was beginning to fade. From a photography point of view I’m now in no mans land – I’ve had very few opportunities to shoot moving cars at night so we’ll just have to try what ‘should’ work and hope that it does. The huge wheels floorlights were powered up to illuminate the track – it would help – but not by much. Most drivers also opted to leave their lights off during the battles – most likely because they are not wired up and present on the car for aesthetics only.
The first top 8 battle is between 1st place Qualifier James Deane in the LBD/Severnside Imports ‘Little Bastard’ and the freshly built JDM Garage Bee*R32 skyline of Anthony Morley. With Anthony’s car being so freshly built it would likely place him at a slight disadvantage – James has been driving this car for a considerable period and knows it intimately. In the second run Anthony made a slight mistake and ended up tagging the wall with the skylines pristine rear right quarter so it was James Deane that bagged the first spot in the semi finals.
Next up we have Walton Smith vs. Phil Morrison – Phil pulls out a good gap in the first run but Walton fights back hard in the second run but can’t shake Phil and they stay incredibly close through the course. Watching the run it was almost impossible to differentiate between the two but by a narrow margin Phil advances into the semi finals.
Next up we had Brad Mcqueen in Ouch Tattoos S14 against Nigel Colfer. Brads car is relatively standard in comparison running around 300bhp but the tight and technical nature of the circuit wouldn’t give Nigel much of an opportunity to make use of the very obvious power advantage. In the first battle Nigel lead managing to pull a slight gap on the Ouch Tattoos car. In the 2nd run Nigel followed Brad really closely and matched the lead car well. Nigel Colfer bagged himself a spot in the semi finals.
The last of the top 8 battles saw Christy Carpenter’s hugely powerful S15 up against Italy’s Fillippo Pirini’s turbo charged NB MX-5. This would be an interesting one given the little MX5 is extremely well suited to circuits like this. The little car can carry incredibly good speed through the course given its weight advantage over the 1JZ powered S15 – this was going to be interesting!.
Fillippo put up a great fight making Christy work hard to stay close and not let him pull away but it was Christy who would be advancing forward into the Semi finals. A top 8 finish its Fillippos best ranking so far this year and it was a real pleasure to watch the little car do so well.
So the first of our Semi final runs sees local hero Phil Morrison up against James Deane. In the first run Phil has to straighten slightly to keep close to James meaning he has to pull out the stops in the 2nd run.
This time with Phil out in front James Deane won’t let Phil recover from the correction in the first run and stays glued to the door of the Driftworks S15. James Deane yet again makes it into the final. Phil does his signature smoke screen rolling burnout on his way out of the arena to the delight of the local Birmingham crowd.
The second semi final battle sees Christy Carpenter against Nigel Colfer. In the first run Nigel slows after the first turn before the start line. On inspection the car has lost some intercooler plumbing and has no boost. Nigel invokes the 5 minute rule and returns to the pits to resolve the issue. As Nigel returns from the pits ready to do battle Christy then calls the five minute rule – the Yokohama S15 is down on fuel so the team quickly give the car a drink of the fire water and they are off.
After the issue in the first run Nigel fights back hard but its not enough – Christy moves into the finals and Nigel faces Phil Morrison to determine the 3rd place spot on the podium.
Phil Morrison vs Nigel Colfer. Colfer pulls out a good lead in his first run.
Phil smokes out the place on his second run but Nigel won’t give up and stays door to door. Its anyone’s guess so we’ll have to wait for the podium to find out who will be taking the third place spot.
Another all Irish final James Deane vs Christy Carpenter. Christy looses angle in the first run when following James after the first turn in the course.
2nd run Christy pushes hard but the damage is already done.
With all the runs completed the crowd were asked to take a trip to the far side of the track where the Drift Allstars Banner had been hung over the hallowed Birmingham Wheels sign to form an impromptu podium – which 3 of the final 4 would be bagging trophies and getting showered in Champagne today ?
Phil Morrison and the ever evil Driftworks S15 stepped up into the 3th place spot and was as always beaming from ear to ear. It must be so nice for Phil to finish well here in front of a home crowd. 2nd place went to Christy Carpenter in the Yokohama tyres Nissan S15, and first place to James Deane in the LBD/Servernside PS13 Silvia to extend his lead in the 2011 championship. Several of the top points scorers not present for this round have their work cut out for them if they still want a chance of this years title.
The next round of the championship takes place at Wembley Arena 16th-17th September in the countries capital. Always a popular round with the crowd its set to be a jam packed weekend of fun – check out our coverage from last years Wembley event. Maybe we’ll see you there ? Check out the Championship standings after round 5 on the Drift Allstars website.
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