Sunday morning was the real start of the 2012 British Drift Championship for me. After a double-booking of I sorts couldn’t make it up to Teesside for Saturday’s qualifying so had to resort to Facebook updates to find out what was going on. It wasn’t until I walked into the paddock that I noticed something was different. Last year the championship saw a driver list of approximately 80 – this year that had grown by approximately 30+% to 110 drivers. No wonder the pits looked so busy – Gazebos covered cars as far as the eye could see. There aren’t that many motor sport series that can claim this amount of growth year on year after such a relatively short life.
Wandering around the pits its very evident that people have really started to make an effort to prepare their cars to a good standard and organise pit areas rather than just throw them together. It all helps to set the scene and I’m sure some of this is down to the fact that television now plays a part in the championship. The sport already has a large fan base that enjoys the sport through event attendance or consumption of media on the web – but – these people already know what they are looking for and how to find it. When round one is televised the sport will no doubt pick up some more fans from people casually channel hopping on their sofas – it will play an important part in our countries inhabitants having a better understanding of what this is all about – this is a sport – its not just a bunch of people in cars messing about.
After fuelling up on some nice strong coffee I took a walk over to the Maxxis suite that has prime location in the centre of the course. There were still sizeable puddles of water out on the track – the remnants of the the great downpour I read about yesterday from the comfort of my iPhone. Whilst qualifying and the battles are taking place the top roof of the truck is off limits to all but the judges…this time of day is the best chance to grab a few shots from one of of best seats in the house.
After a sizable drivers briefing in the morning the cars were back out onto the track in their respective classes for some more free practice. With yesterdays changing weather conditions it was crucial for drivers to dial themselves back into the course again and get used to the available grip with the track now damp and covered in burnt rubber. There were a LOT of cars – but this didn’t seem to matter – everything was running so smoothly with great communication between the marshals and course coordinators.
Looking after 48 cars on a live course hard work – sending cars one at a time it can become an extremely laborious task but Malcolm Foskett sends each driver on their way with the same level of enthusiasm – its always nice to see people enjoying themselves doing a job they love.
Sunday morning provides the drivers with more practice time whether they have qualified or not. It’s a time when they have no pressure. The ones that have qualified just have to make sure they don’t break anything, the ones that haven’t get to use it as an extended play session.
And Grant Laker was doing exactly that. Huge Manji’s into the first corner and hugs clouds of smoke. He was literally driving until his tires blew.
Before we knew it practice was over and it was on to the competition….
The first Semi Pro Top 4 battle boiled down to Ian Waddington (Car 15) (after eliminating Matt Hitchcock) and Brian Egan (Car 52) who got his spot in the Semi Finals after defeating the Slide Motorsport R33 Skyline belonging to Adam Simmons.
The Dealt Width Honda F20C-powered AE86 of Brian Egan was in the finals – its so refreshing to see a non turbo-charged non Nissan-based contender fighting it out for the top spot on the podium. Having just got my own F20C-powered AE86 back on the road this car is the Ebony to my own Corollas Ivory – I’m sure they would sing together in perfect harmony.
Gareth Taylor (Car 65) was up against Lee Barry (Car 4). The Team MnM driver advances into the Semi-Pro Final, leaving the bright green S14 of Taylor to battle it out for third place.
In the third place playoff Ian Waddington had to settle for fourth whilst Gareth Taylor climbed onto the third step of the Semi-Pro podium.
After a close fight in the Semi Pro Finals it was Brian Egan and the F20C-powered AE86 who took 1st place after a very tough battle with Lee Barry in the Team MnM S14a.
The Pro class was equality contested. The first Semi Final battle was between Francis O’Shea who earned his spot in the Semis after defeating Andy Stroud and Christian Lewis who likewise defeated Mark Lappage for his spot. A very close battle but Lewis is on top form and progresses into the Finals.
Next up we had Michael Sheehan – he got a place in the semis after defeating Brian Cotter. His rival was Marc Huxley in the little KE70 Corolla who earned a well-deserved place in the Semi Final after a strong victory against John Glaister. The little KE destroyed the course and earned a spot in the Pro finals.
An all-Irish third battle for the bottom step of the podium saw Michael Sheehan (Car 29) and Fransic O’Shea (Car 65) battle it out. Sheehan’s orange and yellow PS13 emerges from the smoke victorious.
The Pro class Finals saw podium regulars Christan Lewis (73) in the now red R33 Skyline against Marc Huxley (Car 99) in the SR20-powered KE70 Corolla. Hux was on form – the little car was spectacular but it was Christan Lewis who would stand on the top step of the Pro podium for Round 1 after some flawless driving.
A few weeks ago in the UK a never before seen documentary called ‘Madness On Wheels’ aired on BBC4 – this program covered the demise of the era of Group B rallying around the world after a series of often fatal accidents (if you are lucky you may still find this on the BBC iPlayer). For myself this re-kindled many memories of watching these cars charging about as a young boy (showing my age here!). Many motor sport fans look back on Group B as the golden era of rallying – manufacturers pulled out all the stops to build the most crazy machines they could with very few constraints or regulations on what could or couldn’t be done. It made for some shockingly potent machinery but now most of this is retired to museums and historic displays.
BDC Main man Mark ‘Sweeps’ Buckle also has a huge passion for these cars and amazingly managed to arrange that a Metro 6R4 Group B car would be present at Round 1!
A few lucky raffle winners managed to get some time in the passenger seat round the track in this stunning piece of rallying history and raise some money for a good cause along the way. Given the car is now worth a considerable amount of money it didn’t stop its owner Ken Hall from attacking the circuit hard – sitting in a museum would do this car no good at all – they need to be used. With Group B long gone and world rallying subjected to power restrictions as with other forms of traditional motorsport, drifting and time attack are some of the only remaining motor sports where there are no real constraints on power.
Group B had a notoriously poor safety and spectator regulations – fortunately this is not the case with the British Drift Championship – safety is absolutely paramount for everyone involved. It just goes to show you can run a motor sport with ballistically powerful machinery and keep people at a safe distance without losing the excitement and drama.
On to the main event, the Super Pro class Top 16. The first surprise in the Top 16 was that top qualifier Brendan Stone was having issues with his MG Crash Repairs S15 Silvia. With no solution to the problem Stone stepped down from his place in the finals and the grid moved up one allowing 17th place qualifier Steve Baggsy Biagioni a chance in the battles having a less the perfect qualifying session in the Team Japspeed Subaru.
First up we had Wesley Keating in the WKD Imports S13.5 against Jon Calvert in the red 180SX. Both drivers go hard from the off matching each other perfectly through the long corner to the first right-hand hairpin. On the slower turns Calverts car was slow to pick up which placed him at a severe disadvantage in the chase position – possibly a mis-fire or fueling issue. Wesley Keating grabs his spot in the Great 8.
Next up another Team WKD driver in the form of Barry Leonard in the S14 against Team Japspeed’s Paul ‘Smokey’ Smith in the Japspeed S15. Watching Leonard out on the track in the morning practice with the other WKD team drivers he was fast and precise but it would be Smith and the S15 progressing into the top 8.
With a TV camera in his face Team Falken Tyre’s Alan Green waited along side Steve Moore, now of Team SATS, to kick of their Super Pro Top 16 battle.
Alan in his new car was out-driven by Moore’s experience and it would be Moore though into the Great 8.
Next up was Ian Bizz Philips in the LS Powered R33 Skyline who came charging into view along side Damien Mulvey in the sister MG Crash Repairs S15. With Brendan Stone unable to start the Top 16 battles it was their only chance to score in-battle points. (Brendan grabbing the team an immediate 10 points for his first place qualifying position.)
Mulvey’s S15 was lost in a dense cloud of LSR33 smoke and Bizz rocks into the final 8 battles.
Team Driftworks were absent from many rounds in the 2011 season after their 2010 Championship win doing all kinds of interesting projects including the feature-length Outsiders movie. Phil Morrison and the infamous DWS15 was paired for the Top 16 battle with 2011 Pro champion Mike Marshal in the Team MnM S15 who got a step up to the Super Pro class this year. Chasing Phil Morrison is no easy feat and unfortunately the Team MnM driver didn’t make it round the first hairpin handing Morrison a way forward into the Top 8.
Jody Fletcher in the Team Lassa tyres S15 went up against Shane O’Sullivan in the Monster S15. Both teams running a full quota of cars they are surely ones to watch in the 2011 constructors championship. O’Sullivan progressed in to the Top 8 after aggressively navigating the course.
On the second run the Supra of Mark Luney lost drive mid way through the course – it must take one hell of a gearbox to withstand the 1000+ bhp this car is now running. I must admit I also prefer the look of the car without the rear spoiler.
In the next battle Simon Perrry lead and Baggsy chased hard – both cars very close through the entire course.
On the second run with Baggsy up front Simon fell behind slightly seemingly down to some mechanical issues and the Japspeed Subaru pulled away to bag the final spot in the Top 8.
The first of the Top 8 battles saw WKD Imports drive Wesley Keating pair up with Paul Smith in the one of the Team Japspeed S15’s. The second WKD driver Paul has had to battle today and Wesley wasn’t going to make the task at hand any easier. In the first battle Wesley was glued to the back end of the Japspeed car – the hand brake only lightly locked here to scrub a bit of speed after a wand-less initiation by both drivers. After a very close run through the course the drivers switched places and were again very, very close at the entry into the long right-hander. On the later part of the course Paul matched the lead car brilliantly and went on into the Semi Finals. With this standard of driving the judges must be having a really tough time of things.
Next up Steve Moore in the SATS Kouki S14 along side Ian ‘Bizz’ Philips in the LSR33. On the first run Steve built up a sizeable lead over Bizz…
In the second run with Bizz up front Moore glued himself to the rear of the LS-powered R33 Skyline and took a place in the Semi-Finals.
Next Phil Morrison in the DWS15 against Shane O’Sulivan in the Monster Energy/Japspeed S15. Shane pulled a substantial lead over Phil with the orange and black S15 seemingly struggling with the higher speed foot-to-the-boards part of first turn.
In the second run the Driftworks car took the lead position – from here Phil could control things a little more and drive round the power delivery problems the car was exhibiting. As the cars moved into the tighter section of the course the Driftworks S15 was unable to pull any sort of lead on Shane – Phil peers into the rear view mirror knowing his shot at a podium finish position was over and Mr O’Sullivan was going onwards into Semi Final. I’m sure Phil will be back strong and fighting in the next round – but which car will he be in ? Both the Driftworks S15 and R32 are on offer.
Before we knew it it was the final battle in the Top 8 – this years championship is running like absolute clockwork. You’d think with the huge drivers roster things would have actually slowed down – the BDC is now into its fifth year and the people behind the scenes have a huge combined experience of running these events and it really shows. The gripped spectators barely had time to discuss a completed run before the next began – I even stopped reviewing my photographs – I didn’t want to miss a single moment.
The final Top 8 battle was Team Japspeed Vs. Team SATS – Baggsy Vs. Wayne Keeber. Both cars running hugely powerful Toyota straight six engines – the noise was incredible. At the end of the long 180 degree turn there was nothing in it and the Subaru stayed glued to the side of the low and long Toyota Soarer.
In the second run the Japspeed Subaru took a massive lead – foot to the boards very late into the corner the car was gushing huge flames over the spoiler endplates. Wayne had taken a much shallow line and sacrificed some angle in an attempt to catch up. Baggsy moves onto the Semi Finals – now the drivers really start to feel the pressure with a 1 in 4 chance of taking full points and top step on the podium.
The first Semi Final battle was Paul ‘Smokey’ Smith in the Japspeed 1JZ S15 leading against Steve ‘Speed’ Moore. The red S14 was on a real mission, staying nailed to the side of the Japspeed S15 – both cars super quick and aggressive over the entire judged course.
Moore leading in the second battle piles into the first corner initiating very deep – Paul having to make a slight adjustment on the handbrake to ensure they didn’t make contact. After the pair of hair pins Paul doesn’t quite match the angle into the final transition on the course and Steve Moore takes the first spot in the Finals!
No love was lost when Stephen Biagioni and team-mate Shane O-Sullivan paired off in the second Semi Final. The Irishman leads well on the first run, pulling a lead on the RWD-converted Subaru.
Both cars are san-bumpers as they scream into view during the second run. O’Sullivan maintains a good distance and mirrors Baggsy well, progressing to meet Steve Moore in the Finals.
We quickly find ourselves in the midst of another all-Japspeed battle, this time the prize is the last space on the podium. Baggsy leads well, putting space between the Impreza and Smith’s S15 around the first corner. The judges deem it enough and Baggsy takes third place.
The first Super Pro Finals of 2012 fly into action with Shane O’Sullivan taking the lead position in front of Steve Moore. Moore won at the venue in 2011, would we see a repeat of his previous victory?
After the first pair of runs the judges could not call enough difference between them to come to a unanimous decision. A One More Time is called!
After two more fierce battles the judges manage to agree on a decision. By the narrowest of margins Shane O’Sullivan is named as the winner of the opening round of the 2012 BDC season!
Semi Pro Results for Round 1.
1 Brian Egan
2 Lee Barry
3 Gareth Taylor
4 Ian Waddington
5 Richard McCourt
6 Adam Simmons
7 Matt Hitchcock
8 Ricky Emery
9 Jay Green
10 Andy Arnott
11 Dean Jessop
12 Gordon McIsaac
13 Jake Spiggott
14 Jay White
15 Matty Stevenson
16 Max Marshall
Pro Results For Round 1.
1 Christan Lewis
2 Marc Huxley
3 Michael Sheehan
4 Fransic O’Shea
5 Mark Lappage
6 John Glaister
7 Brian Cotter
8 Andy Stroud
9 Anthony Mortley
10 Daniel Hall
11 Hugo Fernades
12 James Fuller
13 Justin Clarke
14 Matt Campling
15 Richard Tovey
16 Ross Gregory
Super Pro Results For Round 1.
1 Shane O’Sullivan
2 Steve Moore
3 Stephen Biagioni
4 Paul Smith
5 Wesley Keating
6 Phil Morrison
7 Wayne Keeber
8 Ian Phillips
9 Simon Perry
10 Damien Mulvey
11 Alan Green
12 Barry Leonard
13 Jody Fletcher
14 Jon Calvert
15 Mark Luney
16 Micheal Marshall
17 Brendan Stone
Team Standings After Round 1.
1 SATS Motorsport
2 Team Japspeed
3 Acorn Motorsport
4 Team Dorihero
5 Team Lassa Tyres
6 Team MNM 2
8 WKD Drift Team
10 Team Rampstyle
11 MB Automotive
14 Team Sannsi
15 Team MNM 1
With the first round in the bag we look forward to Round Two of the championship at Norfolk Arena, Kings Lynn on 1st and 2nd June.
We’ll give you warning of when the first round is to be aired on television, but for now here’s a teaser to whet your appetite….
Words: Ian Gratton
Photos: Ian Gratton, Phil Man, Ste Trackslide
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