EVENT: 2012 European Drift Allstars Round 1: Birmingham Wheels Night Fight

Posted by Ian Gratton on 4th June 2012

With the better weather gracing the UK the drift season is now in full swing. The 19 May saw the start of the 2012 European Drift Allstars championship kick off over at Birmingham Wheels in the United Kingdom. Last time Drift Allstars visited Birmingham wheels was for round 5 of the 2011 championship in August last year when rioting was in full swing across the country in major cities.  The only fights we’d witness this year would be between the competitors eager to bag themselves top points at the season opener. As its name suggests the drivers list is made up of competitors from across Europe – lets take a peep at some of the runners and riders.

Being an AE86 owner its Alan Sinnot’s SR20-powered car that first catches my eye. Previously bright red, the car has been resprayed in a rather striking purple to match up with…

Spain’s Luis Lopez who had driven all the way from Barcelona to take part in the event.  The purple S13 above is his ‘B Car’ after an engine failure in the S14 he’ll hopefully be driving for the rest of the year.

Another welcome return for 2012 is 2010 Drift Allstars Champion Luke Fink all the way from eastern Australia. Lukes main sponsor is Gasoline for Humans but he will also be running Nexen tyres for the season. The car you see above is Christy Carpenter’s 2011 Yokohama Tyres 1JZ powered S15 – Luke jumped off the plane and straight into the car – as you would expect from a driver of this caliber it took no time at all for him to get comfortable. Luke’s been very busy in competition out in Auz but its great to have him back in the Northern hemisphere.

Achilles Tyres are also backing two drivers in this years championship – the first of which is Finland’s Juha Rintanen. Juha’s S14a is seriously seriously potent with around 700bhp on tap and a remarkable amount of traction. The car was able to gain masses of speed down the back straight of the course layout whilst still producing plumes of smoke. Juha was hugely impressive over at the Romanian Drift Grand Prix last October and was surely a favorite for this event.

Dan Chapman is the second driver in the Achilles stable with a good history of podium finishes over the years. The Low Brain Drifters ‘Little Bastard’ was piloted to championship victory in 2010 by Luke Fink and then again in 2011 by James Deane. The potent SR20 motor that worked so well in this car has now been replaced with a full high compression race spec Chevvy LS1 V8 – normally aspirated and running 650bhp! With a fresh lick of paint its hard to spot any remains of the car in its previous guise. If you peep through the wheels you’ll spot massive Alcon brakes to help bring this potent car to a stop – large sausage filters protruding from the bonnet of the car hiding 8 fire-spitting individual throttle bodies. Unfortunately for Mr. Chapman the car was having some issues with the engine’s dry sump system and rather than risking outright engine failure the team decided to retire the car after practice. I was really looking forward to seeing Dan back behind the wheel again – I guess we’ll have to wait for round 2.

Matt Chiappa and ‘The General’ were back out with some new sponsors helping them on their quest – hiding under the bonnet is the 450bhp high-revving SR20 that previously powered the LBD ‘Little Bastard’ to 2 championship victories. Matt is a really down to earth guy and was recently my mentor at the Drift Allstars Media battle that was held at Brands Hatch with Speedhunters, Aatomotion, Low Brain TVs Dan Buck Joyce and Trackday Films/Driftworks Al Clark. The General is now an absolute MONSTER – when the boost comes on this pair fly.

Anthony ‘Scotty’ Scott and the Rocket Bunny S13 were looking good in practice – the car has now had substantial weight savings via space framing that obviously stays within the regulations outlined by the championship. This car has come full circle initially running a boat anchor of an RB30 straight six and now back to a trusty and responsive tuned SR20. Scotty seems to be getting on with the car now better than ever so it just goes to show large v8 or straight 6 motors aren’t be be all and end all. You can read more about the Rocket Bunny in it’s 2012 configuration here.

Nigel Colfer starts off 2012 with a fresh 180sx shell with serious modifications and the 1JZ running gear transferred from a car he had been using for the last 3 years. With Drive N Style and Marangoni tyres still on board as sponsors and the experienced Colfer at the wheel this car is set to do well in the 2012 championship.

Italy’s Fillippo Pirini is still driving the extremely well prepared Mazda NA-B roadster. This year the little 1.8L all steel turbo charged engine is running approximately 360bhp.  In a car that comprises mainly of FIA-approved rollcage and carbon fibre body panels it absolutely flies round Wheels raceway.

In a sport which is becoming more dominated by powerful V8 and straight six turbo powered cars its always nice to see a smaller more nimble car. Steve ‘Stiggy’ Evans and the mighty KP Starlet have been on the circuit since the dawn of drifting in the UK – Steve has a huge amount of experience both as a driver and judge. With a very lightweight chassis and normally aspirated Cosworth YB engine putting out approximately 250bhp the little car goes like stink. One of the things I like about drifting is such a small ‘underdog’ car can be seen rubbing doors with larger cars with twice the power output. Judges obviously take this into account – power isn’t enough to guarantee victory – skill and commitment also play a massive part in the outcome.

The UK’s Brad Mcqueen is back in the tried and tested Ouch Tattoos S14 – with a slight hike in power since last season this car and driver combo looked very consistent in practice.

It was also nice to see James Wolstenholme out in the white Drift ONE s14. The car above was previously black and is normally used to give passengers Taxi rides at grass roots days run over at Buxton Raceway and Oulton Park. James was one of the pioneers of early UK drifting but has been living out in Japan for the past few years – it’s good to see him back on home soil.

Driftworks and Phil Morrison were in attendance – their base only a coupe of miles down the road. The car is pretty much running in the tried and tested engine configuration that has given this combo so much success over the years – if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it (well – other than an electrical gremlin that plagued the car a few weeks ago up at round 1 of the British Drift Championship). Wheels raceway serves as a local testing ground for the Driftworks team so no issues with getting to know the track here – the corner of the rear duck bill spoiler missing for some very close proximity action along the wall in practice.

With qualifying over our Top 16 looked like this:

1. Juha Rintanen
2. Nigel Colfer
3. Phil Morrison
4. Luke Fink
5. Walton Smith
6. Damien Mulvey
7. Alan Sinnot
8. Fillipo Pirrini
9. Brad McQueen
10 Luis Lopez
11. Steve Evans
12. Peter Green
13. Anthony Scott
14. Martin richards
15. Anthony Morthley
16. Ricky Emery

Top 16 Battles

Phil Morrison vs. Martin richards – Morrison on the door straight from the off giving the judges a clear decision on his spot in the top 8.

Luke Fink vs. Anthony Scott.  Scotty and the Rocket Bunny are driving exceptionally well but the extra grunt and aggression of Finks driving bag him a spot in the top 8.

Next up we had Walton Smith in the Jap Performance Parts GC8 Subaru against Luis Lopez in the Nexen Tyres S13 B-Car.  It took a one more time to decide things but it was Walton who would be moving onto the next round of battles.

Next Italy’s Fillipo Pirrini and the little turbo charged Mazda NA-B goes up against Nigel Colfer in the Marangoni Tyres 1JZ powered Nissan S13. This is a closer battle than you would think by just taking the cars at face value. Both cars have been substantially lightened but equally have considerably more power than normal – I suspect the power to weight ratio of these cars is fairly close.  After some close door-to-door action and Colfer being on 3 wheels chasing down the little car it was he who would got a spot in the top 8. A very close run thing and great to watch closely through the camera.

Next up we had 16th place man Ricky ‘Topgun’ Emery up against 1st place man Juha Rintanen. Considering it’s Ricky’s first year in professional competition (he also runs in the Semi Pro category of the British Drift Championship) he has a huge amount of self confidence and isn’t going to let the big boys psyche him out. Whilst in the lead position Ricky couldn’t shake Rintanen’s S14 and whilst following the orange S14 pulled a serious lead on the Toyota Soarer giving Juha a spot in the top 8.

Next Peter Green in the V8 powered E30 BMW against Martin Richards in the Pure Performance R33 Skyline. The little BMW has stupendous amounts of steering lock and can sail round the large turns on a really wide line close to the wall – he makes Richards chase hard – the big skyline not quite as nimble and the driver having to overcome faster shifts of more weight. On the second run the little BMW fails to match the tighter line taken by the Skyline and Richards progresses into the great 8.

The battles keep coming fast – next Damien Mulvey in the MG Crash Repairs S15 vs. Brad ‘Lightning’ McQueen in the Ouch Tattoos S14. McQueen with a power deficit over the S15 chases hard and manages to knock off a bumper tapping a front clip towards the end of the first battle. McQueen now under pressure has to try and shake Mulvey from his tail but it’s not going to happen – the MG Crash Repairs S15 goes into the next round.

Next up an all Toyota battle between Alan Sinnot in the SR20-powered AE86 Levin and Steve ‘Stiggy’ Evans in the Cosworth YB-powered KP Starlet. Both cars light – one turbocharged, one normally aspirated – which is rare for smaller engined cars in competition these days which is a shame. There is something special about pedaling a lower powered light weight car – its a very rewarding job. It took a one more time to decide this pair – and selfishly I am glad it did – these old Toyotas are a stunning sight to behold. It was Alan Sinnot in the AE86 moving onto the final 8 after a very close run set of 4 battles with Stiggy.

Top 8 Battles

And that was the Top 16 done – our final 8 gladiators had been selected and they were pulled up in front of the crowd for some introductions and Q&A. Another nice touch at this round of the championship was an internet live stream for those who couldn’t make it all the way across Europe to see the action up close. 

So onto the first top 8 battle – and what a battle it was! Driftworks Phil Morrison in the DWS15 against Australia’s Luke Fink in the Gasoline for Humans S15. Both cars running Toyota straight six JZ-series engines generating a combined 1200+ bhp  makes one hell of a sound! In the second battle Phil was chasing Luke who pulled a good few car lengths through the transition along the straight. Phil re-gained some ground but it would be Fink taking the first of the semi final spots.

Next up Nigel Colfer in the 1JZ powered 180sx up against Walton Smith in the Jap Performance Parts RB27 powered GC8 impreza. Both these guys go hard and they have battled against each other on many occasions – it was going to be another close one. Today it was Walton who advanced into the top 8 after a storming pair of battles and putting good distance between himself and Nigel Colfer in the first battle.

Finland’s Juha Rintanen up next in the S14a with Martin Richards in the Pure Performance R33 Skyline. Juha took a wide fast line round the first turn an really picked up speed by the transition midway along the straight. On the second run Richards could dictate the line a little more but the Orange S14a mirrored the line almost perfectly. A top 8 finish for Martin Richards and into the semi finals goes Rintanen.

Next up for the final top 8 battle we have fellow countryman Alan Sinnot in the Nexen Tyres AE86 along side Damien Mulvey in the MG Crash Repairs S15. Unfortunately Damien’s S15 had a back wheel failure – it parting company with the car completely leaving him stranded in the centre of the track whilst Alan Sinnot continued on with the run. Even after a fresh wheel was installed the damage was already done and Alan Sinnot moved onto the Semi Finals.

Semi Finals

The first Semi-final battle was between Walton Smith in the Jap Performance Parts Subaru and Luke Fink in the S15. With the 3 steps on the podium now in sight the battles step up another notch. In the first battle Luke Fink stays glued to the side of Walton’s Subaru in the first big turn and proceeds to stay right on the back of Walton in the fast transition along the straight. In the second battle Luke Fink goes first and Walton follows – Fink is seriously fast. In an attempt to get back close for the rest of the course Walton appears to sacrifice some angle in an attempt to catch up – which he does by the turn at the other end of the straight which gives Luke Fink the win and a place on the final!

Next Semi-final battle is between Alan Sinnot in the SR20 Turbo-powered AE86 Levin and Juha Rintanen in the Achilles Tyres S14a.  Both cars collide on the sighting lap – Sinnot loses a right front wheel – Rintanen a left rear 1/4 – its soon sorted and the battles re-commence. In the first battle with Rintanen up front the little Corolla was glued to the back of the hugely powerful s14 – the weight of the Corolla playing a major role in being able to carry higher speed through more of the course. When the drivers switched places with Alan and the lighter car up front Juha wasn’t able to stay so close as he had been with other opponents in earlier battles – the S14a makes good smoke from its wider tyres and a phenomenal noise. The judges pick Alan Sinnot for to pair up with Luke Fink in the finals!

3rd/4th Place Battle

It’s pretty dark now – only 2 more battles to go before the get to see what the round 1 podium will look like – with two drivers already holding a guaranteed place it was between Walton Smith and Juha Rintanen.  Walton and Juha have pretty good knowledge of driving with each other in Romania last October – both fast and aggressive drivers, it was going to be epic. In the first battle Juha leads and its fairly even until the transition mid way along the back straight – at this point the 1JZ-powered S14a pulls a serious lead in the next 180 degree turn – Walton doesn’t catch up. Switching places Walton is super fast up front but Juha matches his every move – in the later faster sections of the course he simply can’t pull the lead that Juha did in the first battle. Juha takes third place!

Final

So – its the finals – Australia’s Luke Fink in the 1JZ-powered S15 is up against the absolutely flying Alan Sinnot in the SR20-powered AE86 Corolla. With both drivers showing huge skill and speed to make it this far the final battles were going to be something else.

The AE86 starts of in the lead position and Mr. Sinnot flaws it through the first long turn and pulls a lead on Luke – he soon catches up and does a great job to get back on the line created by the lead car. There is nothing in it after the second battle and the judges call a one more time!

The first one more time battle goes pretty much like the start of the final – Alan Sinnot charging ahead and Luke doing a perfect job of catching back up and getting on line. In the second battle Luke Fink takes a tighter faster line through the first transition – the front inside wheel compresses the front suspension as it hits the kerb and lifts the front of the car dropping pretty much all the weight of the car onto the rear outside tyre which was already taking a pounding. It was only as the cars make the 180 degree turn and headed back towards us did I realise there wasn’t a tyre on one corner of Fink’s car. Never the less Luke didn’t lift and the little Corolla chased hard. After the transition along the back straight he was carrying some serious speed trying to shake Alan – at this point the lack of a tyre meant there wasn’t as much drag to slow the car again and and the S15 span out midway into the 180 degree turn. It was done – Alan Sinnot sailed by and completed the course to take top step on the podium with the Nexen Tyres AE86.

So what a great start to the 2012 championship – 3 well deserving drivers take their trophies and champagne to the delight of the crowd.  With the new breed of high horsepower big-engined cars it just goes to show that a little AE86 can still get the job done – even if it was with a turbo-charged Nissan engine under the bonnet.

Round 2 of the 2012 Drift Allstars European championship takes place on June 23rd and 24th at the O2 Arena in the Olympic city of London.  Keep an eye on the Drift Allstars website for more news and announcements.

Written by Ian Gratton

Ian Gratton

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