EVENT: 2011 Drift Allstars Round 2, Nissan Factory, Sunderland

05/29/201129th May, 2011

2011 has already been a great year for Drifting in the UK (and the world in general) – there are now enough events and serious practice days to warrant me having a dedicated Google calendar to try and make sense of the Work/Life/Drift balance.  It’s only a few weeks since I was up at Teesside taking in Round 1 of the Drift Allstars championship and now I find myself heading North again for Round 2 at the Nissan Factory in Sunderland.

These events are typically run over 2 days – first day practice – second day qualifying and competition but I’d only made it to the competition day for Round 1.  Having not made it to the last JDM Allstars event at the Nissan Factory in 2010 I was determined to take in both days.  Its something special when a motor manufacturer gives over one of its massive smooth car parks for the weekend to use as a bespoke drift circuit.  At 10:30am the trusty M3 was packed with camera gear and an overnight bag firing itself north along the M1/A1.  The new Beastie Boys album and back catalog (and possibly a heavy right foot) made easy work of the 170mile journey.

As I drew up to the security barriers at the Nissan works I couldn’t help thinking it would have been more appropriate to be in my old R32 or 350z rather than some German tin – never the less the barriers opened and I found myself a spot at the back of the pits.  The circuit would be using most of the triangular-shaped car park just south of the Social club – the pits located in the very top corner.

At the far end of the pits stood the WKD Imports transporter.  This tardis-like truck manages to fit in 3 cars!  With a late afternoon practice session several of the teams hadn’t yet arrived – some would not arrive until the Sunday morning opting to miss the Saturday practice in favour of the Japfest event taking place at Castle Coombe – some 300 or so miles south of Sunderland.

Anthony ‘Scotty’ Scott and the Skyline Parts Rocket Bunny S13 had already claimed their place in the pits.  Scotty had no excuses for arriving late living within spitting distance of both Teesside and Sunderland.  Scotty had also being playing host to several European drivers who had opted not to go back home after round one with Round 2 being run so closely.  This had saved some people a journey of several thousand miles onto to have to return again two weeks later.

I took a walk over to the elevated grass bank on the west side of the car park – ‘Jungle Power’ was already laying down some nice smoke trails.  This would be where the majority of the spectators would be on the Sunday to give them a nice clean view of the action.  From the side of the judging stand I had a perfect view all the way across the track which had everything, fast transitions and into 90 degree turns a tight wall lined section that would give the crowd a perfect view of the action.

As I was walking back over from the grass bank I heard Steve ‘Stiggy’ Evans Morley Sport Cosworth-powered KP60 Starlet suddenly go silent out an track coast back to the pits.  By the time I got back in the pits the little Toyota was up on stands with team Stiggy attacking it with spanners – the gearbox had decided 3rd gear didn’t want to play.  With the box out of the car Steve found that the main shaft in the Quaife 4 speed gearbox had literally cleaved itself in half.  Later that day the team had managed to source another gear box that would fit only to find the spline on the main input shaft was too long to sit into the engine so it needed to be machined after which there were still some issues that meant it was weekend over for the guys.  All things considered the box had been in the car for 10+ years this could have happened at any time – its just rather unfortunate that stiggy wasn’t in the driving seat when it failed.  He was busy in the passenger seat shouting ‘GAS GAS GAS!!!’ at Speedhunter and Dori-stars main man Ross Ianson who was behind the wheel for a special feature on the car.

After a bit more chewing the fat in the pits Drift Allstars organiser Fuzzy gathered myself, Ross, Ash ‘Peter’ Burrows (Driftworks in-house snapper) and the other media people for a walk round the track.  Its always nice when event organisers give consideration to where we’d like to be for the best vantage points.  Its also really important for us to study the general lines the cars where taking and their speeds so we can assess areas where it could leave us over exposed in the unlikely event of an accident or a car going massively off course.  I always find tracks that are laid out in large open expanses have good run off areas compared to sections armco-lined race circuits.  Drivers always push much harder much sooner as there is there isn’t the same close proximity large immovable objects that would quickly lead to a seriously bent car.  There was lots of space for us to move about in which is great after the confinement of Teesside’s tight and twisty east circuit.  Nothing describes a track quite like pictures so lets take a look.

Drivers set of from the near the south most gate along a short straight to pick up some speed before the first left-hand turn.

Drivers then transitioned right for a short run along the artificial wall (to keep the cars away from the very edge of the car park) extending their drift into an almost 90 degree right-handler.

A short straight followed giving the drivers a chance to pick up speed and angle after the turn.  Tony Jouin’s S15 was free of the issues that plagued the car in Round 1 and attacking the course hard.

Drivers then transition right again to run diagonally over the car park.  Although not immediately obvious there was a change in camber here that could easily throw the car off line.  Anthony Scott had no such problems here.

The cars then flick left for a rear clipping point past some steel crowd barriers.  Ian Phillips shows that if you intend to get close to the barriers you end up crossing another change in camber.

Drivers then have to re-cross the deep change in camber before the next corner.  Nigel Colfer was aware of how much more awkward this was and opted to cross back over at the very last moment when the car was at a slower speed.

Walton Smith opted to launch back over the camber sooner unsettling the car  and taking a tighter approach to the wall-lined left-hand hairpin at the top end of the car park.

The judges had marked out a 2m deep line that followed the radius of the walled hairpin – they expressed a desire to see drivers placing the back wheels of the car in this area for as much of the corner as possible.  Tom Yates didn’t have any problems positioning his on the right side of the line and no doubt scored well here.

As the drivers exit the hairpin they pick up speed again in close proximity to a wooden barrier that lines the service road.  There is a 6ft deep ditch between the barrier and road so drivers don’t want to end up in here – it did however serve as a great vantage point for photography and video.  Christy Carpenter’s S15 sails on by in a cloud of Yokohama tyre smoke kicking up debris from the track straight at us.

Midway along the fence the drivers then make a right transition at speed.  Bon-Bon’s hugely powerful Driftworks/Garage-D Toyota Mk2 got a real chance to stretch its legs here – the short dumpy exhaust protruding straight upwards from the bonnet and the squeal of tire destruction sounded like the end of the world.

The drivers then flick back left into an almost 90 degree left hander re-joining the first section of the track and run back along the artificial wall before a final transition left and the end of the judged run. Tyres are obviously nice and warm by this point – Benjamin Boubeles laid down a nice smoke screen very close to the wall.

On Sunday morning all cars were in attendance and several hours of practice ensured the drivers had a good idea of the lay of the circuit before qualifying started.  Driving standards were good – some opting to bag a clean run through the course before gong harder to improve on their positioning – others going full on all the time.

Dan Moorhead laid down some smoke for the crowd.

James Deane was on a mission and seemed very determined.

Scotty had made the most of getting in as much free practice in as possible on Saturday and was super consistent all through the morning.

Jerome Bucamp’s 2JZ Powered s14 had no problems smoking the entire length of the wall.

Top 3 qualifiers of the day were Christy Carpenter, Anthony Scott and Nigel Colfer.  By this time the bank was packed and the crowd eager for the battles to start – no time for monkeying about planning a panorama shot – here’s a quick one from the excellent Microsoft Photosynth on the iPhone..

The cars were arranged in a line at the far side of the car park near the pits and then drawn forward towards the crowd.

The drivers were interviewed one by one.  James Deane’s LBD/Severnside ‘Little Bastard’ was sporting some new rear end modifications including scythe-like end plates on the rear spoiler and some rear bumper dive-planes maybe in an attempt to push the tyres into the ground for traction or purely to channel the smoke trail this car always tends to leave? Lets take a look at some of the battles.

First place qualifier Christy Carpenter was on a mission and was the first through into the Next Round of battles knocking out Laurent Cousin in the supercharged E46 M3.

Tom Yates had managed to break the drivers front outer steering arm twice so far in the weekend.   His car was now running with mismatched steering look but he still managed to put up a good fight against the LBD Silvia.

WKD Imports s13 vs WKD Imports s14 – Wesley Keating goes through into the Top 8.  The little Mazda of Fillippo Pirini put up a valiant fight against Nigel Colfer – the differential on the MX5 working much much better than in Round 1.  It was Colfer who took a place in the great 8.

Brad Mcqueen put up a good fight against Bon-bon considering the power deficit of the Ouch Tattoos S14.  It was Bon-bon’s noisy angry Mark 2 that would be going onwards to the Final 8 battles.  France’s Tony Jouin also advanced into the Final 8 with Ian ‘Bizz’ Phillips making a error.

Barry Leonard against Walton Smith wasn’t a clear cut battle for the judges – both drivers matching each other so well a one more time was called at the delight of the crowd.

The next pair of battles were just as close but it was Barry Leonard that would be progressing on.  Anthony Scott took a place in the 8 and knocked out Jerome Bucamp.

James Deane secured his spot in the top 4 leaving Christy Carpenter with 5th place for the round.  Nigel Colfer beat Wesley Keating for a place in the top 4.  Bon-Bon also took a place in the top 4 knocking out Tony Jouin’s S15 Silvia.

Bon-bon takes a place in the finals leaving Barry Leonard…

….to battle it out with Nigel Colfer after James Deane also goes into the final.

Nigel Colfer takes a well deserved 3rd place leaving him second in the championship after round 2.

The final was amazing – I’m glad I didn’t have to pick a winner from these guys.  The cars were incredibly close on both runs always completing the course side by side.  It was James Deane who took 1st place at Drift Allstars Round 2.

The top 3 drivers and their cars were planted beneath the podium surrounded by the crowd and media…

Champagne and trophies ready.  Winners were announced and then…

Bon-bon had been sneakily shaking his champagne ready to cover James Deane…

As did Nigel Colfer.

So there you have it – yet another awesome round of the European Drift Allstars Series.  In a few weeks time the Drift Allstars drivers head out to Malta for what is set to be yet another action packed round.  Fingers crossed we’ll be making the journey out to Malta too.  Keep an eye on the Drift Allstars website for details and updates.

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