EVENT: British Drift Championship Round 3: Part I: Semi-Pro and Pro
With the dust only just beginning to settle from Round 2 at Norfolk Arena our British Drift Championship gladiators head north to Teesside Autodrome for what was set to be a spectacular Round 3.
After a massively busy week in the office I was ready to put my feet up. Friday night was all about doing as little as possible and vegetating in front of the TV. I knew I was in for a busy weekend but this didn’t foolishly stop me from staying up late and three and a half hours after my head hit the pillow the alarm shocked me back to life. Car loaded with gear my bodies built in compass pointed me northbound – first stop midway up the M1 to pick up fellow snapper Lee Broadley on the northern edge of Sheffield. I normally rap on about what a fantastic journey I had in my big easy M3 but not this time. Regularly travelling great distances in a 4.0 v8 places a serious dent in your wallet so the M car has been replaced by an ever so slightly more frugal E92 330d coupe. On arrival at Teesside Autodrome I still had over three quarters of the fuel tank containing fuel instead of fresh air – I must be getting all green as the years clock up…or maybe its the fact I know my F20C AE86 is almost ready to hit the track again and my driving fix will be even more special.
I figured we’d made good time on the journey up but the place was already a hive of activity. Signing in at the media point we bump into many familiar happy faces all ready to capture the memorable moments over the next two days. Speedhunter Ross Ianson walked the track with us photographer/videographer types so we could get a better idea of each of the available vantage points we’d be able to use – having already visited the ‘drome for a round of Drift Allstars Europe earlier this year and given the east circuit was in use there were the main infield points that worked well.
Yet again Round 3 of the championship has a very impressive drivers roster with 84 cars split across the Semi-Pro, Pro and Super-Pro categories – approximately one third of the west circuit had been turned into an impromptu pits for the weekend.
In light of recent happenings with the Team Japspeed Subaru the pits area was off-limits for most of the weekend for the general public but the fans would get their opportunity to meet the drivers and roam amongst the cars on Sunday before the twin battles. With the drivers away at their briefings this left pits feeling rather empty but it did help to show the sheer number of cars that would be competing over the weekend. The championship is going from strength to strength.
A fair few drivers who normally compete in the Prodrift Championship in Ireland had also made it along to round 3. Several of the drivers including Christy Carpenter and Wesley Keating already familiar with Teesside’s east circuit from round 1 of the European Drift Allstars championship held back in April.
BDC main man Mark ‘Sweeps’ Buckle was donning his signature sun hat ready for a hot weekend. Due to the sheer number of drivers Sweeps had to resort to a megaphone in the drivers briefing. Teesside holds a place in Mark’s heart having driven here back in the early days in the Distinctive Cars York R32 Skyline and the place where the British Drift Championship first started out.
After the briefing the drivers and teams hurried back to the pits to prepare their cars for the start of open practice. The Maxxis Tyres hospitality truck was planted firmly in the middle of the east circuit and its roof served as an excellent vantage point for our 3 judges Richard ‘Chunk’ Newton, Mitch Clarke and Garage-D’s Jullian Smith. The sun was already high in the air casting a haze over the track – it was going to be a scorcher of a weekend. The bowled out east end of the circuit creates a real sun trap so sun cream was going to be mandatory.
The previously silent pits turned into a crescendo of engine sound as the first group of cars made their way out to the circuit for open practice. Darren Matthews set cars off in pairs and free practice was under way.
Walking back up through the two lines of cars on the start line drivers were buzzing with excitement – this is what its all about – its what makes all those hard hours of work and preparation worthwhile.
With only a few pairs of cars through the course the ‘drome began to fill nicely with heat haze and smoke. It was time to head out onto the track and see what was going off and give you the readers a run through the course.
Drivers accelerate hard off the start line and hurtle down the back straight…
….before initiating into the first long 180 degrees corner….
….some opting to flick in at speed – other drivers opting for a short tug on the handbrake to get things started. Matt Hitchcock’s beautifully prepared E46 BMW Coupe shows us the later approach.
After settling the car into the big 180 degree turn drivers then pile back on the power and pick up more angle through the main part of the turn. Christy Carpenter’s extremely powerful 1JZ-powered Yokohama S15 had no problems leaving a thick trail of smoke through this part of the course – obviously using his knowledge of the circuit from earlier in the year to his advantage.
In the final part of the turn the drivers pile on speed and push out towards the outside edge of the corner – Stephen Baggsy Biagioni was having a real blast here – obviously over the moon to be driving the Team Japspeed Subaru that had been stolen and recovered only a few weeks earlier.
The very last part of the long turn leads to a rear clipping point before entering into a tight right-hand hairpin. Enter the hairpin too soon and drivers miss getting close to the clipping point and loose points – enter the hairpin too late and risk a less than perfect line for the next part of the course. Super Pro driver Wayne Keeber sends the rear bumper of the Mint Tyres Toyota Soarer flying.
After the hairpin the drivers then transition back for yet another hairpin – this time to the left. Pro class driver Martin Richards R33 Skyline was very very angry through this part of the course – always spitting huge flames out of the back of the car and all along its underside like napalm.
Exiting the hairpin the course widens a little and the drivers have to place the back end of their cars close to another rear clipping point, as Sam Holt does above.
Semi-Pro driver Ian Angus’ plain black PS13 silvia just looked so right running on smaller meshed wheels instead of the usual 17/18″ variety.
The cars then make another transition and pile on speed for a sweeping right hander being careful not to run too wide as there is a rather unforgiving tyre wall to make a serious mess if you do. The cars then continue to smoke over the last part of the judged course before slowing down to re-join the back of the queue.
The entire morning was was open practice sessions for each of the categories to give the drivers plenty of time to come to terms with the track layout in preparation for the afternoons qualifying. The action came thick and fast over the next 3 hours giving us hardly any time to think about what was happening – let alone how much exposure to the sun the media people were being subjected to in the Teesside suntrap.
Even though the morning practice is all the individual it didn’t stop some of the drivers testing out their fellow competitors to attempt to get a handle on their driving styles and lines – all very useful for if you are lucky enough to qualify for the twin battles.
Sunday…The Main Event
Sunday morning came round pretty quickly and we started the morning with more open practice before all the competitors were pulled up in front of the Maxxis truck for the so spectators could come and get up close to the machinery they had been watching charge round the track that morning. Approximately a quarter of the circuit was taken up by a cars – a sight to behold. I’m sure the competitors were actually glad to be out in the fresh air after a morning in the baking hot cockpits of their cars in Nomex race suites.
Bonnet catches were popped open…
We marvelled at the enormous HKS T51R lurking under the bonnet of the SATS Cosworth Supra…
We took photos of people taking photos…
This lucky young chap got in some very early seat time. I remember something like this happening to me as a young boy – it was just so incredibly exciting and I am almost certain it was what sparked my love of motor sport and cars in general. When asked how much power his own drift car would have in the future he replied with 160bhp…he’s obviously going to be driving an AE86…good man.
As the crowds made their way to back to the spectator areas the drivers suited up and moved their cars back to the pits. The semi pro drivers made their way back over to the start line and we were off.
One of the cars that had really caught my attention during the mornings practice was Marc Huxleys KE70 4door Corolla. There are so few of the older AE/KE series Toyotas in British competition these days and with all the massively potent S and R bodied Nissans dominating the field its easy to see why. This little KE stands a fighting chance because its packing the punch of an SR20 turbo charged engine from an S14a. With such a lightweight platform there really is no need for masses of power – this car runs a bone stock engine with only an improved intercooler and exhaust to help its cause – with an uprated rear Hilux axle and thicker halfshafts its massively reliable.
Marc put in a stunning set of judged runs and managed to bag himself #1 spot in semi-pro qualifying.
Adrian Brannan qualified in the #2 spot – his Cosworth-powered Sierra looking well again after a trip into the scenery at Round 1.
Andy Stroud bagged the #3 spot in the Power Engineering-backed R32 Skyline.
Lets take a look at some of the semi-pro battles…
Sam Holt knocked out Andy Stroud for a place in the top 4…
Only to face a very determined Marc Huxley. Whilst trying to pull away from the little KE Sam unfortunately spun just before the first hairpin giving Marc a place in the finals.
Matt Campling got all the way to the top 4 after requiring a one more time to decide things with Belinda Challis. Matt made his way into the final whilst leaving Christian Lewis to fight it out with Sam Holt and eventually taking 3rd.
So, the finals gave us a Toyota vs. Nissan battle – all be it with both cars running SR20 Nissan engines. The little Corolla gave Matt Campling’s Nissan a really hard time – when leading being able to pull away and when following sticking to the back of Matt’s orange S13 like glue.
It was the little KE Corolla that eventually took a well-deserved first place in Semi Pro! – the little car had been a real crowd pleaser all weekend. Having spoken to Marc earlier in the day it was likely to be his last round in BDC due to some funding issues – the solid win allowed him to pick up a few sponsors to support the rest of the season.
Lets take a look at the journey the Pro class drivers took to get to the semi finals.
Ian ‘Bizz’ Phillips managed to bag top qualifying position in Pro showing some impressive angle and entry into the first hairpin. The LS powered R33 Skyline has some serious steering lock as you can see.
Martin Richards fire-breathing R33 Skyline got a well desired 2nd place.
Prodrift regular Francis O’Shea took 3rd in the white S15.
Pro Championship leader Grant Laker didn’t manage a place in Sunday’s top 16 so unfortunately no extra points to add to his impressive lead in Round 4.
P-MAC was getting to grips with the V8 Silvia during the weekend, the car looked to be running very well!
Prodrift regular Wesley Keating was in for a busy afternoon – first defeating Ramunas Cepulis’ potent S2000 turbo…
Then pushing out John Glaister lovely airbushed S13 for a spot in the semi finals.
Micheal Marshall found his way into the semi finals by first ousting Justin Clarke’s white S14.
and then defeated Peter Green in the white V8 BMW E30 Coupe.
Jody Fletcher in his S14.5pushed forward from the top 16 by first defeating Jarack Federico in the V8 E39 BMW.
The ‘Battle of the Martins’ saw Richards go through against Griffiths.
Martin Richards then went up into the great 8 where he was despatched of by Jody Fletcher in his S14.5.
Francis O’Shea in the white S15 passed though into the final 8 defeating Chris Hawkins in the top 16.
And then got a spot in the semi finals after putting an end to Portugal’s Hugo Fernades event in a borrowed S13.
Semi final runs were just as spectacular.
Wesley Keating bagged himself a place in the final after a close run battle with Jody Fletcher.
Michael Marshal also progressed into the final left Francis O’Shea with another battle to decide on third place.
Francis O’Shea climbed onto the low step of the podium for a well deserved finish for the Prodrift regular.
So the Pro final came down to another yet another Prodrift driver Wesley Keating and Micheal Marshall in the Team MnM S15 Silvia. Wesley with the advantage of previous seat time at teesside in the Drift Allstars championship earlier this year wasn’t going to make it any easier for Marshall.
Good accuracy from both drivers made it had to see any great differenctial (excuse the pun) between the two, but a mechanical fault after the sweeper saw Wes bow out.
Giving Marshall top spot and first place in the Semi Pro finals – gaining 28 points and pushing up into third in the Professional category only 3 rounds into the championship. Another solid round for Jody Fletcher leaves him in 2nd place. Its still early days and a lot can happen…
Check out the full Semi and Pro event gallery below, Super Pro report to follow –