The British Drift Championship has decided to replace the old licensing days, and introduced Driftcup to find the new crop of drivers who wish to take part in the national series.
When places for the series became available, every spot was taken within a matter of minutes. This shows how popular drifting has become with a reserve list for the remainder of the season being long and distinguished.
We already knew of some drivers who were quick enough to gain a place on the grid. If you have ever attended a practice day at the world famous Santa Pod Raceway you have Alexis Drew to thank. He has organised these events for longer than he cares to remember.
Andi Halkett competed in the three events in 2014 which was the start of the Driftcup series. He only just missed out on taking the title and gaining a place in the BDC, so he would be one to watch.
A few drivers that we had seen at other events and knew could be in contention were David Cooper, Jamie Owen and Richard Dalby-Smith.
David took part in the final round of the series in 2014 at Lydden Hill and was certainly making a name for himself with some fantastic driving.
Jamie Owen had been spotted at a few practice days driving his S14 like a seasoned pro.
Richard Dalby – Smith has been driving for a lot of years. He is a regular at Santa Pod practice days and demonstrations. He has also been very successful while competing in the Fueltopia Barrel sprint events with a few podium finishes under his belt.
On to the event its self, the track was prepared during Friday under a threatening sky. The track had been designed to make the absolute most of the confines of the concrete oval which is surrounded by shale. From above, the track looked like a figure of eight. Clearly despite the ‘interesting’ results this would achieve, this was never in our minds when designing the layout.
Drivers were told during the briefing to head down the back straight at full speed and aim for a clipping point on the outside of the first corner. Continue around and instead of heading diagonally across the track, turn right where a clipping point had been placed at the apex, an easy clip but anyone taking a short cut behind the track markings would result in a zero point run. The third clipping would be on the out side of the left hander, then back over the finish line where a clipping point was placed on the inside.
Then heading diagonally across the track and a transition mid track and to the outside to clipping point five. A wide line was asked for by the judges, this was the first corner in the reverse. Clip one become clip six and then diagonally back across the track to the finish which would be the cross over point.
I hope that made sense, if not we will be posting an event video which make it perfectly clear.
Once the drivers briefing had taken place, the 50 drivers where split into two groups and a two hour session given to each. Cars were sent on track in pairs from the start, this is something that is not normally done but we wanted to ensure drivers had as much practice time as possible. In addition allowed drivers to brush up on twinning practice from the beginning!
Some drivers were on it from the start, others were struggling to get to grips with the slippy conditions which the arena is known for. Once the track had a layer of rubber down on the concrete, the tyre smoke soon began to be produced.
A short break before qualifying gave the drivers a nervous wait before heading out on the track to perform the two most important laps of the day.
One by one each driver did two runs in succession to try and impress the judges, Paul Smith, Christian Lewis and Lewis Mitchel.
Three bonus points are given to the top three qualifiers, three for first, two for second and one for third. This may not seem a lot but can make a massive difference at the end of the season.
The qualifying results.
|10||255||Sultan Al Qassimi||65.7|
|11||257||Richard Dalby Smith||65.3|
|26||236||Dean Newport – Hall||51.0|
As you can see there were a few shock results, Andi Halkett who had only just managed to get his car finished the night before and had traveled from Scotland made two uncharacteristic mistakes and ran off track twice.
Danny Grundy who had been catching the eye of the judges during practice had one two wheel off track excursion and a spin which lead to him not qualifying.
The drivers briefing would be held in front of what seemed like the whole arena, the new fantastic facilities at the venue allowed drivers, crews and spectators all to witness the details explanation of what was expected.
With a number of drivers taking part having no experience in twin battles, an air of tension filled the arena as the cars lined up to start the top 32 battles.
Battles of note included that between Sultan Al Qassimi who had flown in from the UAE the day before to be able to take the grid. He would be driving the Nissan 240 of none other than Darren McNamara. He would face a hard charging Alexis Drew, his journey to the event took almost as long. The R33 he was driving decided to part company with its fan belt on his way to the event, meaning roadside repairs to get the car and him to venue.
The judges could not split the drivers after the first pair of runs meaning a ‘One More time’ being called for.
Sultan ran a perfect line while leading, Alexis on the other hand came off the all important line the judges had asked for when not in close proximity. This was the only thing that separated the pair and the Sultan went through to the next round.
David Knowles was looking fantastic but it all came to an end when he ran a little bit wide on clip 5. He managed to place his near side rear wheel on the rim of a traffic cone as he applied the hand brake, this would see him spin and Brett Perry would move on.
When we reached the semi finals we had the top two qualifiers still in contention, top qualifier Jamie Owen was making a name for himself. No one was safe when against the S14 pilot, his lines through out the finals were on point with some serious angles and speed being achieved. This would see him beating Richard Dalby – Smith and taking a place in the final.
The second semi final would see the E30 BMW of Matt Walker, the driver arrived on his own with no crew or supporters. By the time we reached this stage he had gained an army of fans, every run being applauded by the crowd. You could not not dismiss his opponents commitment when it came to chasing, David Cooper read each battle perfectly up to this point. At times he was literally inches from the lead car putting an immense amount of pressure on all he did battle with.
The semi final would see Dave make a mistake that cost him a place in the final, his transition between clip four and five would be his downfall when leading. Pushing that little bit too hard, Dave would push the car beyond the limit and it rotated 180 degree facing where he had just come from. His annoyance was clear for all to see as he punched his door card in frustration.
We would see Dave and Richard do battle for third and fourth place. Despite Richard running the perfect line as he had most of the day, the S14 of Dave had a little more grip and was able to pull a small gap when leading. When chasing, Dave made it clear for all to see he was not going to miss out on a place on the podium!
The final was set, the standard looking E30 of Matt Walker who had qualified in second, would face top qualifier Jamie Owen in the Automotiveworkz S14.
Jamie would lead the first run, he made it clear from the start he meant business, he ran the perfect line which allowed him to gain some speed around the arena which Matt struggled to match. On the second run Matt tried to pedal his BMW to try and make a gap, Jamie wasn’t having any of it. Jamie sat on the rear of Matts car as if he had a tow rope pulling him round.
The top four drivers now have the opportunity to take a place on the grid at round 2 of the British Drift Championship at Knockhill on June the 13th and 14th of June. A track which is a world apart from the confines of the arena, we hope to see them join the BDC regulars and experience the ultra high speed entries that await.
The next event in the Driftcup calender sees a first for 3 sisters circuit host round 2. Never before has a competition been held on this circuit so every driver will be wishing to win the first ever event!
If round one is anything to go by we are in for a fantastic season!