Never in the history of the British Drift Championship has a round been more hyped than Round 2 of the 2017 Championship. In Round One the Irish were again held off the top spot by Matt Carter in his Japspeed R32 Skyline. Teesside has been part of BDC history, and after 10 years of events being held at the Iconic drifting circuit, it brought back some serious memories for me on and off the track.
It goes without saying the 2017 BDC hype is working. Again, Round 2 was smashing viewing and attendance figures, it was by far the biggest crowd I had ever seen at the Middlesbrough circuit.
The week for me personally had started well. The car was on top form, re-aligned and tested. At the last possible moment it started to go wrong... when loading it onto Wesley Keating’s lorry, the car just started to cut out! It was not ideal, and in poor conditions with no time to fix we had no choice but to load it onto the lorry. The next time I would see the car was later on that evening after a mammoth 6 hour drive to Teesside, hampered by 3 hours stuck on the motorways surrounding Manchester.
Social media was gathering pace with competitors arriving all afternoon the excitement began to grow at the venue. Throughout the evening, we could hear the surrounding crews arrive and unload as I spent the evening working on the Nissan, trying everything we could to get the car to idle.
Eventually we settled on raising the idle control to mask the issue temporarily: at least this made the car drivable.
The next morning it was clear that it was going to be another tough round. Many of the competitors from both classes had made use of the Teesside practice days throughout the year, and from the off it was obvious that a lot of the guys had the line dialled almost instantly.
I hadn’t driven the circuit for a few years, but I was building in confidence, until we had a tiny bit of drizzle just enough to mean on the edge initiations were enough to spin the car. After a couple of spins, I just doubted myself going into qualifying - unlike in previous years.
This resulted in 2 tame runs, the second being the better, I just came up short of clip 2 and 3, the rest was good but even a wall run on clip 6 wouldn’t be enough to get me into qualifying missing out by just 1.4 points.
Looking back, I’m just kicking myself for not just going at it. In the commentary, Dave used the word ‘tentative’ and I couldn't have said it better myself! No matter what happens I need to shake this qualifying nerves, something that’s never bothered me before.
After watching myself slowly drop out of the qualifying positions on the live stream, I quickly realised that even though this was the end of my participation in the weekend, it most certainly was not the end of the event!
Next up was Pro Practice…. and wow! The sheer level of the driving in the Pro practice session was outstanding, and really gave me the feeling that Sunday was going to be something special. I was pitched up next to Wes and some of the Irish guys, who unfortunately were having some teething problems in the LSX powered 180sx.
I missed most of the Pro Am battles after helping them with a couple of water hose issues, but from what I did see it was a BMW wash out. Matt Walker, a dude I had watch drive from being a total beginner, was slaying it in his M3 powered E30.
Peter Hayden in an E36 BMW took the Pro-Am win, just beating Matt in the Final.
Once the day’s activities had come to a close it was time for a chill, eat some pizza and to watch the Formula D top 32 on the side of a lorry, which was probably one of the coolest ways I’ve ever watched drifting!
Sunday started wet and miserable, with the clouds looking like it could go either into a tropical storm or glorious sunshine - the first hour of practice was certainly tricky.
One thing about drifting in the wet is it shows the true colours of a car and it’s set up. The wet will exploit any flaws that car has and things that are barely noticeable in the dry become exaggerated in the wet. You can tell a lot about a car’s set up in the wet and how well they have been prepared, guys like the Shanahans, Martin Richards, dive only slightly slower in the wet than they do in the dry and the stability of the drift and the confidence the drivers have is clear to see.
Many cars that maybe rely on low tyre pressure to maintain high grip, have may struggle to quickly dial more grip in. You can see many cars instantly become sitting ducks if battles were to be run in these conditions it would make for an interesting technical spectacle, but no where near the level of showmanship and entertainment that the record breaking crowd deserve.
Qualifying was dominated by the Shanahan brothers taking first and second place, and at the time I felt it was surely not going to be long before we had the same result on the podium.
Talking of the podium, Matt Carter again sprung to my mind as the clear favourite for this event, as if single handedly showing the Irish the door at Round 1 was not enough. Maxxis had provided team Japspeed with semi slicks. Something the Maxxis backed team had been lacking over the last couple of seasons, and this addition could push the team back into a similar domination which they had around 2010-2012.
Anthony Galvin was a noticeable addition to the Irish contenders looking to take the BDC silverware back to Ireland, I have always liked the look of his car and to take a good look around it and meet the guy was a pleasure this weekend. Even if his car did drip oily black exhaust condensation all over my fresh Yellow paint!
I watched as many battles as I could from the infamous Teesside bank. As I watched on, I can’t help myself but look into the technicalities of how some of these guys with fully sequential boxes, just slapped it in 3rd or 4th down the main straight and didn't even need to change again for the entire run!
I was envious, not just of the cars but the driving quality. It was absolutely every bit as good as what I had been watching in Ireland over the last couple of seasons. Looking back to Teesside events of the past, I would sit on the Middlesbrough circuit outer bank distracted by the driving I would get hideously sunburnt. Watching normal BDC level runs with timid driving at best. Waiting for the one moment of chase car magic normally supplied by Carter, Luney, or Huxley… Not this time.
The only thing I could relate from this weekend to BDC of the Pre-Egan era was my f**king sunburn. Even writing this now as I sit here a day later with a drift hangover, my face feels like it’s been through one of those rotary hotel toasters.
From the top 24, nearly every battle had drama. Literally every other battle had a door rub, a wall ride or even airborne cars dragging there dismembered suspension into the grass (not that drifting is all about crashing), but all of the drivers had to fight their way into that top 24, and not one of them was going out without being on the knife edge of ‘all or nothing’.
As the rounds went by, Matt Carter looked unstoppable. His team mate Paul ‘Smoky’ Smith in the GT86 looked like he was finally getting comfortable in the Toyota chassis and I'll put him down as my one to watch next round.
Clutch issues had hampered Jack Shanahan all weekend, yet somehow he still not only managed to make top qualifier and still made it through to the top 4. Not even BDC 2017 wonderboy Oliver Evans had a look in, as Connor prepared to battle Matt Carter in the final.
The first run was intense, with Malx the Line Marshall noticing something amiss with the Westlake liveried S13, Connor decided to risk the car and head into battle. By the time the cars came around for the second battle, Connor’s car was not fit for the 2nd run and sadly after a calling a 5 minute rule. Was not able to get back to the line.
For me at the moment, Matt Carter is still the favourite to take the 2017 BDC Title, not only because I feel that he at the moment is the best chase driver on British soil, but the Shanahans always seem to have this cloud of reliability over there cars. Sometimes I just find myself willing them to make it on but rarely an event goes by where one or both of the cars have some kind of issue.
Drifting is basically one of the only remaining motorsports that is truly unlimited, and with that is going to come danger and questionable reliability, only time will tell how this pans out throughout the season.
My S14 was loaded onto the back of the WKD imports lorry, it’s heading over to Ireland for a few weeks. At the time of writing we don’t think we will be driving it at Round 2 of the Irish Drift Championship unfortunately but we are on the reserve list somewhere. With limited driver spaces we didn’t make the first cut. I'll be doing as many events as possible while the car is in Ireland we just don’t know what yet.
BDC round 3 is scheduled as a Pro only round, but the rumour on the street is that this may now also be Pro-Am, But I’ve sent the car to Ireland, so in reality I have no idea what’s going to happen this week or next week or anytime soon!
Until I know what the hell I am doing.
Take it easy
Images By : FJ Photography
- Joe Ankers
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