After a frantic week repairing the car after the crash at 3 Sisters, the car was running and ready for an event in what seemed like the first time in ages. I was ready to give the new, revolutionised British Drift Championship the best I could on my return.
Instantly, the vibe of the event was completely different. It felt edgy, almost cut-throat. Everyone knew that if you were going to make waves, or get results, you had to be on your ‘A game’.
The balance of driver/spectator excitement had been addressed with a much higher focus on making the event a spectator frenzy. David Egan comes across, to me, as less of an ‘event organiser’; and more of a ‘team captain’ wanting to send his drivers into the cauldron.
Watching him address the Drivers’ Briefing reminded me more of Big Chief from Street Outlaws; laying down the new rules, explaining how to ensure the best possible content appears over the live stream to present to the world the level that British drifting can reach. He does this, not in a condescending way, or with an air of superiority, but as one of us, a fellow drifter, driver and all around motorsport enthusiast.
The Pro-Am class in the BDC this year looks insane. I estimate around 80% of the cars are pushing over 500HP, and most of them feature Wisefab, semi-slick tyres and are built to a level that could easily hold their own in the Pro Class. When I last did a full championship back in 2014, a 350/400 HP SR would see you nicely in the middle to top end of the field. Now with our car on the lower end of that scale we are seriously behind in the power stakes.
I set the car up for a medium to high rear grip, and headed out to practice. The first half of practice went well and, as the session was progressing, I was edging out towards the unforgiving walls, and I was feeling confident that the car would be able to be competitive.
For the time being, I was stuck with the 3.9 diff which was still really too long to make 3rd a useable gear from an upshift. Despite this, with the first section of the track nailed in 2nd, I wanted to hook up third for the final section. However, to do this I needed to run with much less rear grip, so we changed the setup to do this. The first run with this set up in the final section either 3rd didn’t hook up at all or I put it into 5th. I wasn't sure either way, I was still not used to the new box so I tried again and the same thing happened. I was confident I had third, so decided to loosen up the rear even more to see if the car would spin up in 3rd.
On my next lap there was a loud bang on initiation into the first corner and the car shutdown and ground to a sudden halt, the car wouldn’t move at all. I instantly thought our new gearbox set up had gone, or the diff had gone, It felt pretty much like a weekend ender.
The car was dragged back to the pits with the rear end sounding very unhealthy. To make matters worse, because of the difficulty moving the car, the front bumper took a heavy beating when under tow!
A quick investigation by Hywel and the Race Day Developments guys diagnosed a sticky caliper on the right rear, after a quick bleed the system seemed fine. In all the years driving I have never experienced this, it was frustrating it had to happen now and we lost valuable practice time.
By the time I had got back to the line there had been a crash and a oil leak on circuit, we lost nearly an hour of practice because of the clean up and putting improved barriers in place I thought I may have had another lap of practice but practice was over.
With limited knowledge of the car, and a lack of seat time, and having missed half of practice it was decided that the RDD team would put the car back to how it was originally, and dial in even more grip so we could do the entire track in 2nd.
Qualifying came around and with the new super grippy set up, I was ready to give it my best shot. It was the most nervous I’ve been in years, qualifying has always been a strong point of mine, I rarely ever qualified outside the top 16 but not being 100% confident in the car this time I wasn't so sure, and it showed.
First qualifying lap, after initiating at clip 1 the car just bogged down and by clip 2 the car was straight. I continued the run to get some idea of how the car performed around the rest of the track. The final section was much better but the new grippy setup was going to be a challenge in the first section. I began to notice a strange banging noise on rotation from the rear of the car and feared our earlier issue may not be solved.
With a couple of text messages telling me a lot of the field had ‘zeros’, I decided to make my second run a ‘safe run’; something I have never done before. Normally if I have had a zero on my first run in qualifying I would say to myself ‘that's the safe run gone - it’s all or nothing on this one’. The safe run was more than safe it was abysmal, literally pathetic, and as the rest of the scores came in we tumbled from around 23rd down to 32nd and somehow for the last few runs we stayed there. Safe to say I will never be putting in a ‘safe run’ again.
For my first battle back in the BDC I was up against the first place qualifier Mark Gemmell, in a turbocharged V8 350z (I think). I didn't know much about him, which wasn't a surprise because in my couple of years out of competition driving most of the guys I had driven with over the years have either decided to take the route of enjoying practice days and chilling, or progressed through to Pro Class.
Either way I knew he was going to be fast, I knew so long as I kept up with him at a start and I stuck to my motto ‘Twin no matter what’ I could hopefully give him a run.
The Pro am coverage hasn’t been re uploaded as to date so I can’t comment on this objectively or how it looked from the outside, but from the inside I felt like I had a good run out of the gate in the chase position I initiated late and hard. As I slid out deep into clip 2 he was already on the power way before me, I had to modulate not to overshoot clip 2 and from then on it was a catch up game. As I have said before I want to twin no matter what so I continued to drift the circuit, but cut the course short in a number of areas to try and regain proximity, as I would rather that over ‘hedging my bets and doing a safe chase run a few lengths back’.
Even taking a shallower line it was not enough to close the gap and he walked the first run, I have been told (again I have no idea) on the whole it was a 7-3 advantage across the judges. The reverse battle much like my qualifying run lacked aggression the car was still just too grippy for the first section, but I knew that if I wanted to take the win it would require a large mistake from him so I just kept pushing it and maintaining drift.
Again I have no idea what actually happened, apparently he did a few straightens behind me, probably due to my shallow line, some people said that the second run was a 5-5 but I don’t really have a clue. Either way when the flag came down at the end of the run it was him that had won.
To be honest at this point I wasn't disappointed at all, I was relieved after 2 years of problem after problem. We had come to an event in a car that looks relatively badass and put some points on the board. The car needs a lot of work if it’s going to be competitive, but considering inconveniences and the issues we had it’s a huge step in the right direction.
Upon further inspection, it was determined that we had damaged a drive shaft throughout the day which may have contributed to the poor performance. We took the rest of the weekend to chill and watch the main event, The Pro class was a fantastic spectacle, thrashing all BDC previous attendance and viewing figures.
The Irish were in town, hoping to make their mark here in 2017, but it was not to be. I had mentioned to Ffion the night before that Matt Carter was going to be the man to beat, the circuit was a chase driver’s dream and at the minute he’s still, in my mind, the top chase driver in the BDC at the moment.
Oliver Evans, a Fellow North Walian, took the win in Pro-Am and smashed his way to second in the Pro competition behind the championship leader Matt Carter.
Till next time, take it easy!
- Joe Ankers
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