Return To The Thunderdrome
The biggest celebration in UK drifting took place last weekend as the British Drift Championship returned to where it all started 10 years ago; Teesside Autodrome. Team Japspeed were in good form; their cars using Quaife QBE69G Sequentials.
Arriving early on the Saturday, Matt ‘Doorhunter’ Carter, Paul ‘Smokey’ Smith and Matt ‘Mr Nice Guy’ Denham couldn’t wait to get out on track for practice. Owing to some final preparations on his usual drift weapon, the weekend would see Matt Carter at the wheel of the Japspeed Lexus IS200, which you may remember underwent a thorough tune-up ahead of mechanic-come-driver Ant Thompson stormed onto the UK DriftCup competition earlier this year. Despite a few teething issues at the wheel of a new car, all three drivers were confident going into qualifying the next day.
Day two and a slightly damp start meant things could go either way in qualifying. First up and Paul Smith put in an impressive 1st run, smoking up the Teesside circuit, covering the crowd in a cloud of Maxxis Tyres smoke; earning him 77.7 points. With a strong first pass, Paul dropped the hammer on run 2 scoring a strong 81.3 points and 12th place overall.
Next up; RDX Academy instructor Matt Denham showed us all exactly what his RX-8 was capable of, with 87.7 points on his first run and a consistent performance through into the second (with a score of 86.3 points). This handed him a very respectable 6th place in qualifying.
Last but not least, Matt Carter proved practice had paid off in the Japspeed IS200. Covering the crowds in Maxxis VR1 smoke clouds earned him a straight 85 points. True to form, Matt threw the IS200 at each and every clipping point. An equally strong 2nd run earned Matt 9th in qualifying, just 3 places behind teammate Matt Denham.
Heading into the Top 24 battles, Matt Carter came face to face with Lee Barker. Two strong contenders, who in true BDC fashion, placed everything on the line to ensure a spectacle for the gathered crowds. It may have been a new car to him but that didn’t stop the Doorhunter living up to his name on the chase run with the front wing of the Lexus spending a significant amount of time by the door of Lee’s Skyline. Unfortunately, the judge’s decision would be made against Matt Carter; bringing a premature end to his weekend.
Paul Smith would be pitted against Scott Cartledge in his top 24 battle. On form throughout his lead run, Paul made it difficult for his competitor to keep up the pace. Likewise on his chase run, Paul kept the pressure on, matching Scott’s speed and angle incredibly closely. A unanimous decision in Paul’s favour ensured him a place in the Top 16.
Advancing into the Top 16, Paul Smith now found himself against Driftworks driver Richard Grindrod. Always a favourite with the fans, a Japspeed-Driftworks battle never fails to disappoint and this was no exception. With little to call between the two drivers, a tough choice for the judges put Paul ‘Smokey’ Smith into the Great 8.
In his top 16 battle, Matt Denham came up against Matt Stevenson in his E92. Bold entries and lots of angle were the order of the day here. On Denham’s lead run, it was a wonder his opponent managed to stay on course through the trail of Maxxis Tyres smoke engulfing the circuit. Giving his all on his chase run, Matt Denham kept up the pressure – earning him the place in the Great 8 alongside his teammate.
Heading into the Great 8, Matt Denham had no mean feat ahead of him as he came up against Simon Perry and his GTR R35. A strong lead run from Matt not only covered his opponents in a cloud of tyre smoke, but helped place him in a strong position going into his chase run. Despite a solid lead run, Matt would still have to push hard to keep up the pace with the GTR. Despite his efforts, it would spell an end to Matt’s weekend.
Meanwhile, stoked on his successes so far, Paul Smith was confident going into his Great 8 battle against Jason Clark. Never a competitor to be taken lightly, the Slide Motorsport driver would easily put up a fight for the ex-BDC Champion in his LS-powered RX-7. An incredibly close battle left the judges with no other option but to run again under the One More Time rule as no unanimous decision could be made.
Finally into the Top 4, Paul Smith would be pitted against IDC and BDC veteran Duane McKeever, who it was fair to say had been on fire all weekend. Both drivers were clearly on top form with no quarter given by either side through the respective lead /chase runs. A tense few moments passed before a close call decision from the judges found in Duane’s favour, with Paul ‘Smokey’ Smith claiming his first podium of the 2018 season in 2nd place. A fantastic result all round, with Team Japspeed also claiming the Team Constructors Title.