Following on from our previous two blog entries, we can happily report that Team Japspeed driver Paul Smith claimed victory after a series of tense battles at Round 1 of the Maxxis British Drift Championship! After months of preparation and anticipation the team descended on the Lydden Hill circuit early on Friday morning in order to setup and prepare for a weekend of hard drifting.
The Scooby and the V8 S15 were the first to arrive having been trailered down on a mammoth journey from Japspeed HQ. The Scooby certainly turned a few heads with its new 3.5″ Shotgun system installed, and that was before we’d even started it up!
Brett Castle showed up shortly after so he could give the Scooby a once over and give his brand new race suit some time to wear in. He was so chuffed with it that I have my sneaking suspicions that he even slept in it that night…
Paul Smith was the next to arrive, having thoroughly enjoyed the endless traffic jams on the UK’s fantastic motorway network…
With the start of the season creeping up on many competitors there were a few drivers frantically trying to prepare their cars in time for Saturday’s practice sessions. Among these was Gaz Taylor from Team Rampstyle, who we were happy to lend a hand to by welding his diff at the last minute!
With three of the cars parked up and ready to go it was time to retire to the hotel, but where was Shane O’Sullivan’s S15? We were about to find out…
Come Saturday morning and a few sore heads were being nursed thanks to the arrival of the Irish pairing of Shane O’Sullivan and Shane Finn the night before. Nevertheless we got straight back to work, but we were still a car down…where was Sully’s S15!?
The car had originally been due to be mapped on the Thursday before the event but, due to a few delays and a few last minute jobs that needed doing, the mapping session was delayed and, even on Saturday morning, we still didn’t know if the car would make it in time.
There were two practice sessions scheduled for each class on the Saturday and anticipation was high as the Super Pro class headed out for their first runs.
While the Japspeed cars had only been treated to minor refreshment and a couple of upgrades over the winter months, many others had put together brand new builds for the season and, as such, were unknown quantities.
Thankfully, all was well with Paul Smith’s and Shane Lynch’s cars, with both throwing down some very impressive runs from the off.
With it only being the second time he had driven the car Brett was understandably cautious with the Scooby in the beginning, although it didn’t take him long to truly find his feet and step it up that extra notch that would be required to compete at the sharp end.
With a bit of downtime between practice and the scheduled qualifying start time Josh set about making some progress on the soon-to-be-released Team Japspeed video from the event.
The BBC were also on hand to interview Shane for an upcoming TV programme covering the theft and subsequent recovery of the Scooby back in 2011, which will definitely be compelling viewing upon its release.
While the day may have started off fantastically weather-wise the heavens opened with force in the afternoon and, due to the adverse weather conditions and the fact that the organisers were quickly running short of available track time, Super Pro qualifying was delayed until the following afternoon. An open practice session was available at the end of the day for those who wished to use it and, as Sully’s car had finally arrived at the track having been mapped, he wasted no time in getting out there and set about tearing the clipping points apart with his wing.
We awoke on Sunday to glorious sunshine which was a result in its own right considering the weather we’ve had recently!
With a tight schedule to adhere to and a lot of drifting to be done the organisers wasted no time in getting the Super Pro drivers out onto the track to lay down their qualifying runs.
With each Super Pro driver only being granted two qualifying runs due to the time constraints the pressure was really on and there was no room for error. The drivers were noticeably nervous and, although his two runs were fast, smooth and accurate, Paul made a few minor errors that you could definitely account to nerves. In the end though he needn’t have worried as he found himself securing 3rd place in the rankings.
With minimal practice and a car that he hadn’t driven for many months Shane O’Sullivan was another driver that could be seen feeling the pressure as he lined up at the start line.
Again, he needn’t have worried, as his balls out style and bravery found him securing 5th place.
Shane Lynch was as cool as they come as he lined up for his qualifying runs in his V8 S15 that had been sounding particularly thunderous all weekend. His calm and collected style resulted in a 6th place qualification result and a direct path through to the top 16 battles.
The stakes were high and the driving was close, so much so that just one small mistake would make or break a driver’s qualification hopes and dreams. Unfortunately for Brett his lack of experience in the notoriously hard to tame Scooby was his downfall and a couple of small mistakes were all it took to see him eliminated at this stage.
With a whole host of big names through to the top 16 it could have been anyone’s name on the trophy at the end of the battles. With everything to play for the top 16 Super Pro drivers lined up to see if they could step their game up to the next level and emerge victorious.
Shane O’Sullivan was the first to do battle but unfortunately a terminal turbo failure saw him forced to succumb to the S15 of David Waterworth.
Shane Lynch’s first battle was to be against Ciaran Sinnot and, with Shane having been at the top of his game all weekend, it would have taken a brave man to bet against him. Unfortunately a small mistake on Shane’s behalf while following Ciaran saw the judges siding against him and the result being that he was knocked out in the first round.
Paul Smith’s first battle was against Jody Fletcher; a battle that he won in convincing style. With the team’s hopes now resting on Paul’s shoulders the heat was on for him to deliver the result that we all wanted to see.
His next battle saw him lining up against Ciaran Sinnot and, having seen Ciaran knock Shane Lynch out just a few minutes earlier, the bar needed raising once again. Paul being the fantastic driver that he is rose to the challenge and progressed through to the Semi Final where he would be up against Mark Luney in the Lucas Oils Supra.
With Mark being one of the most respected drivers in the championship this was set to be an absolutely fantastic battle, something that was very apparent judging by the tension in the pits and in the crowd. A couple of small mistakes on Mark’s behalf saw Paul progress by the slimmest of margins, resulting a slot in the final battle alongside Simon Perry in his Lassa Tyres R33 Skyline.
This was going to be a fantastically close pairing and the crowd were not to be disappointed. With both drivers at the top of their game throughout the course of the weekend the result could have gone either way, with both battles being extremely close. However, the judges had been able to make a decision from their vantage point after weighing up the ever-so-small errors made by each driver.
With a verdict reached it was Paul Smith that took the win and the top place on the podium ahead of Simon Perry and David Waterworth, topping off a fantastic weekend for Paul and the rest of Team Japspeed!
With his 2012 title to defend neither Paul or ourselves could have asked for a greater start to what is shaping up to be the most competitive season of the Maxxis British Drift Championship yet! We would like to thank Maxxis, Monster Energy, Exedy, Samco, Quaife, Factory Moto, Rock Oil, Corbeau for all of their support and of course all of our fans that were cheering us on!
The next round is at Pembrey on the 8th & 9th June and we are all eager to see if Paul can continue his winning streak. We can’t wait!