Smoke In The North: Bdc Teesside

The British Drift Championship smoked its way back to the north of England for Round 3 of the 2012 series. Team Japspeed have been battling at the head of the field this year and it would be another successful weekend for the team in both the individual and Team Drift events.

Shane O’Sullivan, from Galway in Ireland, is the team’s newest driver. He joined Japspeed last year, and in 2012 has been competing in the BDC whilst continuing to tackle the Irish Irish ProDrift series. Shane pilots a 450bhp, RB25-powered Nissan S15; following failures at Round 2, in the run-up to the weekend the manifold and turbo were repaired and the fuel and cooling systems overhauled.

Paul ‘Smokey’ Smith drives a Nissan S15 with a 1JZ – he came in second at Round 2 of the BDC at the Norfolk Arena, but things didn’t start off so well for Smokey at Teesside: a big smash in practice took his car out of contention for the weekend. But with Shane Lynch failing to qualify for the Top 16, Smokey would take over Shane’s V8 twin-turbo S15 – and qualified it in second!

Steve ‘Baggsy’ Biagioni’s Impreza also had some TLC applied prior to the weekend, with a new ratio diff and even more lock applied to the Impreza’s steering rack.

For the third round the championship returned to the Teesside Autodrome in the north-east of England. The judges marked out different clipping points and lines from their visit earlier in the year; this mixed it up and kept drivers on their toes with the revised technical challenge.

The paddock is spread out across the hard-stand, the banks overlooking the track and the unused section of the Teesside Autodrome track, giving plenty of space for all the competing teams – though some pretty rough riding to get to the tarmac for some.

The weather was set to be changeable over all three days: ominous clouds ganged up on the horizon more often than not. Set-up boiled down to driver preference: some liked lower tyre pressures while others preferred a higher pressure to help cut through any potential standing water.

Rain did occasionally hit the track during the weekend, but it was thankfully no wash-out – showers passed quickly, only affecting a run or two. And when it wasn’t raining, the amphitheatre nature of Teesside kept all the smoke in, providing the perfect drifting backdrop for the enthusiastic crowd.

Destroyed tyres mounted up in the paddock – more fodder for the safety barriers. Teams can go through at least five sets of boots per car every weekend. The more spectacular the run, the more the tyres suffer – but the more smoke we get… It’s a happy trade-off.

With its three-tier class structure, the BDC is doing a lot to fast-track improving drivers up the ladder: several drivers have quickly moved up from the Semi-Pro class, such as Christian Lewis from DoriHero. He’s progressed to Pro for this year and is already a force to be reckoned with.

Gaz Taylor has been on form in the Semi Pro Class. Between himself and brother Owen they’re doing well and lifting plenty of trophies for Team Rampstyle. They’re now running first and second in the Semi-Pro class points battle.

The BDC crew put in a big effort to get people involved. Drifting is in their blood, throwing shapes is in their nature. It’s a beautiful thing to behold. It’s possibly to do with the coffee in the Maxxis truck.

After the Semi-Pro runs, Jay White, Owen Taylor and Ian Waddington topped the points – Lewis Cracknell and his 4.4-litre V8 S13 just missed out on making it through to the Semis.

Team Falken’s Pro car, the 2JZ-powered clam-shell G35 driven by Paul Cheshire, was knocked out of the Pro class Top 16 – one of the unlucky ones who fell victim to a wet run and spun out. Mark Lappage, Christian Lewis and Marc Huxley filled out the Pro podium.

The opening battles in the Super Pro Top 16 were as hard-fought as you’d expect, with all 16 drivers going at it hard. One More Times were frequently required as the battles were so close: Mark Luney’s big Supra took out Paul Smith’s borrowed S15 after yet another OMT was called.

In another Japspeed versus SATS battle, Shane had beaten Wayne Keeber to make it through to the Great 8; Baggsy also made it through, taking out Steve Moore.

Into the Great 8, Team Lassa’s Simon Perry pushed through to the Semis, eventually ending up in fourth after a close-fought run-off against Baggsy.

Baggsy himself had been edged out in the Semis by team-mate Shane O’Sullivan.

The Final would be between Mark Luney’s punishingly fast Supra and Shane’s S15, just as rain began to fall again. Running into the unknown, both drivers managed to keep things together, making it even harder for the judges to make a decision.

A One More Time was called: after a perfect initial run from both drivers, on the second try Mark appeared to make a small error. It was enough for the judges, and Shane was called out as the winner.

That was now two wins for Shane (and his second on the bounce at Teesside), the continued lead in the championship and more silverware for the team. Along with the bubbly came some… oil. I would have thought that some tyres would be more appropriate, but they’d be harder to hold up on the podium. Shane O’Sullivan heads the points table with 70 on the board; Team SATS’ Steve Moore is nine points in arrears with fellow Japspeeders Steve Biagioni and Paul Smith just behind in third and fourth. Team SATS head the Team Championship from Japspeed, Rampstyle and DoriHero.

On Sunday it was time to polish those dancing shoes in time for the Team Triple event. Line ‘em up and let rip…

To begin with, it was pretty chaotic out on track and the marshals were getting a good collection of bumpers going.

Simon Perry became the delivery driver for Lassa Tyres team-mate Jo Fletcher’s bodywork…

All the expected teams were looking good: Falken, SATS, Lassa, Japspeed and Irish away-team WKD were in full battle mode, but there was impressive formation flying all through the field.

Individual drivers teamed up with each other, though some teams ended up running in pairs after a some drop-outs overnight.

There were plenty of near misses…

…and evidence in the paddock of when the misses… hadn’t.

James Fuller’s Pro class Nissan had looked great all weekend with its coloured rubber, trailing red smoke…

…but did seem to point in the wrong direction a lot!

Full marks were given for the colourful rubbery art it left behind.

With morning practice over, the fans had the usual opportunity to take to the track and admire the machinery up-close.

The Vauxhall Monaro was out in the Team Drift event; each note on the livery had been individually applied and overlaid; even the roll-cage had the big-money wrap treatment.

During the Top 16 the trios were running closer and closer to each other, achieving ever tighter formations going as the session progressed.

But with three cars flying round, plenty of dust was thrown up as the drivers struggled to keep in track with each other.

At the end of every run it was great to see the camaraderie on show. Handshakes, man-hugs and high-fives all round.

Team SSDA and Team Lassa joined forces in an impromptu triple donut around Ant Cahill at the end of their battle.

Even the teams that had been knocked out made sure they got every last bit of life out of their tyres on their way back to the paddock, to the cheers of the fans.

Team All or Nothing picked up several other nicknames during the day, such as Team Old School and The Retro Boys. The old-school Starlet, Corolla KE70 and AE86 team were amazing – real crowd pleasers, and a huge contrast to the other machinery on show.

The Lassa team also looked strong – when pointing in the right direction – and made it into the Top 8, only to lose out to Team MnM.

Into the Great 8, and Japspeed knocked out the Mb Automotive team on their way to the Semis.

Also through to the Semis were SATS, All Or Nothing and GDA Motorsports.

MnM would then take on All Or Nothing in the Semis: the history boys continued their giant-killing run and took the final podium position.

The Final would be a showdown between Shane, Paul and Steve in the Japspeed cars and GDA’s BMW and Nissans.

In the process, Paul shaved off the bumper from his – borrowed remember – S15! Smokey may have some apologising to do…

GDA had been driving with incredible accuracy and put up a serious fight, but the decision went the way of Japspeed.

As a final treat, a nine-car train was unleashed, with the top four teams taking part (minus casualties sustained during the final runs). The formation lasted two corners before the carnage started, but for several glorious seconds there was a full train of smoke thrown up around the top-end of the track. Luckily for Japspeed their trio were out front and avoided the spinning cars behind them…

So, another chance to step up on the podium and taste the bubbly. And more oil. Shane would be straight off back to Ireland – he followed up his BDC win with fourth at last weekend’s Prodrift event in Ireland. Reunited with the team this week, they’re now on their way to Norway, as part of Monster Energy’s Road To Gatebil 2012, where they’ll be up against the cream of Europe – and the Speedhunters trio of Fredric Aasbo, Darren McNamara and Mad Mike Whiddett!

Jonathan Moore

The 2012 British Drift Championship on Speedhunters


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