Round 3 of the 2017 HEL Performance Driftcup visited Rockingham Motor Speedway for the second time this year although another custom layout had been created to push the drivers to the next level.
New for this round was a day of practice before the event so plenty of drivers took the opportunity to get the seat time and learn the track layout ahead of the Sunday competition.
This resulted in seeing better runs from all of the drivers as they could follow someone in the Sunday morning practice session that had already figured out the track.
It worked out better for the drivers and the fans, we saw more commitment and skill earlier in the competition than usual, making it hard to work out the strong contenders this time around.
Qualifying didn’t make this any easier, the order changed around so much between the first and second runs with 7 drivers scoring 80 points or more. Philip Hayden qualified first with 84.2 points, his consistency was also great as his other run scored 82.5, he would set himself as a strong contender for the battles.
Michelle Westby qualified in second with 83.3 points which was matched by Craig Taylor in third place.
Some of the other impressive results in qualifying were Oliver Bolton in 13th and Aidan Clarence in 19th, great results for both drivers on their first time competing in Driftcup.
The battles kicked off with Haydn Cruickshank lining up against Nik Harding, Haydn led first, pulling a couple of car lengths lead over the run before maintaining close proximity on his chase run to get the win.
Oliver Bolton’s first battle would be against Kev Bennett in a borrowed Skyline, Oliver had great lead and chase runs, winning the battle and continuing into the Top 16.
Stuart Jones and Jack Wootton had a close battle which went One More Time before the judges declared Jack Wootton the winner.
Round 2 winner, Stuart Maclachan, lined up against ex-BDC competitor, Matt House in his freshly finished S14.5. Stuart would continue his strong form from the previous round, knocking Matt out of the competition.
Aidan Clarence caused one of the biggest reactions in the Top 32 battles, he lined up against the championship leader, Alistair Sutton, for his first ever Driftcup battle. The battle had to go to a One More Time but on their second battle Aidan emerged victorious.
The Top 16 battles saw Oliver Bolton take another win against Thomas Kirkwood, that put him into the Great 8 at his first event but could he go all the way to the final?
Jack Wootton had another strong performance to earn his place in the Great 8 after knocking Will Smith out of the competition.
Stuart Maclachan and Michelle Westby battled with both of them eager to score points towards their championship results. Stuart Maclachan would advance through to the Great 8 this time.
Craig Taylor and Aidan Clarence had a close battle with it going One More Time as the judges couldn’t separate them. Craig was awarded the win after the second set of battles although it was still close and a very impressive performance from the newcomer.
Rob Johnston was on a charge in his battle against James Rayner, forcing a mistake on his lead run and taking the win to advance to the Great 8.
Philip Hayden was the final driver to make it through after he pulled a few car lengths over Martyn Giles on his lead run.
In the Great 8 we saw Oliver Bolton battle Raphael Fulco, both drivers pushing hard but this time it would be Oliver advancing in to the Final 4.
Jack Wootton defeated Stuart Maclachan after a close battle, it was starting to look like all of the championship leaders would fall in the earlier stages of the battles at this round.
Dave Mittell and Craig Taylor gave us another One More Time before the judges decided in favour of Dave.
Rob Johnston and Phillip Hayden had the battle of the BMW E36 Compacts, both drivers giving it their all before Rob got the win and a place in the Final 4.
Jack Wootton and Oliver Bolton lined up to decide who would advance in to the final, Oliver had a strong lead run before putting it on Jacks door during his chase run, it would be enough to see him advance in to the final at his first event!
Dave Mittell and Rob Johnston battled for the remaining place in the final, they would have to go through a One More Time as the judges couldn’t decide from their first battle. Dave then pulled out all the stops to get the win on their second attempt and that important place in the final.
The battle for the third place spot of the podium was between Jack Wootton and Rob Johnston, Rob would push as hard as anyone had all day with the crowd cheering as he sat door to door with Jack through the final corner, taking the win and the place on the podium.
The final battle between Dave Mittell and Oliver Bolton was a great example of some of the unknown talent in UK drifting. Dave led first whilst Oliver kept close proximity throughout the run, they swapped over and Oliver would pull a gap in the lead position, securing him the top step on the podium.
The drivers took the opportunity to celebrate with a large crowd of friends, family and fans assembled to congratulate them.
The next round of Driftcup takes place this weekend at Teesside Autodrome, will we see you there?