Ahead of the season there was time for the usual pre-season full nut and bolt inspection and this year I decided to re-spray the car in the team colour and the roof in my signature yellow. The mechanical improvements were done on an ongoing basis throughout last season and the car was well setup by the end of the season with little need for improvement.
However, this didn’t mean it was time to relax. Having a drift car requires constant maintenance so there were a lot of parts that needed replacing to ensure the car was in tip top condition.
Never being one to miss a practice session, I made it out on track for a couple of hours with Mark Chapman the Wednesday before the competition so when the sun came out leaving a wet and dry patchy track I was able to relax feeling that I was already pretty set on the line.
It is a very long day, so it is important not to get too tired by trying to do too much. The times where I did make it out on track did not go as well as I would have hoped and it took until nearly 4pm before I was happy with my line.
On my first qualifying run I was on all the clips with plenty of angle and went in to the final bend with so much confidence to run big angle round the wall but over did it and could not catch the car resulting in a spin and a score of zero. Feedback from the judges was excellent, this could have been one of my best qualifying results if it wasn’t for the error.
On my second run I was left with no option but to put a safe run in. Bar a small moment where I hit full lock, the run was uneventful and was 18th place.
My Top 32 battle had me line up against Bret, he got a great launch off the line and I took chase. Given the tyres he was on, I was surprised by the speed with which he got away so I entered with a big dive to ensure I made up the distance into the first corner. Unfortunately, Bret understeered straight into the wall bringing his car to a near stop immediately. I went into the back of him so hard that it pushed him further round the wall resulting in a second impact into his door.
Thankfully I have a DriftFab bash bar on the front which saved me from major damage which would have undoubtedly rendered the car unusable. After a quick check of the car and removal of the front bumper we did a quick test lap to ensure the car was still safe to run. The second half of the battle was uneventful with me going through to the top 16.
In my Top16 battle I cut the line on the first corner to try and gain back some proximity on Alistair Sutton. As we entered the last corner, I made an error causing me to straighten and undoubtedly giving the advantage to Sutton. The advantage went to me on run 2 as Sutton sacrificed a couple of clips and also made a mistake by straightening.
On the One More Time I was chasing, I a slightly better start but I was still playing catch-up early in the run, I sacrificed clip 5 which the judges did not want sacrificed but it meant proximity was gained. Then there was a tiny straighten into the final corner.
Naturally, Sutton put on a faultless lead run so I now had to rely on forcing an error from Sutton from the lead which is practically impossible. Sutton made a tiny error with another straighten. So we ended up running one more time.
I was starting to get hot under the collar at this point. Being up against a BDC driver is always a challenge but 3 times in a row required a lot of concentration, especially after the incident in the top 32 battle. The round began and Sutton got the jump. I had learned that Sutton liked to close the door on the top corner not allowing me to get close so I wasn’t going to allow it again. I put the car in closer than the previous rounds but this didn’t stop Sutton.
We had a small contact, slowing my car slightly and leaving me to play catch up for the remainder of the run – unfortunately this gave a 6:4 to Sutton After being given the feedback that we were driving straight, I made the mistake of piling on the angle thinking that was what the judges wanted. All this did was open the door for Sutton to gain even more proximity than before giving him another 6:4.
It was the end of the day for me, earlier than I wanted but I was up against a formidable opponent. Overall I am pleased with the results and with some fine tuning (and some repairs) I plan to be much stronger. It was my first competition on my new Zestino Tyres and one of the main things to come out the day is how much potential they have. Huge congratulations to my team mate Mark Chapman for getting all the way to the top spot. Thoroughly deserved.