Prodrift and JDM Allstars Final
1st Place for Phil Morrison and Driftworks Federal Tyres.
Originally intended to run over two days, JDM Allstars and Prodrift had consolidated their events into one day of extreme Drifting action.
The circuit was totally new to me. Lydden hill in Kent. A dynamic circuit built down into to the bottom of a hill. First impressions as you drive in through the gates are that it simply looks perfect for drifting! Technical areas, long sweepers, and that oh so important element of danger. What more could we ask for.
The track layout:
Using the track in a clockwise direction. You set off from the start line downhill. For me through 1st, 2nd then 3rd gear, and as you hit the limiter in 3rd you kick the car sideways into the first left hand corner. It’s a little over 90*, and has a very late apex and clipping point, so you push deep into the entry, scrub off a touch of speed, and set yourself up for the following right hand hairpin by staying out wide to the left of the track.
The hairpin also had a very late clipping point, as the idea was to retain a shallow high speed drift angle that allows you to stay sideways down the long straight section of track, and extend the drift into the final very fast right hander.
I was originally switching up into 4th for this, but despite looking spectacular, the tyres would have lasted longer if I’d have just thrown them in a furnace, so I decided to keep it nailed in 3rd, to get at least two runs out of a pair of new tyres.
This last corner is one of the most thrilling I’ve ever driven. There is only one correct line, and it’s very high speed, starting uphill then dropping off towards the exit.
The correct line takes you incredibly close to the inside curbing which is around 30cm high and acts like a mini launch ramp.. Too close and you’ll take off, too far away and you’ll have to lift to avoid hitting the gravel on the exit to the corner..
My goal from the exit of the hairpin was to never lift the throttle.
The track has an incredibly abrasive surface, and as I mentioned, I learnt early on in the practice session that a pair of brand new Federal 595RSR were lasting two runs. This was going to be an issue, as we only have two pairs of Doluck double six’s for the rear of the S15, but more on that later..
The drivers briefing had given very specific criteria for qualification. There is no longer any leeway with clipping points. You either clip them exactly or lose marks. Because you only get one practice run, and two qualification runs, if you make a mistake you could be out of the running..
I couldn’t actually drift the practice run, as it would have left me with no tread left to do the judged runs, so I cruised most of the track, just getting a bit of heat in them at the end.
The first judged run I felt quite composed, hitting the clips and carrying a lot of speed. As I was relatively happy that I would have qualified from that run, I went all out for the second run, and at the hairpin instead of exiting in 3rd gear, I went for an almighty portion of clutch abuse, and lit it up in 4th, trying to maintain full throttle all the way through the back half of the judged area. It makes it very difficult to put the car where you want it, and it does kill the tyres, but it puts a big smile on my face, as it means your crossing the line with around 140mph wheel speed, and I could continue half way down the un-judged back straight with Federal’s finest belching smoke.
Team mate Driftworks driver Dan Chapman, had suffered some serious misfire issues in his S13 Silvia throughout the morning practice and qualification, and felt he’d only just scraped through into the top 16. His pit crew had diagnosed the fuel filter as the issue and had fixed it, so the battle was on.
He’d drawn Prodrift series leader Darren McNamara in the 450bhp SR20DET powered Falken Toyota Corolla, so he had some work to do.. We watched keenly from the start line as they set off with Darren leading..
Dan was straight up the inside of him on the first corner, and maintained the same distance up to the hairpin. This is a real crucial area of the track in battle, as it goes from slow and technical to very fast, which means that the leading car can appear to gain an advantage by pulling away quicker.. Dan really seemed to have it dialed though, as Darren started to pull a cars length, and Dan reeled him back in..
They swapped, and Dan lead. This time Dan seemed to pull a couple of car lengths in the first section, and pulled that out to 3 or 4 in the last section, meaning he went through to the top 8.
I’d drawn a battle against Ksan, aka Mr Kawabata, from Driving Sports in Japan.
His well prepared S15 is extremely competitive, and his driving style is beyond committed, as he proved by constantly trying to hit the wall at JDM Allstars Wembley.
I lead the first run, and from what I could gather from peering through my smoke trail, he was close up until the hairpin, but then straightened, and I pulled away from him.
I followed in the second run, and he appeared slow, so I had to adjust my car to match the speed. After we finished we found that his car had started to misfire due to an injector wiring fault.
Dan had drawn John O connell in the E30 BMW using an M3 Evo 3.2litre engine. This car looks like a reasonably normal, tidy E30, but it’s very well set up, and absolutely flys with that engine! Dan had to work very hard to stay with it, and he pushed just that little bit to far, spinning out spectacularly in the final corner giving the win to John.
I drew Mike Deane in the S13 Silvia. Mike has been part of the Prodrift scene for years, he’s an extremely good driver, in a very competitive car. We made our runs, and as we spoke in front of the grandstand awaiting the judges decision, neither of us knew how close the other had been behind each other as we’d been to busy concentrating on our own lines. The judges deemed it to be a 6-4 in my favour, so I progressed to the top 4
In the top 4, I drew John O connell, who had knocked out my teammate Dan Chapman previously.
At this stage I changed my tack, and went from ‘I’m just here to have fun’ to ‘okay lets try and win this’.
It’s always difficult going up a car that’s so dramatically different to your own. The BM was really fast in some area’s, as it’s wheel slip speed is closer to the actual speed it travels, where as I’d just be churning tyre instead of getting the acceleration I wanted, but the S15 allowed me to get so close in the fast sections that at one point I nearly made a massive error. I’d essentially overtaken the BM, but realized I was about to shut the door on his line, which I didn’t think would have been fair, as it would have left him nowhere to go but the gravel, so I backed off massively, kept the car sideways using the footbrake and handbrake, and kicked it back into overdrive again once I’d given him the space he needed.. A truly split second descission, that I’m sure didn’t work in my favour pointswise, but combined with dominating the other part of the battle, it did allow me to take the win and progress to the final.
The final was against James Deane. He is a relatively new driver that’s really made his stamp on the drift world. Supported by Nexan tyre and TDP, the RB26 powered S14 is one of the most competitive in the field, and the guy can really steer it too!.
His car appeared quite evenly matched with the Driftworks S15 in terms of power and weight, which meant that this was going to be a close one.
Both cars hammered it off the start line, teetering on the edge of traction as we accelerated towards the first corner. As he lead, I was within cm’s on the first corner, and kept it there in the switch to the right hand hairpin. After the hairpin he got the jump on me and pulled a cars length, and I just regained that as we went over the start line. I’ve no idea of what happened in the next run where we switched positions, as in an intense battle where I’m leading, I make a habit of ignoring everything around me, and treat it almost like a fast qualification run.
A quick look in my mirrors at the end of the run saw a fair bit of distance between us though.. The judges scored it as evens and we had to go one more time.
This is where the problems start to come in to play for me, as I only have 2mm tread left on the tyres on the car, and I have already killed the tyres on the other pair of rear wheels. So we had to dig in the van and pull out some Federals loaded onto some Rota’s usually for our Skyline, and ready them for swaps. To add to the fact that they look incredibly weak on a car with such massive arches, one tyre had 11 psi in it, and the other 12 psi, and no one has a pump trackside Doh!
So off we went, he lead again, and I was determined to get the most out of the last bit of tread on the Dolucks before swapping to the Rota’s.
At points in the first half of the course, I literally couldn’t have been any closer without hitting him. Time to swap positions and for my crew to stick the other wheels on with no pressure and hope for the best..
So I pulled away, and noticed that although I had reasonable traction in a straight line, the lack of pressure caused some dreadful lateral traction issues when decelerating sideways. I compensated, but the judges decided that we should go again to decide the winner..
This was it now. I was frustrated with by the lack of tyre pressure, and I kind of lost the plot a little bit, taking risks I’ve not had the confidence to take before in my million pounds worth of drift car. But to win against such a worthy competitor I had to pull something out of the bag, and get rid of any sense of mechanical symphathy for a car that took 18months to build.
Speeds were increased, corners were cut, and gaps tightened.. On the final corner on both of these runs, I kept the throttle nailed cutting across the apex of this massive inside curb, lifting the inside wheels of the car 50cm’s and feeling pretty close to rolling at times. In the final run I knew it was the last I would get out of the tyres, and flew over the apex again, pushing wide, and dipping the back bumper in the gravel pulling it off. But in doing so I managed to pull some car lengths, and uncharacteristically I didn’t have a doubt in my mind that I had won!
What a seriously mental day. We’d gone through 22 brand new tyres, and at the make it or break it point where I had nothing else to put on the car, we got the result we’ve craved in this brand new car.
I’ve got to say many thanks to the Driftworks team, the Prodrift and JDM Allstars team for putting on such a fantastic event at such a fantastic venue. Also I’d like to thank the drivers, as the level of driving from all the competitors there meant I had to work really hard to win, and it’s one of the most enjoyable wins I’ve had in years..
photos courtesy of: DannyboyS14a