Round 4 Brands Hatch 28th June 09
It was a day of precedents during the Modified Live show at Brands Hatch for Round Four of the Need For Speed European Drift Championships. Not only was it the first time that competitive drifting had ever been seen at the Kent circuit, it was also a landmark for Mark ‘Buff’ Luney in the SVA Imports 350Z. Luney looked on form all day and ended up scooping his first win in this car, a triumph many believe was long overdue. It’s taken a lot of time and development to get to this, he said afterwards, the cars been great all day and it’s a real achievement for the team. From the first time out this morning the car felt good and I had a feeling it could be our day. Phil Morrison in the Driftworks R32 Skyline was the man he beat in the final, the pair taking it to a one more time situation before Luney made sure of the victory with a typically impressive display.
The day started with four pairings having to do battle to make the final sixteen. Keith Hammond in his Skyline was first up against the BMW turbo of Steve Will and after a spin from the BMW in the first run it was plain sailing for Hammond. There was a Japanese entrant at Brands Hatch too in the form of Kiyoshi Kawabata in a stunning red PS13 who had to face the golden R32 of David Monaghan. The pair couldn’t be split during just two runs, so another two passes were called for which saw Monaghan hand the advantage to Kawabata after falling off the track in the first. Kawabata took further advantage scooping the majority of the points in the second to qualify for the final sixteen. Next up was an S13 battle in the form of Kieran Cameron and Stewart Hansford, which was declared even in fheir first run. With Cameron following in the second pass though he lost speed and took to the gravel through Clearways to hand Hansford a passage through. Apparently Cameron has built quite a reputation for losing rear bumpers in off-track forays, and today he further boosted that reputation. The final heat was newcomer Anthony Scott in a retro-looking PS13 against Gary Hughes in his R32. Scott scraped the win in the first run and skilfully avoided the slower, leading car of Hughes in the second to crown a victorious debut battle in EDC. So that made it Hammond, Kawabata, Hansford and Scott through to the final sixteen.
For three of those drivers though the final sixteen was as far as they would go. Kawabata ran Phil Morrison close, but Morrisons car control, even at the wheel of a car not as familiar to him as his usual S15, helped him to just edge it. Equally close was Scott versus James Russell. It looked like the newbie may progress after a strong chasing run put him ahead on points, but he went wide at the final corner to let Russell in on his leading run. Russells 7-3 score therefore trumped Scotts 6-4 win in the first. In fact Hansford also ran things close against Paul Conlan, the pair scoring five a piece in the second run but Conlans 6-4 win in the first proving decisive. When Alan McCord came on track against Hammond though it looked like it may have been less of a close tussle. Despite it being McCords first time on the track that day (having missed out on the practice session), he still impressed judges with his speed in the first run to give him the lead. All he had to do was stick close to Hammond on the next to progress, but heading into Clearways his V8 engine gave up on him and gave Hammond an easy pass into the final eight. Apparently water had seeped into his throttle bodies over night during a patch of rain, which contributed to the enginefs termination.
Elsewhere, Mark Luney took on Andrew Cooperfs S14A and showed early signs of what was to come. Pulling a huge gap in the first battle with a complimentary wall of smoke left in Coopers path, Luney scored an impressive 8-2 win. When Cooper led it only took one moment of straightening by him for Luney to pounce, the 350Z driver coming out on top with another impressive 7-3 win.
Like Luney, Pete Barber in the now infamous RX-7 managed a big 8-2 win in his first run against Steve Evans in a borrowed S13 (his Lexus IS200 just failing to be ready in time for the event). However there were clearly issues with the S13 as Evans pulled out with technical difficulties after that initial run, which put Barber through without the need to run again. Meanwhile Declan Hicks in the 20-year old Soarer proved age is no barrier to performance in his battle with Paul Cheshire. Not only did Hicks pull a huge gap from Cheshire in his first run, he also managed to hold some good angles while following Cheshire in the second to progress quite comfortably. Which is more than can be said for Brett Castle though, the former EDC Champion being forced into an OMT by Daniel Eyles. Both drivers were achieving 100mph plus entrances into the course, and while Eyles almost came through on the inside of Castle in his chasing run, Castlefs continuous momentum in a sideways fashion on the tail of Eyles on his chasing run was judged to be just a little more impressive.
The final eight now lined up as follows then: Morrison Vs Castle, Hammond Vs Barber, Russell Vs Luney and Conlan Vs Hicks. Morrison against Castle may have been the crowd-pleasing tie of the round but Morrison made sure it wasnt a nail-biting finish. In typical style the Driftworks driver left plenty of rubber floating in the atmosphere as he pulled a huge gap from Castle on his leading run. Castle needed something big to come back from that and while the judges claimed Castles big angles were great, they judged that Morrisons speed through the course was just as good. That meant a 5-5 score and a trip to the semis for Morrison. The rain just began to spit as Hammond and Barber entered the arena which may explain why Barber ended up looking like a grip driver rather than drifter in his first chasing run. That unusually sideways-free run from Barber meant Hammond took a 6-4 advantage, but the king of rotary drifting proved his ability with a storming lead run in the next that the judges scored 7-3 in his favour. The maths said Barber was now in the semis. When Luney came out against Russell it gave further cause for the commentators to tip Luney for the top, a gap-closing chasing run followed by a wall of smoke in his leading run enough to leave a still impressive Russell behind. Fellow Irishman Conlan aimed to duplicate Luneys efforts too in his battle with Hicks. Hicks didn’t do himself too many favours though in his chasing run, going a little wide and allowing Conlan to drift with minimal pressure to the end, taking a 6-4 win in the process. With the next run declared a draw, despite Hicks best efforts to leave Conlan eating his dust, it was Conlan through to the final four.
The first semi final saw Barber take on Morrison and it was Barber who drew first blood. On his chasing run, Barber threw in some big angles on Morrisons tail to edge a 6-4 advantage. All he had to do was put in a steady run from the front in the second, but towards the end he straightened up and ended cruising the final section. A boost pipe coming off was suspected to be the problem, but that run combined with Morrisons fine display from behind gave the Driftworks driver a 7-3 win and a trip to the final. In the other all Irish semi final, Luney, who had newly fitted tyres, span off the track in his practice lap. But it didnft put him off, his first leading run ahead of Conlan saw a gap between them which just kept growing. Conlan led his run in fine fashion, aiming to over-turn Luneys advantage, but the 350Z pushed hard behind him with plenty of angle and enough speed at the end to just pass him. Conlan therefore would have to make-do with a dual against Barber for third place and it looked like it was Conlans for the taking. A 6-4 win on his chasing run, in part thanks to another unusual case of straightening from Barber was the perfect start. However, news filtered through from the start line that Conlan had been forced to retire with car problems, handing Barber another podium position for the season.
Fortunately, the only problems in the final were for the judges. Luney and Morrison couldn’t be separated in their first two runs, Luney straightening a bit in the first run but pulling a decent gap on Morrison in the second, resulting in a One More Time. Luney took the early lead, following Morrison move for move in the first of those. Interestingly Morrison had already put a fresh set of tyres on in the final and another set were in place for the last run. Both cars launched at 102mph into that crucial final pass, and again it was a close call. Luney pulled a strong lead yet Morrison continued to push in a trademark plume of tyre smoke from behind. As they crossed the finish line the Brands Hatch crowds eagerly awaited the judges decision, a decision which had the potential to swing either way. After short deliberation, the final run was declared a draw which made Luneyfs advantage from the first a crucial one. Luney took the win, a clearly popular result with the crowds and even the other drivers in the Championship, and its also helped Luney climb to the top of the overall standings. Barber isnft far behind and Morrison, McCord and Castle could still be in contention. With just two more rounds to go Luneys consistency may prove to be too much for the other drivers to compete with, but you can bet theyl all be aiming to get to the top of the podium before the seasons out.
ROUND FOUR RESULTS
1. Mark Luney (Nissan 350Z) 100pts
2. Phil Morrison (Nissan R32) 75pts
3. Pete Barber (Mazda RX7) 60pts
4. Paul Conlan (Nissan S15 2JZ) 50pts
5. Declan Hicks (Toyota Soarer GZ20) 40pts
6. James Russell (Nissan R32) 35pts
7. Brett Castle (Nissan S15) 30pts
8. Keith Hammond (Nissan R32) 25pts
9. Daniel Eyles (Nissan S13) 15pts
10. Andrew Cooper (Nissan S14A) 15pts
11. Paul Cheshire (Nissan S14A) 15pts
12. Steve Evans (Nissan S13) 15pts
13. Alan McCord (Nissan S15 V8) 15pts
14. Stewart Hansford (Nissan S13) 15pts
15. Anthony Scott (Nissan PS13) 15pts
16. Kiyoshi Kawabata (Nissan PS13) 15pts
17. David Monaghan (Nissan R32) 10pts
18. Gary Hughes (Nissan R32) 10pts
19. Kieron Cameron (Nissan S13) 10pts
20. Steve Will (BMW M3) 10pts
1. Mark Luney (Nissan 350Z) 255pts
2. Pete Barber (Mazda RX7) 250pts
3. Phil Morrison (Nissan S15&R32) 235pts
4. Alan McCord (Nissan S15 V8) 205pts
5. Brett Castle (Nissan S15) 160pts
5. James Russell (Nissan R32) 160pts
7. Declan Hicks (Toyota Soarer GZ20) 135pts
8. Paul Conlan (Nissan S15 2JZ) 125pts
9. Kieron Cameron (Nissan S13) 75pts
10. Ian Harrisson (Nissan R32) 70pts
10. Andrew Cooper (Nissan S14A) 70pts
12. Stewart Hansford (Nissan S13) 65pts
13. Paul Cheshire (Nissan S14A) 60pts
14. David Monaghan (Nissan R32) 50pts
14. Gary Hughes (Nissan R32) 50pts
16. Keith Hammond (Nissan R32) 40pts
16. Steve Will (BMW M3) 40pts
18. Steve Evans (Lexus IS200) 30pts
18. Robin Neeson (Toyota Chaser) 30pts
20. Dwain McKeever (Nissan S13) 25pts
21. Alexis Drew (Nissan R32) 15pts
21. Richard Bradley (Nissan S14) 15pts
21. David Waterworth (Nissan S13) 15pts
21. Daniel Eyles (Nissan S13) 15pts
21. Kiyoshi Kawabata (Nissan PS13) 15pts
21. Anthony Scott (Nissan PS13) 15pts
27. Rennie Morrocco (BMW E36) 10pts
Round Five heads to Santa Pod on July 11th for more tyre-smoking action.