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10 things we learned at Round 1

by David Egan 5th April 2018

1. CALM DOWN OLIVER EVANS!

Evans is undeniably one of the hottest new talents to emerge in recent years. However, his all or nothing driving style leads to just that, all or nothing. Seasoned Pro championship contenders analyse their opponents before each run, making a conscious decision on how aggressive they need to be, given their opponent’s form. Evans’ rise to the top has been so rapid, that the years of added experience his championship rivals possess are his disadvantage. After qualifying, he looked like one of the favourites, but heavy contact with Marshall ended his day. Lessons learned for Ollie at Rockingham and undoubtedly he will still be challenging for the title in October.

2. WALLS? WHAT WALLS?

When outer clipping zones along concrete walls were introduced in the BDC, it certainly split opinion. Would the repair bills match the added thrill? Would BDC become banger racing? With 4 wall runs per lap, 75 drivers, 14 hours of live track and a tricky outer line, how many would fall victim? The answer; none. There was not one impact with the concrete walls all weekend! BDC drivers are certainly feeling more comfortable with them lining the perimeter of the circuit and it shows just how far their skill level and precision have come.

3. THE NEW BLOOD LOOKED RIGHT AT HOME

The jump from Pro-Am to Pro can be a daunting one. With numerous seasoned Pros stepping back from competition this year, more Pro-Am drivers were granted Pro licenses than ever before. Could they hold there own? You bet they could! Jason Clark stunned us all with his second qualifying run and Martin Wonnacott’s JZX also looked right at home in the upper division. Are we seeing a shift in power as the new blood improve? Watch this space!

4. WHATEVER RICHARDS DID, IT WORKED!

Martin Richards spent much of the off-season turning a highly tuned road car into a full-on competition vehicle. The Driftworks R32 not only looked incredible but was clearly more ferocious than in 2017. His chase driving was exceptional and only McKeever’s pace stopped him from taking the overall win. We can see a real rivalry with Matt Carter coming soon for the title of ‘best UK driver’. Carter was struggling with a new setup all weekend and didn’t look truly comfortable, so he may not have it all his own way the next time they meet. Richards vs. Carter round 2? Bring it on!

5. IF IT RAINS, GET A BMW

The Pro-Am class seemed to be dominated by BMW’s as they shone in the tricky conditions. Lee Scott, Kristians Burkovs, Alistair Sutton and Dan Tyler dominated proceedings and actually struggled more on a dry track on Sunday morning. With so much talk of the BDC becoming a high-horsepower and expensive series to stay competitive in, many have forgotten that there is always a 50/50 chance of poor weather at each event. A dry Teesside Autodrome could shake things up!

6. THE MOST TALKED ABOUT GUY AT THE EVENT WASN’T EVEN A DRIVER!

Love him or hate him, Nathan Black (not his real name) was a huge talking point at the weekend. Introduced to offer light-hearted banter to a generally serious show, his unique humour divided opinion. With drifting being a naturally subjective sport, judging, car styling and setups have always been a constant topic of discussion, but now humour? Is the BDC too professional to have a comedic element, or is humour a great way of breaking up the show? What’s your take?

7. IS KEVIN QUINN A CONTENDER?

We all knew he had the car, but at Rockingham he showed he now has the talent and composure. Quinn took 2017 champion Matt Carter to an OMT battle, before a mechanical failure ended the contest, and gave Quinn the biggest challenge of the weekend in a friend and eventual winner, Duane McKeever. Although going out to Duane, it’s safe to say Quinn is surely now a true title contender. He possesses a much more reliable machine than McKeever or Carter, and a faster one than Martin Richards. Was Rockingham a flash in the pan for the Northen Irish star, or a step onto centre stage? Don’t be surprised to see him pick up more momentum, and silverware, at Teesside in June.

8. THE INTERNATIONAL INVASION IS MAKING THINGS INTERESTING

We are pretty used to the Irish featuring at BDC events, but it looks like the UK championship’s future may feature drivers from further afield. Sultan Al-Qassimi (UAE), Kristians Burkovs (Latvia), Aurimas Vaskelis (Lithuania), Leonard Kepert (Romania), Christian Christensen (Denmark) and Saoud Al Abdulhadi (Kuwait) all lined up on the grid last weekend, showing how attractive the series is becoming for drivers looking for a new challenge. While they may not be threatening the best of Ireland and the UK just yet, expect them to keep making strides throughout the season.

9. CONTROLLED AGGRESSION IS NEEDED

Drivers finishing in the mid-pack last weekend generally had their level of aggression to blame. All could competently complete a lap of the circuit, but either let their opponent pull too large a gap, or made contact. Tracks like Rockingham, with a sweeping, high-speed outer line and heavy deceleration zones challenge drivers to manage their aggression and pick the opportune time to strike. With many drivers making large setup changes in the off-season and others just shaking off some dust, we expect much more door-on-door action at Round 2 in Teesside Autodrome. Expect to see Denham, Grindrod, Marshall challenge step back into podium contention.

10. CAN MCKEEVER BE STOPPED?

We all know Duane McKeever’s credentials. 2 time IDC champion, numerous event wins and multiple dominant performances, both in Ireland and further afield. It wasn’t surprising that he was in the mix to take the win at Rockingham. What was surprising, was his speed. Given that he had thrown a stock RB25 block into his normally RB26 powered Tri-Ace Tyre 180sx, many would have expected the opposite. In fact, he even lost first gear in his sequential gearbox in practice! How did he outpace everybody? McKeever was one of the few drivers running the perfect outside line and was clearly braver to stay at as a high a speed as possible throughout the course. His advantages gained in the lead position left him extremely confident in hammering home the chase. His championship rivals will have to match that bravery in order to stop him at Teesside Autodrome.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Simon Perry was not even able to contest, as his GTR’s engine exploded during practice. He is now fighting from the bottom, but we can definitely see him relishing the challenge for the rest of the season.

Danny Grundy should be more of a problem for the rest of the grid when he is back behind the wheel of his trusty S14. His backup BMW was a knife in a gunfight last weekend.

Peter Hayden’s new car looked extremely hard to drive as it bounced like a lowrider around the Rockingham circuit. A few tweaks, however, and it does look like it will be very competitive … and awesome.

Matt Stevenson is probably the most do-or-die driver on the grid. It didn’t work in his favour at round 1, but he is certainly winning more fans each round with his aggressive style.

Aurimas Vaskelis is crazy. We mean truly crazy. And he likes to break things. We love him at BDC HQ!

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