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BDC Round 1 – The Rockingham round-up

by Adam O'Connor 10th April 2018

As the smoke clears and the rain settles, it’s time to reflect on one of the craziest season openers we’ve ever had in British Drift Championship history. 12 months previous, Rockingham Motor Speedway was like a scene from the Mediterranean, with temperatures climbing into the mid-twenties, but mother nature, unfortunately, wouldn’t bless us for the second year in a row, as early predictions forecast snow, which eventually changed to sleet and lastly to persistent rain.

Let’s throwback to the glorious sunshine of 12 months previous, when Oliver Evans was a complete unknown, that came out of absolutely nowhere to dominate in Pro-Am and almost take home Pro glory too. This year, Rockingham Motor Speedway was ready to throw some more spanners in the works, as Pro-Am drivers would once again see their names in the bright lights of Pro.

Following a day fraught with weather delays, one more time battles and more, for the first time in BDC history, Saturday’s Pro-Am competition would instead need to be completed on Sunday morning just before Pro Qualifying. What seemed like a disaster at the time, however, actually came to be the perfect opportunity for the Top 4 Pro-Am drivers to step back, take a breather, gather themselves and prepare for the onslaught of Pro competition.

And that they did, because virtually unknown Northern Irish driver Lee Scott not only took the top spot on the podium in Pro-Am, but then went on to take second place in Pro qualifying, only to be topped by fellow Northern Irish driver, Duane McKeever.

The name Lee Scott may be an unknown in the UK, but in Ireland, he has carved out a name for himself in the Irish Amateur Drift Championship by taking the title in its first-ever year, taking the championship win ahead of now IDC Pro drivers Conor Shanahan and Alan Hynes. Scott then stepped away from competition in 2017 to rebuild his RB-powered BMW E46 but with the results he achieved at BDC Round 1, he certainly has shown that he is back better than ever before.

Moving onto the Round 1 battle action, this is where the show really came alive. Rife with OMT’s, split decisions and door-on-door action, the Top 24, and furthermore the Top 16, created some battles that we will be seeing in the highlight reel for years to come.

One man with a lot of anticipation on his shoulders coming into Round 1 was the crazy Lithuanian, Aurimas Vaskelis. Mechanical difficulty – specifically driveline – hampered Aurimas at every single turn in 2017, leading him to pump as many hours as possible in the off-season into making his driveline bulletproof. However when you throw hundreds of horsepower, ferocious clutch kicks, and full-on aggression through the rear tires non-stop, things won’t always work the way you expect them to, and this would, unfortunately, see Aurimas suffer the same faith as much of last season, sending him home for an early bath.

Traveling all the way from the Middle East just to do battle in the UK, Sultan Al-Qassimi found himself in an unknown chassis with a long decorated history in the UK and Irish drifting. Sultan has arguably been one of the busiest men in drifting over the last 12 months, competing all over the world and that seat time has paid dividends, as judges, drivers and spectators alike were shocked at the speed and precision Sultan showed all weekend long. In the end, the Middle Eastern driver’s weekend was only to be cut short by eventual winner Duane McKeever in the Top 16. Not a bad outing for Sultan’s first time driving his newly LHD-converted AE86!

Moving on to the Top 16 then, an on-form Lee Scott would take down drift veteran Paul Conlan, and the man that shocked us all at Rockingham last season, Oliver Evans, would exit the competition at the Top 16 stage against previous BDC Champion Mike Marshall after showing a little too much aggression, which saw him collide with the former champ, sending the VP Racing Fuels driver home for the first time this season.

One thing we will say here and now is that we certainly don’t think this will be the last time we see Northern Ireland’s Kevin Quinn on the MTEC Brakes podium in 2018. Quinn has been competing in the top level of competition in recent years and has managed to secure some great finishes in Pro class competition. The podium, however, has always seemed to elude him … until now that is because Quinn would be the man to ensure current champion Matt Carter wouldn’t be taking home a Round 1 trophy, as he came out the better of the 2 drivers in the third and fourth place play-off battle.

Come the end of the day then, one man coming away from Round 1 with his head held high was Driftworks driver Martin Richards. The newly refreshed DW32 broke the curse, which finally saw Martin take down current BDC champion, Matt Carter (before Carter would go on to lose out to Kevin Quinn) on his way to a well-deserved and hard-fought 2nd place on the MTEC Brakes podium, just behind eventual winner, Duane McKeever. Richards really did give it his absolute all, but in the end, 2-time IDC champion McKeever proved just a little too strong for Richards at our season opener.

So as we sit back and reflect on the spectacle that was Round 1, we really can’t help but feel that the level of competition truly has stepped up yet again. Heading to Teesside Autodrome in June for Round 2 is a multitude of drivers that are more than capable of contesting the championship and taking the win. McKeever, Richards, Quinn, Carter, Grindrod, Evans and more all have enough in the tank to take it over the line and with over 2 months until Round 2, the cobwebs have been blown clear, the testing is nailed and any mechanical niggles will be well and truly sorted, because you can rest assured that drivers won’t be resting on their laurels.

The next question to ask, however, is will the next batch of trophies be heading back to Northern Ireland once again? We’re sure Carter and Richards will have something to say about that, so make sure you get to Teesside Autodrome for BDC Round 2 on June 2nd & 3rd to find out what goes down!