Before 2018 you will probably have heard about two-time Irish Drift Champion Duane McKeever making waves across the pond in Ireland, but maybe hadn’t witnessed the Northern Irish driver turn the wheel in anger for yourself. However, that will have all changed come the close of Round 1 in Rockingham Motor Speedway, as the Coalisland youngster made an entrance to the BDC not seen since Oliver Evans dominated the exact same Corby circuit 12 months previous.
What makes McKeevers’ victory at Round 1 even sweeter, is that he would then follow up that feat with a dominating victory at Round 1 of the Irish Drift Championship. The question is, could he be the first driver to ever win both the BDC and IDC Pro championships in the same year? Before we get into that though, let’s take a look back at the driver who took top spot of BDC Round 1.
McKeever has been at the top level of Irish drifting for a number of years now and with 2 Pro championship titles under his belt in 2014 and 2016, he obviously has what it takes to take down anyone in his way, that is, once mechanical issues don’t hamper his efforts. However most notably of his title wins, he would win the 2016 championship behind the wheel of numerous borrowed cars over the course of the championship, even with mechanical issues banishing his RB26-powered 180SX to the sidelines.
Arguably, McKeever’s biggest rivals to date could be considered both fellow Irish youngster Jack Shanahan and also surprisingly, himself. Just over a year ago, two-time champion McKeever arrived at Mondello Park in early 2017 for Round 1 of the IDC, with his head held high and ready to defend his Pro title at all costs, but come midday of Friday practice, he was already almost ruling himself out of competition with mechanical gremlins plaguing the 180SX once again.
He would take to the track on the Sunday of the event in yet another borrowed car, this time of friend and Pro-Am driver Darryl McFarlane, but would end up qualifying in 25th in his first pass of the circuit in that car. This setback would cast a shadow over his 2017 campaign and would eventually see Jack Shanahan take the title later in the year.
With all that’s happened, it’s also pretty safe to say McKeever’s 180SX hasn’t lived an easy life – numerous championship titles, a plethora of rounds and almost as many engine rebuilds to boot. Duane isn’t known for having all too much mechanical sympathy either; the clutch and accelerator are stamped viciously with every pass of the circuit and in-car footage of BDC Round 1 are a perfect testament to this.
And don’t think for one second that the car had an easy off-season either, as younger brother Conor pedalled the very same car in the Irish Amateur Drift Championship – the IDC’s equivalent of our official feeder series, Driftcup – to earn his Pro-Am licence only 6 days before BDC Round 1. Duane then arrived at Rockingham Motor Speedway only to find out that Conor had broken 1st gear just days previous, meaning Duane would have to launch from the line in 2nd gear all weekend. Clearly, the lack of mechanical sympathy is a trait that has certainly passed through the family.
So far though, 2018 does look to be going the right way for Duane, as he has accomplished something nobody else has ever managed to do before, in topping qualifying AND winning the event outright at Round 1 of both the British and Irish Drift Championships. We think you’d agree with us when we say that might just be considered a dream start to the season, but don’t for a second think that the rest of the grid, on either side of the sea, will be resting on their laurels.
With 2017 BDC Pro Champion Matt Carter is sitting only 3 places behind McKeever in the standings heading into BDC Round 2 at Teesside Autodrome in 2 weeks’ time, Matt will no doubt be feeling confident returning to the place where he claimed his 3rd Pro championship title last season. With confidence running high for Carter, McKeever will certainly have to step into the Team Japspeed driver’s own backyard in an attempt to dethrone the champ and we can be assured Matt isn’t going down without a fight!
So from what we’ve seen so far this season, we think it’s safe to say that Duane McKeever has the skill to back up his dominance of UK and Irish drifting in 2018, and that he could definitely be the first person to ever win both championships in the same calendar year. However one major factor – aside, of course, from the countless number of extremely talented drivers looking to take him down – is the one thing no driver on the grid has ultimate control over, in that of untimely and costly mechanical failures leading to an untimely end of a championship title race.
Could this sort of thing prove once again to be Duane’s Achilles heel? Ultimately for McKeever, it’s a case that only time will tell!
Next up for McKeever in the BDC is of course Round 2 on June 2nd and 3rd. Don’t want to miss a moment of the action on the banks of Teesside Autodrome? We’ve got early bird discounted tickets on sale now, but you’ve got to act fast as they’re online only and will end soon.