#BDC2019 launched last weekend to an amazing start, the fans were packed into Teesside for an energised and XITE’ing start to the all new British Drift Championship. We saw some of the best driving to date and it looks like some serious talent is on the way up. We changed everything for this round and as expected we learnt a lot about the do’s and do not’s of running events of these scales, so whilst we are busy working away behind the scenes on the plans for Round Two at Driftland we had motorsport journalist Sophie Middleton recap the highlights of the weekend on our behalf.
Now that the burning rubber has settled, Round One of the British Drift Championship at Teesside Autodrome can be cherished as a weekend to remember. It has set the tone for the rest of the #BDC2019 season. With the majority of the team being entirely new, except for a few familiar faces such as seasoned BDC commentator Ian Waddington, and previous BDC competitor turned judge, Ben Manuel, the ambitious new owner Matt Stevenson created an opening event of epic scale.
“This weekend has made all the work over the past few months worthwhile,” Stevenson said “It’s
been by far the biggest challenge I’ve ever set myself and was only made possible because of the
amazing team around me. Thinking about it now, it was a ridiculous idea to create an entirely new Championship, but it worked… we pulled it off”.
Throughout the weekend, the spotlight was shared by both the Pro Am and Pro drivers, something which hasn’t been seen so far in the Championship. It was very clear to everyone who attended or was involved behind the scenes that the entire crew had worked tirelessly to put on a show for the crowd which would far exceed all others, while also creating an event which would prove a success for the drivers competing. So much so, that the attendance record for a Pro Am Saturday event was beaten, and the Sunday Teesside venue attendance record was exceeded with fans lining up before the gates had even opened in the morning. As if that wasn’t enough, the number of pre-sale tickets ordered doubled the overall highest in BDC history!
One of the biggest changes which drew in the crowd was the decision to alter the traditional track layout so that the drivers would be entering it from the opposite end, which was a first for BDC at the Teesside venue. Brad McQueen, new head judge with years of experience competing in pro level, said:
“It’s a tough task trying to make a well proven track into something new that will overwhelm the fans and test the drivers. We made the brave decision to flip Teesside on its head and run it backwards which I think really paid off. We took into consideration that true drift fans want to see close proximity action and the drivers and machines tested to their maximum ability”.
On the first day, the Pro Am runs and battles really proved that this new track layout was a challenge for the drivers. Top competitors from around the country were driving harder and more aggressively than ever to show the crowd why they deserved to be in the competition, and to try to battle their way to a podium spot.
Luke Barker was one to watch after he won Drift Games Nationals the previous weekend, and he put up a fierce fight in his 2JZ 350z after he qualified first. However, it was the wildcard pick Josh King who ended up taking the top spot on the podium after some intense battles. Winning Pro Am meant that he could compete at the Pro level the next day for the chance to gain a Pro license, he put up a valiant effort and even reached the top 16. Behind him was Nick Brady who finished in 2nd place, closely followed by Martyn Cowley in 3rd.
Jolene McDonald and Andy Frost were both identified as drivers who could pose a real threat to other competitors in the Pro Am class, but were unfortunately unable to compete in this round due to technical issues with their freshly built cars. By the time Josh King was crowned winner, there were umbrellas lining the spectator bank held by committed fans who stuck through the wind and rain to support the up and coming drivers.
Sunday saw some of the most entertaining and impressive driving from across the weekend, but weather conditions were still challenging in the morning. Rain meant that the track surface didn’t have much grip and the drivers were so eager to get out on track for practice that there were quite a few crashes early in the day. Martin Wonnacott collided into the barriers during his first skid of the morning but luckily due to the great one-for-all mentality of the crew members, other teams pitched in and helped him get back out on track. Not only did this mean he could qualify but he was doing fantastically during battles until midway through his top 8 showdown, when he suffered from a clutch issue that had plagued him all weekend that finally failed leaving a line of sparks behind him. Luckily the weather held off, but that didn’t stop all the vehicular abuse out on track from taking its toll on some of the amazing machinery.
Ricky Lawrence was forced to withdraw during his top 8 battle due to an oil leak and Tomás Falvey held the title for the most dramatic Round One moment when his engine caught fire caused by a problem with his fuel injector. There was slight controversy about whether he had crossed the finishing line before the fire began or pulled over before completing his run. Falvey had been competing against Mike Walton in his battle, who had been driving at his best for the majority of the day until he span out mid-battle, hitting his door panel with frustration. BDC judge Gaz taylor said “there were errors from both drivers but Walton had better proximity when chasing so we gave him a 6:4 advantage”
Despite this impressive driving from Walton, it was Scott Cartledge who eventually earned the 3rd and final spot on the Pro podium. During a heated battle between Paul ‘Smokey’ Smith and Aurimas Vaskelis which led to a ‘one more time’ call, Vaskelis took 1 st place as the first champion of the 2019 season. Last year Vaskelis became one of a very short list to defeat Duane Mckeever, toppling his undefeated BDC run in the final at Rockingham, and is known for his outlandish driving style and smoke-machine cars, which has gained him huge popularity with the fans. The crowd who were lining the bank clutching their blankets and hot drinks erupted in cheers when Vaskelis was announced as the winner – the loudest they had been all day!
This electric atmosphere and epic action sent the all new Livestream viewers numbers to approximately 45,000 people watching live around the world. There was a great mix of families, BDC veterans and new people to the sport who came to watch at the venue which added to the positive atmosphere.
The new audio, media, shop, commentary and app teams helped to pull the event together, combined with a new judging panel, promo girls, pit reporter, gate staff and track manager. There was even some new entertainment including an RC Drift Arena ran by Ratrap RC, XITE Energy driving simulators and live DJ’s Binary throwing down some tunes between battles.
All of these changes have led to a buzz and excitement surrounding the event that the old era of drifting has returned – an all-inclusive, tight-knit community made up of friends, family and insanely talented drivers pushing their cars to the limit and having fun. The scene seems to have welcomed these new changes with open arms, and the many new fans along with it. One thing that anyone who attended Teesside for Round One will be able to tell you is that the atmosphere is electrifying, and best experienced in person, so get your tickets for Driftland Round Two which are on sale now!