Where do you start? Management summary - three days of Drifting bliss with the top drivers from across Europe, all pulled together for a great competition and social event on one of the best UK drift circuits with 24x7 BBQ, music and commentary. Thatâ€™ll do nicely! D1RC 2009 Euro Cup Drift Championship, Snetterton Report by John Turner As the sun rose Friday morning the early birds began to arrive from around Europe, teams from France, Germany, Holland and of course team 'D1RC Rule Britannia', some driving 1400kms to the windswept Snetterton circuit, still being hammered by an ex-US hurricane! All were of the highest calibre so we knew we were in for a battle royal!
The serious fun got under way with the Euros drift circuit open for structured practice from noon and the drivers were on the track immediately, getting to grips with the long start straight leading into the long 90 degree sweeper that passes in front of the model shop. This stretches the regular UK drivers who know the circuit but it presented an even bigger challenge to the visitors who are more used to tighter, often temporary tracks laid in car parks or halls. By the end of the day, however, everyone had found a technique that worked for them and had gone on to master the remainder of the drift circuit, the sweeper running into a tricky power off hairpin, then a short straight into a 90 right, 90 left and another short power chase to the finish line. After a good nights sleep we resumed practice until mid morning Saturday when the first of the qualifying sessions began. This followed the normal process of one practice run followed by three judged runs, scored out of 100pts each. This year our resident full scale drifting â€˜EDCâ€™ judge and commentator Maz Yumeda led the judging team which provided a very professional and fair service throughout the event while a small scrutineering team checked the cars before all competition runs were made. As qualifying 1 completed, qualifying 2 commenced. This was a new procedure introduced for the Euros where two sessions took place but only the scores from the driversâ€™ best qualifying session counted towards their position in the finals. After travelling such great distances, a technical fault in one of the sessions would not ruin the driverâ€™s weekend and, thanks to a very smart spreadsheet, the overall positions were able to be announced in real time as each driver completed his run.
At the close of qualifying the UK D1RC team had plenty to celebrate, taking 6 of the 7 positions in the A Final - the eighth being filled by the winner of the B Final (see qualifying tables) but the rest of the field was very evenly spread. As the scores were being digested, so were the BBQ burgers, bangers and spuds that were expertly prepared by the D1RC backup team, aka Wendy and Emma, so we were all well fed and watered as we took to the practice track for the 'off duty' Night Drifting session, the competition circuit being closed until the finals on Sunday. For those that havenâ€™t seen this live, you have to marvel at the driverâ€™s talent to drift on a very congested circuit with no ambient light at all, just the shafts of light projected by the various systems installed in their cars. It makes for some very artistic photographs! We also took the opportunity to display all the competing cars for the Best Shell and Best Chassis trophies. The array was very impressive and judging a winner was no easy task but, in a moment of de-ja-vue, Owen Slagtandâ€™s very modified Nissan R34 GTR pickup truck (and camera car) took best shell and Paul Edwards just as modified Yokomo "W.C." chassis (water cooled with much plumbing) took best chassis, both guys having taken the same trophies in 2008!
Aware of the need to get some sleep before the early 8am start of the finals, some of the more responsible drivers turned off their lights, parked their cars and took to their tents before midnightâ€¦..but not all. It was, I think, about 2am when several, fuelled no doubt by energy drinks, had the ingenious idea of taking to the track again but this time in their sleeping bags for the 2009 Snetterton Sack Race, a couple of laps of the circuit perimeter. Needless to say, not all were particularly prompt or chirpy for the 8am driverâ€™s briefing. Nothing a good breakfast couldnâ€™t fix though and, again, the girls came to the rescue! After a short morning warm up, the drivers readied themselves for the knockout style finals, D to A with the winner of each being promoted into the next final so that, in theory, the very last placed qualifier could still win the event, albeit the hard way! Here, with drivers going head to head, the differing driving styles of the various countries teams became more evident. The UK drivers who compete on bigger, purpose built circuits are used to being scored on speed, as well as angle and line whereas the drivers of the other teams tended to start off the line and into the sweeper a little more cautiously. This was to lead to the demise of several of the UK team drivers who found themselves passing their opponents before the first corner, a zero score infringement, or falling out of the drift in an attempt to slow down to avoid making a pass. In the UK if the lead driver is suspected of â€˜sand baggingâ€™ he would receive a penalty but it was clearly not intentional in this event so driving styles had to be adapted on the fly. This swung both ways, of course, with some of the non-UK drivers struggling to keep up with the UK drivers to the first corner when chasing. It all made for some interesting and difficult judging decisions but the scores were always announced promptly and decisively, and most importantly, very fairly.
The full story can be read from the judgeâ€™s finals sheets but Iâ€™ll run through the all important A final, made up of the top seven qualifiers Tom Walton (D1RC) 95pts, Azman Abas 92pts, Stu Sissons (D1RC) 90pts, Stu Cave (D1RC) 89pts, Maz Yumeda (D1RC) 89pts, Paul Edwards (D1RC) 89pts, Remi Daude (Drift France) 88pts and Owen Slagtand (Drift NL) who won the B final - yours truly qualified eighth, doh! In the first battle Owen took out Tom 8/2, 4/6 and this was followed by Stu Caveâ€™s merciless removal of Maz 6/4,10/0. Demon UK newcomer Azman pushed Remi to a full two â€˜one more timeâ€™s but then fell to Remi's 7/3, 4/6, still close! Finally Paul Edwards disposed of Stu Sissons 6/4,5/5 in another very close battle. This put Owen against Stu and Remi against Paul in the semis and the fist confrontation saw Owen go out after a fatal error on his part, a 0/10 collision. In the second of the semis Paul knocked out Remi with a close but decisive 6/4,6/4 so it was to be an all UK final. First, however, we needed to settle the disagreement over 3rd & 4th place and this saw Remi, surely the most French of Frenchmen in their team (you really needed to have been there to understand, beret, scarf etc.) up against Owen, nearly as loony as Remi in his mad hatterâ€™s headwear! All this silliness disappeared on the track however and the pressure was on. Too much maybe, as Remi spun on the first run giving Owen a 10/0 lead into the second. All Remi could hope for was a mistake on Owenâ€™s part and he pressured Owen from the start line but in doing so lost his line slightly and fell a little behind, going down 4/6 giving Owen the 3rd place. This just left the final and both Stu Cave, driving his HPI Pro D and Paul Edwards with his Yokomo shaft drive were putting on a brave face as they made their way to the rostrum, their smiles cloaking their apprehension. They had battled one another many times before and the results had been inconsistent - it was anyoneâ€™s guess. Stu led off on the first run with Paul chasing hard, just a tad too hard as they met in the second bend. This left Paul to try and force a similar 0/10 mistake from Stu on the second run but the wise old owl was having none of it, holding well back throughout (and who in that position wouldnâ€™t!) giving Paul a 7/3 run but taking the title of 2009 D1RC Euro Cup champion! Well done Stu! In fact a well done to everyone involved as it turned out to be a fantastic long weekend of doing what we all love to do - drifting. The fact that the tail end of an ex-US hurricane took out several gazebos and tents, some brand new, and the fact that someone accidentally locked the showers (3 days!) did nothing to dampen our spirits and the web forums subsequently declared the event to be 'the best ever' - so I guess weâ€™ll just have to do it all again next year! It was a good weekend for HPI too, a Pro D taking the win and several Cyclone TCs featuring high in the results, not to mention the fact that 95% of the drivers, including those in the A finals, chose HPI T-Drift tyres (slicks and treaded versions). As Team Drivers John Turner and Pete Gray summed it up, "that seemed to have gone rather well!" Special thanks? Everyone that attended mucked in to help with the setting up, knocking down, cleaning up and the endless judging and scoring admin that is a Drift event and, as ever, one or two went the extra mile (you know who you are). We would also like to thank our event sponsors, HPI Europe for their very generous prizes, Snetterton Park model shop for their contribution too, H&L assets/images for their donation of our very prized and exclusive Euros decal sets and Radio Race Car for the opportunity to tell you all about the great weekend we had. Isnâ€™t it about time you gave it a try? Youâ€™ll be made most welcome.