It seems like just a few days ago since I was stood on the side of the track at Teesside for Round 3. I remember wondering just how long I was going to have to stand, soaked out of my skin with the rain hammering down on me before we could enjoy what drifting is best known for – turning any place imaginable into a huge smoke pit.
Round 4 would find me venturing back to a track I’m very familiar with, much like yourself if you’re a frequent reader of my articles! Lydden Hill is the only track to feature twice in the BDC calendar, which suits me fine as it’s my “local” track so I get a lie in those weekends, well – until 5:45am.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that visiting the same track twice in a country with so many race circuits might be a bit unimaginative, however in the day before the event Lydden and the British Drift Championshop decided to drop a bombshell…
For the first time ever, Lydden Hill had agreed to run the circuit in REVERSE! Needless to say, it generated quite a buzz on various social networks and I, along with many of the competitors were certainly looking forward to the challenge ahead.
Exactly how this was going to turn out would be anyone’s guess, and with the Semi-Pro class coming out first to hit the fresh new layout – they certainly had their work cut out. Some drivers slid through cautiously, whilst others threw the car in; testing the limits right away.
Gone are the fears of landing in the gravel pit, but the barriers used to create the new layout were being tested. With drivers quickly getting close to the limits it was only a matter of time until the wall chewed up some wayward souls.
Alan Green and Martin Battye were the first victims of the wall, leaving their cars severely wounded and ending the weekend on their very first practice runs of the day. Scars from the new track were multiplying as practice went on and drivers started to realise the layout demanded respect.
The perilous new layout evened the playing field with nobody having driven it in reverse before the weekend. This meant all drivers were forced to push new boundaries, giving no shortage of exciting driving as a spectator.
The Super-Pro’s attacked the track with an increasingly reassuring confidence as the practice sessions went on. With all drivers on a level-playing field, it was where experience and natural talent started to shine. Money can’t buy you a podium every time and Lydden was out to prove that.
Despite the early carnage and trepidation; there was an upbeat feel around the circuit, and with the sun beating down on the smoked-out spectators it was looking to be a promising weekend.
With the morning’s practice over, it was time for qualifying – it’d be the first time that the drivers had to perform at 100% to prove they were worthy of reaching Sunday’s battles.
Focus is key now, it was time to put what they had learned to the test.
With the qualifying sessions requiring total commitment, drivers begun picking up speed and showing the best of their abilities. What started as the unknown at the start of the day was now becoming familiar. With speeds increasing the new layout was starting to flow properly and early nerves turned to excitement.
The tyre-slaying that we all know and love had returned…
With a vengeance!
As the harsh summer sun started beating down on the now steaming asphalt, it made for some fantastic light (or is that just me?)
With the drivers out doing their sessions, what better time to go for a joyride in the pit buggies? I think we might be seeing a lot more of these in the new future, as the pit buggy competition begins off the track!
Entry speed to the first corner, which was now downhill was being measured throughout the day, it was clear to see how quickly they were increasing. Super-pro’s were achieving 70+mph consistently later on in the day. This driver however, was probably having a sandwich.
As the day went on I kept track of my distance on a GPS app, it turned out that despite walking over 8km the normally plentiful ‘tog spots were few and far between. What was a challenge for the drivers earlier in the day had turned into a challenge for the photographers!
New angles are always exciting, even if they made me work to find them!
With the final qualifiers being laid down, it was time for the drivers to see how well they’d fared under the scrutiny of the judges.
There was no doubt in my mind that the very worthy winner of the super-pro qualifiers was Lluis Lopez, with his style and determination shining he managed to pick up an incredible 98.5 points.
After a very challenging first day for all the people involved, it was time to rest the tools and head to the hotel (bar)!
When there’s more tyre rubber on your face from being trackside for hours on end than there is on the actual tyres themselves, you know you’ve had a good day!
With Sunday morning’s lie-in alarm going off once again, it was time to head back down the road to Kent. I’d seen the forecast the day before, and hoped they’d be wrong; but after driving to the venue in non-stop rain, it was clear what lied ahead.
Arriving at the track, I found the pits more deserted than I’d ever seen them, with everyone seeking for cover it made for a concerning moment as to how the day was going to go.
Sometimes you hope the forecasters are wrong, with an eight-hour solid block of heavy rain forecasted it almost seemed like the event wasn’t even going to take place.
But this is drifting, whilst rain succeeds with dampening the track and the spirits, the crowds will be there regardless.
Some will however, opt to watch the action from a drier vantage point!
This was not a day where you could simply hide as a photographer, you either head out to find the action – or you head home.
I, perhaps stupidly, chose the former. It was time to stick out whatever it had to throw at me, I was fully committed, as much I was hoping the drivers would be as the day got underway!
Despite the rain splashing down on the track, it didn’t stop the drivers pushing their cars during the battles. As to be expected, some were closer than others but even if your opponent spins out – in this weather just keeping the car on the clipping points to ensure a clean lap is still challenging!
With the constant rain settling and the track now resembling a river, it was pushing everything to the limit, including visibility. It had turned into a battle of which cars could float the best!
This sadly sent some drivers home for an early shower… Not that they needed one!
As the drivers started to finally adapt to the wet conditions, the unthinkable happened…
The rain stopped, and as the track began to dry up, we actually got our first peek at some Sunday smoke!
Right in time for the super-pro top 16 battles, the sun actually decided to grace us with its presence for the first time that day.
Drivers were once again back in their comfort zone, and they were making the most of the now-predictable grip.
This battle between Lluis Lopez and Phil Morrison was one of the best I have ever witnessed in the BDC. Ever. it paid real credit to the new track layout and showed that the potential really is there. Two drivers that mastered it after several hours practice and gave the fans what they had been waiting for.
Sadly neither driver would make the final, but an ever-consistent Shane O’Sullivan would once again clinch the victory. This leaves O’Sullivan 19 points clear at the top of the Super-Pro table with two rounds left to go in the Championship.
As the weekend came to a close, it left a real mark in my mind. BDC had bravely decided to mix things up, but with the added weather I think they got a whole lot more than they had bargained for. There’s no doubt that the new layout makes for some exciting watching when the drivers achieve what they’re capable of.
It was a vicious, unforgiving track. Hopefully it won’t be the last time we see it though. Despite being a lot more challenging to photograph, and witnessing more water fall from the sky than I ever realised possible, it was great to be a part of a new change in the BDC.
– Bill Jefferies