Battle of Britain

29th June 2017 — by Dave Cox



Battle of Britain

29th June 2017 — by Dave Cox

…the location, Birmingham NEC. The contenders? The British Drift Championship vs. Drift GP.

The British Drift Championship have joined forces with DriftGP to put on a spectacular event in front of a large crowd on brand new course layout, designed for maximum thrill. The DriftGP run event brings with it all the finest talent they can find boasting massive amounts of horse power. This event would ultimately go on to be one of the most exciting that I’ve witnessed in the UK. Bring it on!

Who would come out on top? United Kingdom or Europe or will it ultimately be the track itself? The battleground for this fight was a custom built track flanking the halls of Birmingham’s National Exhibition Centre, a course with high speed entries, snappy transitions and car crushing walls. Due to the nature of having a space to design whatever course you wanted, you could position the crowd to maximise exposure. They did this by utilising the natural banking creating an open air amphitheatre – a perfect vantage point to see drivers pit themselves against each other as much as the course.

I arrived on the Sunday, having missed out on the action from Saturday, I had even managed to dodge any content from social media as well. All I had seen was the course layout posted online. I knew from the sketches it would be fast and exciting and I wanted to maximise that thrill by turning up blind.

After shooting the morning practice I was impressed with the drivers’ willingness to explore the limits of practice. Well, when I say “impressed” I mean shocked. It was also refreshing to see a fresh laid out course rather than trying to shoehorn a drift course into an existing race track. More of this please!

If you read my last post about round 1 of the British Drift Championship I ended in saying that I hoped the new found momentum would carry through to future events. I can’t comment on round 2 as I wasn’t there, but it would seem the hype generated at these events has continued to grow. And pairing off with Drift GP to bring you the best of UK vs. the best of Europe was an inspired decision. The rule changes for this event were dropped to accommodate the rules of Drift GP, so we will forgo commenting on them. What Drift GP did bring to the table was a status elevating track.

The general vibe was still positive and electric, the crowd was one of the biggest I have seen at a UK drifting event. I would attribute that to the fact that the NEC might be a perfect venue. It is in the middle of the country with a major train station and airport nearby with fantastic motorway links. Basically you would need a damn good reason not to have come and see this event.

This evolution of the sport in the UK is proving time and time to be a successful one, if for no other reason other than there is visibly more people watching these events. As track layouts are changed and new ones dreamt up, the drivers are forced to adapt. And with this we raise an interesting question; “Is drifting on a course like this sustainable?”

There is no doubt that adding a concrete barrier makes more of a spectacle of precision drifting, it elevates the drama of drifting with no run off. However adding a course full of barriers significantly raises the chances of cars suffering mechanical failure. And again you have to ask, can the drivers sustain potentially having to fix or replace components? Probably, but let’s be real here, there’s only a handful of degrees that separates bending a control arm to folding a chassis.

Organisers need to think carefully here, some of the first videos that surfaced on social media, the day after the event, was crash compilations. Is that how they really want the sport being portrayed? It is a knife edge between making a spectacle and making a mockery of drifting. And I am not here to condemn Drift GP or BDC for throwing the all that they have worked for under the bust. Far from it.

I am celebrating the success and growth in UK Drifting, it has evolved so much in this last year already. My only concern is if this pace of growth surpasses the driver’s ability to adapt with it. I am sure no driver wants see their pride and joy destroyed after one run. Conversely, sponsors won’t want their precious advertising space destroyed and torn up.

Now before you all jump down my throat saying that drivers will improve, you’re not wrong. I am merely commenting on the fact that sport needs to keep it’s aspirations in check with the driver’s skill level. Putting concrete barriers in will separate the men from the boys but none of us want to see 8 cars surviving to the Great Eight rather than making it through on merit. After all, this is a judged sport and not a fight to the death.

As a final note, I want to applaud the organisers in taking a jump. David Egan said he wants BDC to evolve and sometimes you need a shock to the system to make that evolutionary jump. Whatever I say and whatever you think about round 3, the sport was better for the concrete barriers, the drivers would have been pushed hard to adapt. Whether the next round contains barriers or not, at the least the drivers will know what to expect. And like it or not, that is driving the sport forward.

Words & Pictures: Dave Cox (ShootingDave)

Dave Cox