Team Japspeed is back with the inaugural round of the UK Drift Championship! With Paul ‘Smokey’ Smith and Rob Black vowing to make it an event to remember.
After more than a year without competitive drifting for the Team, April 2021 could not come quick enough. With Round 1 of the very first UK Drift Championship taking place at Wigan’s Three Sisters Circuit over the weekend of the 17th and 18th.
As always, Friday provides drivers with an opportunity to become familiar with the track and dial in their cars. With sun forecast throughout the weekend, practice would offer vital data for teams and drivers before qualifying.
Rob was fully committed straight from the off, flying into outside zone turn 1 before finding a great rhythm and stringing together a sequence of corners good enough for an impressive score of 82.7.
That run left Rob as highest qualifier after the end of the first runs, a fantastic early marker laid down to the rest of the grid.
Rob’s first battle pitched him against 32nd place man, Marcus Tye. Despite a solid lead run and a fully committed chase, the judges decided the two would do it one more time after Rob was deemed to have left the circuit. The second run was more straightforward and Rob sailed through to the top 16.
Next to face Rob was Aims Hill in her Nissan R34 Skyline. Rob nailed his lead run and after finding a sweet spot on the chase made it through to the Great 8. As a result, Rob would go up against Anthony Cleatus for a place in the Final 4.
You can set your clock to Rob’s lead run and his battle against Anthony’s BMW Compact was no Different. Despite a scrappy chase, Rob did enough to advance to the Final 4.
Just one man stood between Rob and a place in the Final. In what on paper at least, appeared to be David vs Goliath. Despite predictions, Harry Archer drove the socks of his Mazda MX-5 and took the win leaving Rob to fight it out for third place.
Rob’s last battle of the day would be against Arron Grantham. Despite a solid chase run, a spin on Rob’s lead ultimately cost him the final place on the podium. Not all was lost however, Rob would be back on Sunday after making the cut for the Pro Class Grid.
Sunday delivered another beautiful day of warmth and sunshine across the North West of England. A buzz of excitement filled the air as the Pro drivers readied themselves for a challenging day of competition.
Smokey put down a very solid first run, with the trio of judges awarding him a score of 78, inviting the veteran drifter to take even more risks on his second run.
With much of the pressure off after his first run, Smokey went all out second time around. Too much as it turned out, as the judges deemed wheels to have left the track and scored Paul 0.
The result left Paul 9th at the end of qualifying, with Rob achieving a respectable score of 67.3
Rob Black was up against Tom Van Beek for the teams first top 32 battle while Smokey was pitched up against Josh King. Both drivers put on a great show and advanced to the top 16.
Smokey was up against Adam Simmons in his top 16 battle. The BMW Z4 driver is no slouch and made Paul work incredibly hard on his chase run. It was just as close on Smokey’s lead and after some deliberation the judges decided they would do it ONE MORE TIME!
The second run was equally as close but the judges ruled in Smokey’s favor after an overall aggregate advantage.
Meanwhile, Rob Black was going up against Louis Edwards in what turned out to be thrilling battle. Rob was back to his dynamic best but ultimately lost out due to proximity on the chase runs.
As Smokey lined up for his great eight battle, Duane Mckeever called a five minute rule to help cool an overheating car. Paul was left waiting patiently on the start line for what must have felt a lifetime.
Duane led the first run, with Smokey knowing full well he would have to be at his very best to beat the Irishman. In his eagerness to stay close, Paul got lost in the smoke and hopped over the curb.
Despite throwing everything at it, Duane was able mix the perfect amount of aggression with pinpoint accuracy and see off the Team Japspeed Driver.
Images Courtesy of: Beasy Media, Zestino Tyres, Everything Drift, Stevie Borowik, UK Drift Championship.
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