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Night Fight

15th-16th September saw the final round of the British Drift Championship 2017. With the Championship Title in sight Matt Carter was eager to make it his own. The series returned to a firm driver and fan favourite -Teesside Autodrome for the season finale however this event would be unlike any in BDC history as for the first time ever the final round would take place under the spotlights at night! Unfortunately Shane Lynch was unable to take part due to other commitments however Shane ‘Sully’ O’Sullivan made the journey from Ireland once again to score Championship points alongside Matt Carter, Paul ‘Smokey’ Smith and special guest Japspeed sponsored driver Rick Van Goethem who currently sits in 3rd place in the King of Europe Pro Series competition.

Friday gave the opportunity for some practise to give the cars a check over and to begin learning the qualifying line. All 4 drivers quickly adapted to the course; improving throughout the day. Unfortunately the Lexus driven by Rick was over fuelling which resulted in power loss but this was swiftly diagnosed and solved for the next day by swapping out a faulty coolant temp sensor. Meanwhile, Matt Carter, Paul Smith and Shane O’Sullivan ended the session in high spirits, full of confidence for the following day.

Saturday arrived leaving behind a wet track from the rainy night before. All drivers took a cautious approach to the start of the long practise session, using the time to fine tune the tyre pressures and suspension set up ahead of the coming battles. It was also useful time for some twinning practise against a lot of the competitors ahead of the battles later in the day. As practise went on, conditions dried up making each lap faster and more consistent than the last leaving all drivers confident heading into Qualifying.

The first Japspeed driver out on track was Paul Smith who put down an extremely impressive first qualifying run placing him in 1st place at that point. Next up was Matt Carter and fuelled with the desire to win he threw his car into the first corner with pace and aggression putting down a very impressive run finishing in 6th position. Sully and Rick both put in incredible runs earning them each a safe position within the top 20. With Qualifying over we had Paul Smith in 3rd, Matt Carter in 8th, Sully in 13th and Rick in 18th. However, unlike previous rounds there were no safe top 8 positions, meaning that all drivers would have to battle through the top 32….making the Championship win for Carter even more of a mission.

The first battle in the top 32 was Matt Carter vs Paul Conlan, with superior pace and exceptional door hunting skills Matt Carter progressed safely through to the top 16!

Next Shane O Sullivan was to face Ian Phillips. Again with impressive driving from both sides, Shane won the battle and also moved safely into the top 16.

Rick was to battle Simon Perry for a spot in the top 16. Rick was to chase first and on the run up to the first corner, mis-shifted allowing Perry to pull a gap on him which forced Rick to go off line to regain some proximity. Despite a very strong lead run, Rick lost the battle due to the earlier error and was out of the Championship.

The final battle was Paul Smith vs Ben Manuel. Paul was to lead on the first run and put in a near perfect qualifying run and pulled a gap on Ben by the end of the run. In the chase position Smokey did not disappoint as he threw his car onto Ben’s door with aggression and kept it there for the entire battle handing him the win and sending him into the top 16 to make the Japspeed hat trick. Entering the top 16, the battles immediately became more difficult and Matt Carter knew he had his work cut out if he was to secure his place at the top of the 2017 Championship!

First up, Matt had to battle against Nigel Colfer, a very consistent and aggressive driver. Having faced Nigel many times before and calling upon all his experience; Matt entered the battle with full aggression holding nothing back. With Matt in lead position Nigel was close in proximity from the outset, giving him the advantage for his lead run. However, Carter wasn’t going down without a fight! He pinned the throttle on entry and stuck the car to Colfer’s door for the entire circuit, rubbing his front wheel against Colfer over the finish line. Matt’s aggression and proximity was enough to send him through to the top 8 ever closer to the Championship win.

Sully was next and had drawn Ryan Caldwell to battle. After an impressive run from both and especially some aggressive chasing from Sully, Sully entered the top 8 as well.

Finally, Paul Smith was to battle TJ Berney. With a faultless qualifying line all day, Paul didn’t disappoint, leading with accuracy and pace; pulling a gap on his competitor. Once again, the aggression was shown from Paul with a mix of confidence in his car as he chased with inch perfect accuracy landing him a spot in the top 8 as well.

With the 3 Japspeed drivers safely in the top 8 the heavens decided to open, pouring down onto the dark, tyre layered circuit, rapidly changing the conditions for all the drivers.

Carter was to face Martin Richards once again for his spot in the top 4 - a spot which would secure Carter with enough points to win the Championship out right. With the conditions loose and Martin being the higher qualifier, Richards was to lead. Carter sent his car against the door of Richards but made an error due to the conditions mid-way on track. This didn’t look good for Carter as the Championship could slip away. Putting in a ferocious lead run, Martin also made an error in the chase position putting Carter back in the game. The judges called for a one more run to settle the decision. Martin being the higher qualifier chose the advantageous chase position. Carter had nothing to lose. He threw the car into the first corner with pace and made it stick! Martin began making ground up and closing the gap…but into clip 3 collided with the wall with the rear of his car causing him to straighten.

Carter stayed focused and finished his lap in style awarding him the win which was of course celebrate with a Championship winning burnout laden with flames!

With the team celebrating it was time to focus as Sully went out to battle Conor Shanahan for his spot in the top 4! After two very impressive runs, Conor took the win over Sully, knocking him out of the competition at that point. It was left to Smokey and his battle against Scott Cartledge to join Carter in the top 4 battles. With consistency, accuracy and aggression, Paul performed incredibly once again showing how he had harmonised with his car throughout the day and put in an incredible performance to send him into the top 4 along with Carter and the two Shanahan brothers.

The first battle in the top 4 was Matt Carter vs Conor Shanahan. After celebrating, Carter got back in his car to battle. Sending his car into the first corner, he put in a solid run against Conor leaving them to swap places. With an aggressive chase run and Carter still high on his Championship win, Conor took the win through to the final.

Now the mist descended and Smokey was sat on the line against Jack Shanahan for his chance in the final. This was the closest Smokey had come all year to spot in the final, showing how he and his car had bonded through the season. Jack was to lead as the higher qualifier. Smokey put I a very close and impressive chase run, pinning his car to the door of Shanahan and not letting off for anything. He pushed Shanahan over the line taking the advantage into his lead run. Jack was to chase and had his work cut out to take the win. Paul knew the line, he knew the car and he knew the grip.  He also knew that he would have to send that car in faster than he had all day despite the conditions. And he did just that, throwing the car in at pace, and only just staying on circuit he powered round with Jack in hot pursuit. Stood on the line waiting for a decision, it finally arrived…..Paul was in the final!!

Carter’s final battle was against Jack for the 3rd/4th position for the day. Carter knew he had to go in hard. And that he did, but this time a little too hard, causing the car to over rotate and lose him points. With the win in Jack’s hands Carter resided to putting on a show and celebrating his championship win with the crowd doing some burnouts and donuts for their enjoyment.

Now it was time for the final as Paul Smith was to face Conor Shanahan; two drivers that had shown fearless consistency all day long. Now, the track was wet, the night was dark and the crowd was loud. Both drivers focused, they left the line on the drop of the green light firing their cars into the first corner. Smokey lead with pace and angle and Conor followed closely leaving Paul with no decision but to go in hard on his chase run. And that he did, however, he went in slightly faster than Conor causing some slight contact and Conor to spin on the first corner. After re-watching the video it was decided that Paul was to get second position on the podium. Team Japspeed also took home second place in the Team Constructor’s Championship for the day.

It was an impressive and successful final event for Team Japspeed with 1st place in the 2017 Driver’s Championship and 2nd place in the 2017 Constructors Championship! We look forward to next year’s competition against the rest of the British Drift Championship Field!!!

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