Matt Denham brings back the glory days at Round 4 of the UK Drift Championship.
It’s been a tricky few years for Team Japspeed’s Matt Denham. Plagued by bad luck and unreliable machinery. Yearning for pastures new, the team decided to let go of the troublesome V8 powered Mazda RX-8 and pursue a totally new setup.
A 2JZ powered Nissan S13 was the weapon of choice heading into the 2021 season. After a complete strip down and rebuild, the car made it’s debut at Round three of the UK Drift Championship.
A few teething issues cut competition short on that occasion, but outings at Carfest North and Carfest South a few weeks later allowed us iron out the problems in time for round 4!
Pro Class Qualifying
A top 8 finish in Saturdays’ Pro2 Class once again gave Rob Black the chance to try his hand against the Pro’s. It was Rob’s first appearance in the championship since his podium finish at the opening round back in April.
Rob’s first run was solid, scoring an average of 78 with the three judges. Later, after watching all but one of his competitors head out before him, Matt Denham stepped up and produced a run good enough for fifth, with a score of 88.7.
Rob Blacks second run in pro qualifying was even stronger. Flying into the first clipping zone, keeping a great line through the following complex of corners. A score of 82 momentarily bumped him upto P8 before being knocked back down to P13.
The judges where also impressed with Matt’s second run. More smoke, better lines and extreme angles helped him achieve a score of 91.3 placing him in third.
Watch qualifying in full over on the UK drift Championship Facebook page:
Top 24 Battles
Third in qualifying gave Matt an automatic place in the top 16 battles. Rob on the other hand made it into the top 24 and was pitched against JJ Stevens for his first battle. It was a great lead from Rob, an aggressive yet controlled run gave him a great chance to make it through.
JJ Stevens lead wasn’t quite as strong and Rob had great proximity through the infield section. Rob made it through to the Top 16 by unanimous decision.
Rob’s top 16 opponent was Justinas Norkus in his BMW 3 series. Despite an impeccable lead run from Rob, Justinas’ chase was marginally better, enough to see off the Team Japspeed driver.
The hopes of the team where now in the hands of Matt Denham, fresh from his debut Driftpro win last weekend. His first battle was against the Toyota Soarer of Haydn Cruickshank. The power of the freshly built 2JZ S13 created huge separation during Matt’s lead run with Haydn having to shortcut the circuit just to keep up!
Denham was glued to Haydn during the chase run. Making contact and putting a wheel against the door numerous times throughout the run. Matt was deservedly given the win, laying down a marker to his challengers in process.
Tom Van-Beek was next to face Matt in the Great 8 battle. Despite some valiant driving, Tom simply didn’t have the power from his MX-5 to keep with Matt. It was a similar scenario for chase run, with the Japspeed Nissan S13 all over the top of the little Mazda. It was another unanimous decision in favour of Matt.
Former Japspeed driver, Steve Biagioni, was now the only driver standing between Matt and a place in the final. There was not much to separate the two drivers following Matt’s lead run, although a small error from Baggsy at South Bank probably swung it in Matt’s favour.
It was now Baggy’s turn to lead and he held nothing back heading into South Bank. An aggressive initiation from Steve looked spectacular but was a recipe for disaster as the car straightened out and slowed.
Matt, following close behind simply had nowhere to go and made contact. The collision sent Baggsy careering into the outer clipping zone, debeading a tyre in the process. Matt didn’t come away unscathed either. After damaging the nearside rear upper camber arm it was a race against time to get the car ready
It was decided by the judges that Baggsy was at fault and Matt was through to the final, albeit with some work to do!
Massive shout-out to Baggsy who supplied the spare arm and the Garage500 boys who helped get the car fixed ready for the final against Luke Barker.
Matt was first to lead in the battle of the 2JZ powered machines. Straight out of the blocks Matt gapped the Toyota GT86. Forcing Luke to dive up the inside in the low speed corners to close down the gap.
Matt went aggressive on the chase run and it paid off! Straight onto the door into South Bank and glued to Luke’s rear wheel through the next series of clipping points and transitions. It truly was a master class from Matt, showcasing just what an impeccable driver he is.
Remarkably, we later found that Matt had also sheared the rear coilover during the collision with Baggsy! The final round of the championship will be held at the home of British Motorsport, Silverstone. See you there!
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