Maxxis delighted with opening round of revised drift championship
The Maxxis British Drift Championship recently got underway again following a six month break, and the title sponsor says the series continues to grow in popularity and is now bigger than ever. In order to give smaller teams and individual drivers the chance to maximise their resources the championship format has been tweaked and the 84 drivers competing this year have been split into three categories – Semi-Pro, Pro and Super-Pro – based on their driving skills and drift experience. Following the opening round of the 2011 series at Donington, Maxxis says it was delighted to see Mark Luney and SAT/Cosworth – one of its sponsored teams using the Maxxis MA-Z1 Drift tyre – take victory in the new Super-Pro class.
The Launch Pad at Donington – one of the fastest drift courses thanks to its flat, open layout – welcomed 32 Semi-Pro class drivers. Many new faces joined the established names and Dannielle Murphy, who reached the ‘top eight’ regularly last season, eased her way into the final, where she outwitted Mark Lappage to take the victory and a six-point lead into round two. In the Pro class, 37 drivers demonstrated their skills, while the top four Semi-Pro drivers were also given the chance to qualify: Dannielle Murphy put in another strong performance to make it into the Top 16 shootout and Rob Finn did extremely well to progress to the final eight. However, it was Grant Laker who started out as top Pro class qualifier and didn’t put a foot wrong all day, sealing a fine performance by overcoming Dan Hall to win round one.
The new Super-Pro class is designed specifically for the UK’s best drifters. The top 20 Pro class finishers from 2010 were automatically promoted to the new group, including reigning champion Phil Morrison in the Driftworks S15 and the other four drivers who were capable of winning the title during the final round of the 2010 season. Those drivers who qualified in the top four of the Pro class, including Ian Phillips and winner Grant Laker, were also given the chance to compete in the Super-Pro class.
Stephen Biagioni of Maxxis-sponsored Team Japspeed returned in the now 500bhp 1JZ-powered Subaru and, despite only qualifying 16th, was pleased to have the Impreza running problem-free after a winter rebuild. Team mate Shane Lynch qualified in eighth while Mark Luney of SATS/Cosworth and also supported by title sponsor Maxxis, not only took the top qualifying spot with a 93-point run but, more impressively, also set the highest average.
In the top 16, Paul Smith in the Toyota-powered Team Japspeed S15 pulled out a well-deserved ‘upset’ against Phil Morrison, but then couldn’t hold off a fired up Matt Carter to progress further and Biagioni, who is still getting to grips with the Impreza, couldn’t match the speed, smoke and pace of Luney’s Supra. Shane Lynch made the most of a spin by Simon Perry to go into the top eight, where he put in a superb performance, losing his head to head against Luney by the narrowest of margins over no less than six runs.
While Paul Smith’s S15 remains relatively unchanged for 2011, with just suspension tweaks prior to round one, Team Japspeed has carried out a lot of work on its other cars. The Impreza underwent huge custom fabrication to fit the straight-six engine mated to a stronger five-speed gearbox, along with changes to the steering rack and hubs to give maximum lock, while Shane Lynch’s V8-powered S15 underwent a full forged rebuild and refresh for maximum power and reliability and was fitted with a stronger six-speed sequential gearbox.
“Our aim for round one was to get all three cars out there and drifting to a competitive level – especially the Impreza due to the whole new engine configuration – so to have two drivers through to the Top Eight and all three drivers in the Top 16 is an awesome result for the start of the season,” says Team Japspeed boss Paul McCallum. “Now we can focus on getting back to the top of the leader board.”
In the final four, Declan Munnelly’s Mk2 Escort was up against the 700bhp Supra of Mark Luney and while Declan’s on-the-limit driving makes him a serious match even against cars with twice the power, the sheer speed of Luney’s Supra left him trailing. Mark moved into the final where he clinched both runs against Matt Carter to take the win.
Tyres certainly played an important role and the SATS/Cosworth team praised the ‘awesome MA-Z1 Drift tyre’ which provided the grip and control it enjoyed on track all weekend. Commenting on the performance, Mark Luney said: “For the past six months, the team and I have been working on, and developing, the car alongside Cosworth, Maxxis and our many partners, and the pressure was definitely on to take a top three spot. To take top spot in both qualifying and the competition is an endorsement of all that effort.
“Last year we used Maxxis tyres at all of the events, and they helped us immensely to get to the podium on several occasions. Now with Maxxis behind us as a partner, supplying us with the MA-Z1 Drift tyre, we have repeated last year’s success at the Donington track.”
Luney leads Carter by five points going into road two with Team Japspeed’s Shane Lynch and Paul Smith are in sixth and seventh respectively. 2009 champion Stephen Biagioni is further down the leader board, although equal on points with reigning champion Phil Morrison.
The Maxxis British Drift Championship now moves to Kings Lynn on May 21-23, where the finals will take place at the Norfolk Arena under floodlights. The programme will also include the eagerly anticipated team triple drift competition.”