For Rounds 3 & 4 of the MSUK Drift Pro Championship we returned to what could arguably be called our home circuit – Brands Hatch. This historic British race course has been home to many legendary moments in Motorsport and was the stage for our very first event in 2021. If you want to see high-speed drifting and tons of smoke then our Brands Hatch rounds are unmissable!
The weekend promised excitement with a grid comprising experienced drivers and fresh entries to the championship. The weather added another challenge, as both days were predicted to reach scorching 30-degree temperatures, testing the cars and drivers’ ability to handle the heat.
Saturday commenced with the usual driver briefing, followed by a 40-minute practice session for drivers to acclimate to the circuit. The drift course layout at Brands Hatch Indy configuration featured a high-speed entry into Surtees corner, transitioning into McLaren corner, and seamlessly blending into the long sweeping Clearways corner before leading onto the main straight. Though seemingly straightforward, this layout demanded full commitment from the drivers to maintain speed, follow the perfect line, and hit the crucial clipping points. Any early errors could disrupt their flow for the rest of the run making it difficult to score high in qualifying.
One notable debut was Ryan Hughes, entering Drift Pro with his impressive 2JZ powered GT86. With over 850bhp, cool aero, low ride height, and stylish wheels, Ryan’s car made a striking impression. After witnessing his fast and smokey runs, the judges sensed that Ryan could become a strong contender.
Axel Hildebrand and his S14 made a comeback after a disappointing start to the season at Cadwell Park due to drivetrain issues. Equipped with a fresh gearbox, Axel looked in great form burning through his Zestino tyres.
After competing in our Drift Pro Lights competition search last year, Matthew Roberts joined the grid for 2023 with his Toyota 2JZ powered BMW E36. Although Matthew had a shaky start in practice grappling with the circuit, the judges were eager to see his performance in qualifying.
Not everything went according to plan for some drivers. Richie Gilbey faced troubles as his Nissan S13 suffered due to rising temperatures. The ECU controlling most of the engine functions wiped itself during practice, rendering it unsafe to drive without risking engine damage. It was a frustrating situation for Richie, considering his strong start at Cadwell Park. Everyone hoped the issue could be resolved for Round 4 the next day.
After a brief break in the Hyper Paddock to cool off and inspect their cars, the drivers prepared for qualifying. With track temperatures at their peak, the grip levels had increased, demanding the drivers’ full commitment to put in a solid run.
Martin Richards dominated qualifying, executing two excellent runs with incredibly aggressive entries. His remarkable display of huge angles and speed earned him a top score of 92.50, firmly securing the top spot on the leaderboard.
Newcomer Ryan Hughes demonstrated his determination with a qualifying run that earned him 91.50 points, placing him in second position. Could he give the seasoned veterans a run for their money in the Top 16?
Lwi Edwards secured third place with an 90.50 run in the Bilstein E36, showcasing his consistent and controlled driving skills.
Despite having only a few laps of practice in his brand new WFS Motorsport Eurofighter BMW, George Barclay managed to qualify in 10th place. The carbon kevlar-clad 2 Series, equipped with a powerful 1000+ BHP 2JZ engine, effortlessly maneuvered around the track, enveloped in clouds of smoke.
Jonathan Smith made his debut in Drift Pro with his LS2-powered IA Motorsport Mazda MX-5. The small roadster, equipped with a powerful engine, proved to be quite a handful during practice. Like George Barclay, this was Jonathan’s first time unleashing the full potential of his freshly built car. Adding to the pressure was the fact that Jonathan was also driving at Brands Hatch for the first time. Despite these challenges, he managed to tackled the track, securing a 12th place qualification with a 81-point run.
With qualifying wrapped up, it was time to process the results and determine the competitors for the Top 16 battles.
The downtime between qualifying and the Top 16 battles provided an excellent opportunity for the judges to speak with each driver individually. They offered critiques and suggestions to help the drivers enhance their performance.
Now, let’s dive into the highlights of the highly eventful Top 16 semi-final!
Martin Richards in the Driftworks R32 Skyline and Harry Love in the HL_Drifting S14 Silvia kicked things off with the first battle of the Top 16. Martin has somewhat taken the Harry under his wing guiding the young driver with his first full season of competitive drifting. It was time for Harry to show what he learnt in this battle. Martin’s experience was clear to see with Harry struggling to pull away from
keep up with Martin’s R32 on both runs. With a strong advantage in his favour the win went to Martin Richards!
While it wasn’t the ideal outcome for Harry, battling a champion at Brands Hatch provided an invaluable learning experience. We look forward to seeing what he can bring to the table at Round 5 at Oulton Park.
Haydn Cruickshank in the Colour Sound Experiment JZX100 Chaser went head-to-head with the reigning Drift Pro Champion, Oliver Evans, and his BC Racing S15. Despite Haydn’s JZX100 Chaser boasting a 1000+ BHP V8 engine, it couldn’t match Ollie’s pace. Ollie created a significant gap on his lead run and closely followed Haydn during the chase. The judges unanimously selected Ollie to advance to the Top 8.
Josh King in the Fifth Gear Transport E36 was up next against Tegiwa / Alloy Wheel Shop driver Ian Philips and his V8 powered Nissan 350Z. Both cars showcased impressive speed on the track. However, during Josh’s chase run, as they reached the crest of the final corner, it appeared that Josh’s E36 lost power, causing him to straighten up while Ian charged ahead. Ian emerged victorious, earning a spot in the Top 8.
Next up was Team Tegiwa driver Andy Frost, facing off against Ryan Hughes, the second-place qualifier. Andy had faced challenges during practice and qualifying, struggling to achieve a clean lap in his S14. Thus, the pressure was on during this battle to deliver a strong performance. Although Andy managed to produce two consistent runs, he couldn’t match Ryan’s outstanding lead and door-to-door chase run. The judges awarded the win to Ryan Hughes.
It was exciting moment for George Barclay in the WFS Motorsport BMW 2 Series as he went up against Axel Hildebrand in the Sonax S14. This would be George’s first time battling in this car, and any mistakes could lead to a pricey carbon fiber mess. Fortunately, George and Axel were good friends, allowing for a level of understanding in each other’s driving skills. Axel delivered an impressive lead run, but he struggled to keep up with George’s BMW when the roles reversed. Luck was on Axel’s side as George ran wide on the final corner exit, causing him to drop wheels into the gravel. This mistake tipped the judges’ decision in favor of Axel, securing his spot in the Top 8.
Paul Cunnington was up against Jonathan Smith, the Octane Distribution S15 looking amazing as always and with podiums and with Paul’s tandem skill this would be a tough battle for Jonathan’s first Top 16. In the realm of motorsport, anything can happen when cars are pushed to the edge, and unfortunately, the worst occurred for Paul. As both drivers pushed around Clearways, Paul had a great chase line, closing in on Jonathan’s MX-5. Suddenly, a massive flame erupted from underneath Paul’s S15’s engine bay. With smoke billowing out, Paul quickly shut down the car and pulled into the gravel, while circuit marshals rushed to attend to the situation.
After transporting the S15 back to the paddock and conducting an inspection, it was discovered that one of the pistons had burst through the side of the block, destroying the engine and abruptly ending Paul’s weekend. It’s always heartbreaking when something like this happens, considering the immense time and effort these drivers invest in building these remarkable machines. We sincerely hope Paul can make a swift return to the game, as his absence would be deeply felt without his beautiful S15 and exceptional driving. Fingers crossed!
The battle of the BMWs ensued between Matthew Roberts and Lwi Edwards. However, this battle was swiftly decided, with Matthew Roberts spectacularly veering into the gravel on his lead run.
Lwi Edwards takes the win!
Moving on to the final Top 16 battle, Nathan Chivvers in the Liqui Moly S15 faced off against Dave Bastin in the Kent Models AE86. After making necessary adjustments to the car following Rounds 3 and 4, Nathan showcased some of his best driving to date, comfortably harnessing the power of the monstrous V8 S15. Dave, also riding high after a strong performance in the previous round, aimed to defy the odds with a significant power disadvantage. In an incredible display, Dave pulled off one of the best chase runs in Drift Pro history, with his little AE86 roaring behind Nathan’s S15.
The power difference seemed almost nonexistent as Dave closely pursued Nathan, resulting in a strong advantage and the win for Dave. When asked about his thoughts during the battle, David replied, “I couldn’t see where I was going if I’m 100% honest with you, I was completely blinded by smoke and bits of rubber hitting the windscreen.” Dave said laughing in disbelief. “I just kept my foot in, thinking I’m either going to hit the grass, I’m either going to hit Nathan or somethings going to happen and I’ll end up on the other side of it and it’s all going to be alright. Fortunately enough it was all okay!”
Here’s how the battle tree was looking as we moved onto our Top 8 finals!
As we moved into the Top 8 finals, Martin Richards and Ollie Evans set the benchmark with two outstanding runs. It was a close call, but the judges awarded the win to Martin, considering his slightly stronger lead run advantage.
Next up was the battle between Ian Philips in the Tegiwa/Alloy Wheel Shop 350Z and Jonathan Smith in the IA Motorsport MX-5. The track reverberated with the roar of both V8 engines. Ian Philips secured the win over Jonathan with stronger lead lines and impressive proximity in his chase run.
Axel Hildebrand in the Sonax S14 faced off against Ryan Hughes’s GT86. Both drivers had been on top form throughout the day, making this a battle worth watching closely. Axel had a good run until the very end of his lead run when he ran wide and straightened up just before reaching the corner exit. Ryan skillfully avoided hitting Axel’s rear quarter. With this mistake factored in, the advantage went to Ryan. With Ryan advancing to the Top 4, it seemed he was in a strong position to secure a podium finish in his first event!
A highly anticipated battle awaited between Lwi Edwards and Dave Bastin. Both drivers had been unstoppable all day, and now it was time to give their all to secure a place in the final. Lwi Edwards delivered a fantastic lead run, with Dave closely chasing behind at full throttle. To escape the monstrous V8 E36 and Lwi’s excellent tandem skills, Dave would have to push even harder on his lead run. During the transition into the final corner, Lwi made a straightening error while trying to catch up to Dave. The judges deducted points from Lwi’s score, granting the win to Dave.
With the sun beginning to set and temperatures finally cooling off, we eagerly moved on to the Top 4 battles. You could sense the drivers finding that extra focus, and even the cars seemed to run more smoothly.
The first Top 4 battle brought a serious matchup between Ian Philips and Martin Richards. This promised to be a fast and thrilling showdown. The typically calm and collected Ian displayed a new level of aggression as he chased down Martin’s R32, but it wasn’t quite enough when the roles were reversed. With Martin right on Ian’s door for most of the course, they concluded with a spectacular run through Clearways, inches away from the 350Z. In the end, the judges awarded the win to Martin, showcasing an amazing performance by both drivers.
In the battle of old versus new, the AE86 and GT86 went head-to-head as Dave Bastin faced off against Ryan Hughes in the Top 4. With both drivers on a winning streak, this was set to be an intense battle. The question lingered: would Ryan’s extra power be enough to outpace Dave’s full-throttle attack and battle experience? Ryan managed to maintain good proximity to Dave on the final corner, and if he could stay on Dave’s door in the next run, it might just be enough to secure the win. However, on the final run, as both drivers entered with great angle and speed, Dave kept it pinned during the transition into turn 2. Meanwhile, Ryan had to straighten up and dive in to catch up to Dave on the transition, a significant error that inevitably gave the advantage to Dave. This victory propelled Dave to his first-ever Drift Pro final, where he would face Martin Richards in an epic showdown!
Before our final battle, it was time to determine the 3rd position. Both Ryan Hughes and Ian Philips were vying for solid points on the championship leaderboard. The battle was thrilling, showcasing great skill from both drivers, but the winner would only be revealed at the end.
The stage was set for the ultimate showdown of the day: Martin Richards vs. Dave Bastin. These two had been eagerly waiting to battle each other for years, and regardless of the outcome, they were determined to have fun with it! Martin kicked things off with an insane entry into the first corner, reaching nearly 120mph and pushing the limits of the track. The judges wondered if the AE86 could possibly keep up. However, Dave followed closely behind, staying in tight proximity to the R32 through turn 1. As they transitioned into the final corner, Martin unleashed the full power of his car and created a significant gap between his R32 and Dave’s AE86. Dave would need to give it his all in the next run to gain an advantage over Martin.
With positions switched, both cars flew into the first corner, showcasing the prowess of these classic Japanese drift cars. Dave pushed as hard as he could but went in a bit too aggressively, running off the track and into the gravel at the top of Clearways corner. Martin had to make a split-second decision to veer off with him, avoiding a collision with the AE86 and sending the Skyline into the gravel close behind. Bumpers flying, fists in the air, and the crowd cheering—it was a chaotic ending to the final battle, but smiles were all around. These were the thrills and spills that make drifting so exciting!
Returning to the Hyper Paddock, it was time to announce our winners. Drift Pro announcer Fraser Macaulay gathered fans, friends, and family at the podium area, all eagerly awaiting the results.
Head judge Masaya Yumeda had a special prize for the chase run of the day, which went to Dave Bastin for his wild run with Nathan Chivers.
And now, the moment everyone had been waiting for—the announcement of the winners!
In 3rd place, we had Alex Hughes, delivering a fantastic debut performance, leaving us thrilled to see what he can achieve in the rest of the season.
2nd place was awarded to Dave Bastin, a proud moment for him as he has made tremendous progress over the past year, securing a well-deserved spot on the podium.
Finally, the winner of Drift Pro Round 3 was revealed—Martin Richards! With some of his most daring driving yet, Martin scored a massive 50 points, maintaining his 1st place position on the championship leaderboard.
As the sun began to set, it was time to relax, wash off the dust, and enjoy a BBQ hosted by the Drift Pro team. The next day, we would return to Brands Hatch for Round 4, this time in front of thousands of attendees at the popular TunerFest South Show.
Could Martin repeat his success and claim victory again? Would Dave continue his winning streak for another day? Or would we witness a new challenger rise to the top step? Stay tuned for our Round 4 event report coming soon to find out!