A crisp, sunny morning marked the beginning of our final round of the 2023 championship at Snetterton Circuit and the concluding event of the year, Modified Live.
The fears of rain were washed away by the sunshine breaking through the clouds, and it seemed like we were in for a great day where drivers could fully exploit this fast circuit. The Time Attack and Racing Hondas Championship finals took place on the Snetterton 200 circuit, allowing us to run on the infield 100 circuit throughout the day.
The additional space and time allowed for the return of our Drift Pro Lights competition, providing drivers outside of the championship with an opportunity to compete for a chance to enter the Drift Pro Championship in 2024. A great turnout resulted in a diverse array of interesting cars on the track.
Practice kicked off, and it quickly became apparent that despite the sun, the circuit was still a little damp from the previous evening’s rain showers.
As cars began to lay down laps, the track soon started to dry out. However, with some areas still patchy, it meant drivers had to be on their toes as they navigated the variety of grip conditions.
It was great to see some returns to the championship, with Matt Denham back behind the wheel of his freshly built S13!
As the practice sessions came to an end, the circuit was dry enough to witness the drivers fully letting loose and laying down some incredible, smoke-filled laps, just in time for qualifying.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing for some drivers, though. Martin Richards’ engine blew during practice, putting an end to his season. Despite the disappointment of not seeing him compete until the very end, Martin has certainly pushed his car to the limit throughout the long season of hard driving. Now, he has a good break to get a new engine built and ready for 2024.
Championship leader Lwi Edwards also encountered problems early on, mirroring the issues from last year. After a season of reliability, the gearbox in his BMW broke, preventing him from advancing to qualifying. Similar to Martin, it was disappointing not to see the Bilstein E36 in the Top 16. However, with the championship lead after Round 7, Lwi could rest easy, knowing his position would remain secure.
The Hyper Paddock was bustling, as always, with the Modified Live show crowds flocking to check out competitors’ cars and meet the drivers.
We genuinely appreciate the fantastic response to the Hyper Paddock, and we believe it’s a significant highlight of our events and will be something we continue for seasons to come.
Drivers being able to interact with fans and promote this sport is crucial, and we hope that this year, it has inspired the next generation of drivers to get behind the wheel. Hopefully, in future years, we’ll see them competing! Speaking of which, qualifying would soon be up next, so let’s check out some of the highlights!
Paul Cunnington in the Octaneologists S15 looked back in his groove after securing the top spot on the qualifying leaderboard with an epic 90.67 run!
Flying into 2nd place with an 89.00 point run was Dave Bastin in the Kent Models AE86. With 3rd place in the championship on the line, Dave wasn’t holding anything back this round, and it showed in his driving.
Ryan Hughes was back on top form in the monster DY Engines GT86, scoring an 89.00 point run that placed him in 3rd on the leaderboard.
4th place went to Harry Love in the HL_Drifting S14, with another 89.00 run on the board. The young driver has improved round by round, and with one of his best qualifying positions yet, we’re looking forward to seeing how much further he can improve next year!
With Axel Hildebrand out of the running after qualifying due to mechanical issues, the 16th spot went to new entry Olly Bolton in the Funk Motorsport / 191 Automotive S13. With an all-new 2.2L SR20 and competing for the first time in over a year, Olly now found himself in the Top 16 while getting to grips with the new changes to the car.
With the qualifying session complete, it was time to head into our final Top 16 battles of the year!
First out of the gate was Olly Bolton vs Paul Cunnington. Paul put in two very clean laps, while Olly struggled with some understeer on the first run and unfortunately went off track on the second. Paul Cunnington moves through to the Top 8!
Next up was Ian Phillips in the Tegiwa / Alloy Wheel Shop 350z, facing Paul Beechey in the Peacock Performance R34. In the first run, Ian had a speed advantage over Beechey, while in the second run, Beechey had a slightly better line but fell off as they reached the hairpin. Ian Phillips took the advantage and advanced to the Top 8.
Our third battle in the Top 16 featured Harry Love against Andy Frost in the Tegiwa / Coilovers.co.uk S14. Harry was a little slower than Andy when leading on the first run, but Andy straightened up on the final corner, giving the advantage to Harry. In the second run, Harry pulled a stronger chase run, with Andy losing some speed during turn two and the hairpin. Harry takes the win!
Josh King in the Fifth Gear Transport E36 faced off against Jonathan Smith in the IA Motorsport MX5. Josh displayed excellent speed and line on both runs, while a big understeer from Jonathan on the first run was enough to give the win to Josh.
Up next was Dave Bastin vs Matthew Roberts. Matthew Roberts spinning on both runs gave a default win to Dave, moving him onto the Top 8.
George Barclay in the WFS Motorsport battled Joel Conlan in the JCO Stunts S14 next. Both drivers had some corrections, but George spun on the hairpin, giving a big advantage and the win to Joel.
With nearly 2000 horsepower on track, the crowd was eager to see Ryan Hughes and Richie Gilbey battle it out. Unfortunately, after a big off on turn one from Richie, it seemed like something was wrong with the car, and he had to shut down the second run. Ryan Hughes moves onto the Top 8.
Our final battle of the Top 16 was between Michael Bennett in the Sandhaven E46 vs Haydn Cruickshank in the Colour Sound Experiment JZX100. Michael Bennett laid down two clean runs while Haydn seemed to be struggling with a strong understeer into turn one on the first run and spun in the same place on the second. Frustrating for Haydn but a great result for Michael as he advances to the Top 8.
As we moved onto the Top 8, here’s how the board looked after our first set of battles!
Starting off the Top 8 was Ian Phillips and Paul Cunnington. Paul took the advantage on the first run with great speed while Ian had to make some slight corrections as he tried to match the speed and proximity to Paul’s S15. With the tables turned for the second run, Paul put in a really great chase run, staying tight to Ian’s car throughout the course. Paul takes the win!
The second battle of the Top 8 was between Harry Love and Josh King. On the first run, the judges noticed a bit of a wobble from Harry on the hairpin, causing him to straighten slightly. Josh didn’t back off and stayed close throughout the run. In the second run, Josh put in another great performance with stronger speed and line over Harry. Josh King takes the win and moves on to the Top 4.
Dave Bastin vs. Joel Conlan up next! Joel had a tough time keeping up with Dave’s AE86 as it ripped around the track, with Joel making slight corrections to try and chase him down. The second run began, and Dave almost lost the advantage after giving Joel a slight tap on the rear bumper, but it wasn’t enough to knock him off line. Dave stayed close throughout the rest of the run and took the win.
After a great performance throughout the day, Michael Bennett had the pressure turned up as he battled against Ryan Hughes. Michael had a few corrections and straightens while trying to keep up with the mighty speed of Ryan’s GT86. The shallower line and corrections on both runs compared to Ryan’s speed and angle were significant deciding factors for the judges. Ryan Hughes moves onto the Top 4!
Here’s how the leaderboard stacked up as we moved onto the Top 4.
Always expect the unexpected when Paul Cunnington and Josh King hit the track! A wild start to their battle saw Josh King lock up on the entry to turn one, sideswiping Paul’s S15 and knocking him off the circuit. Fortunately, both cars weren’t damaged and could run again for one excellent lap together. With the default advantage going to Paul after the hit, he moved through to the final!
A battle of the 86s was next with Dave Bastin and Ryan Hughes. One of the most powerful cars on the grid against one of the least powerful meant Dave had a tough challenge ahead of him. With Ryan laying down a huge smokey lead run, you could hear Dave ringing every horsepower of his Corolla to keep up. Despite the power difference, Dave managed to stay close and follow Ryan’s line. With the positions switched for the next run, Dave managed to keep a good gap between himself and Ryan’s 2JZ-powered GT86. A great battle between both, but Dave’s stronger chase run and speed gave him the judges’ advantage, moving him onto the final!
Before our final, it was time for the battle for 3rd place. Josh King and Ryan Hughes laid down two fantastic runs, filling the circuit with smoke. This would be a close call for the judges to make, but we’d have to wait for the podium to find out the winner!
The final Drift Pro battle of the year was upon us. Dave Bastin and Paul Cunnington went head to head in a fierce battle. Both drivers squeezed as much out of their talent as possible to impress the judges. The winner? Keep reading to find out!
Last but not least, we couldn’t wave goodbye to the season without our final of the Drift Pro Lights competition. Sam Sheffield in the V8 PS13 borrowed from UK driften legend Steve “Baggsy” Biagioni faced off against Zack Parker in the GBH Motorsport E36. Both drivers had been driving great all day, and it was a well-deserved final for them. They didn’t disappoint, putting on a great display of skill with the closest battle of the DPL competition.
With the last battle of the day complete, it was time to head back to the Hyper Paddock, where we’d find out our winners.
Joining us in the Hyper Paddock was announcer and the voice of Drift Pro – Fraser Macaulay. With the crowd gathered, it was time to go through the roster of winners of Round 8 and to announce the 2023 Drift Pro Champion!
First up were the Drift Pro Lights competitions. After an impressive display of talent from the whole entry list, here are the three that made it to the end!
1st Place: Sam Sheffield
2nd Place: Zack Parker
3rd Place: Jack Bennett
Next up was our Drift Pro Round 8 winners…
After a spectacular battle with Josh King, Ryan Hughes came out on top with a 3rd place victory!
Another great result in his best season yet, Dave Bastin takes 2nd place!
And finally, after a year of ups and downs, Paul Cunnington brings it home with a 1st place finish in the final round!
A big congratulations to these three drivers! Next up, the moment the season has been building to. The championship winners!
DRIFT PRO CHAMPION 2023: Lwi Edwards – Bilstein
2ND PLACE: Martin Richards – Driftworks
3RD PLACE: David Bastin – Kent Models
In the blink of an eye, the season was finished, and what a season it was. We saw some of the best driving in the championship to date, unbelievably close battles, some close calls, and most importantly, bringing drifting to the masses at some of the most iconic circuits in the UK. A huge thank you to all of our drivers, official partners, judges, staff, and media team for all the hard work put in to take the 2023 to the next level. We’re already working on bringing together another amazing season for 2024, with a new circuit on the calendar and more excellent drivers and cars. Stay tuned for more details to come!