To say that it was raining was an understatement. As the track official, in the relative cover of his brick built gate house waved me through into the field for parking I was witness to bands to people through my over-worked windscreen wipers, bracing themselves against the lashing rain and fighting for traction on the steep and now very muddy incline as they worked their way up towards the road to the pits. The banshee like scream of a tortured SR20 scythed through the sound of the rain hammering against my little steel and glass enclosure and I turned to the source of the sound; A Nissan S13 hurtling away from the starting straight. A few seconds later the sound was silenced as the driver pulled on his hydraulic handbrake with the aims of initiating a practise run. The massive body of water which now resided in the centre of the corner disagreed with his aims though; grabbing hold of the front wheels of the now semi-submerged car and launching it into the gravel traps.
Somewhat deterred by these sights I thought about turning around and heading home, getting the source material for this blog post from the live stream. However, I was here now and turning around would have been a big waste of time and money. So I grabbed by bag and camera from the car, pulled my hood up and joined the tribes of people battling/swimming their way round to the pits. It was the right decision. Despite it all it turned out to be a fantastic day!
One young man who’s spirits certainly weren’t dampened by the rain was Essex’s own Danny Grundy. Lydden Hill was to be his BDC début in the ‘Pro-Am’ class which was ran on the Friday. He managed to battle his way up to third place which qualified him into the ‘Pro’ class. The rain would help him against the pros as power becomes less of a differential between the 7-800hp cars that scatter the top of the field and the 400 ish hp cars that worked their way up from pro am.
(Danny Grundy’s S14)
Even though not all the Pro-am guys got to play on the Saturday it was nice that they kept their cars on display in the pits. As a Mercedes fan Ben Rowland’s diesel W202 estate ‘The Baghdad Taxi’ is my favourite BDC car . It’s looking swish in its’ new livery!
Another favourite car of mine that certainly didn’t suffer in the wet was Marc Huxley’s Toyota Celica. This heavily modified piece of Japanese automotive history is making about 400hp from a straight cam Nissan SR20. He was a dominant force throughout the day, pulling huge angle and wild lines. He qualified second with a score of 89 beaten only by Ireland’s Jack Shanahan who scored 93 without the aid of power steering
As the weather somehow worsened as the day progressed towards the battles my good friend Carl Reynolds and his girlfriend very kindly provided me shelter, warmth and an internet connection for commentary from the live stream. I swam over to their Volkswagen Passat and dug in ready to watch the battles.
If you’ve never been to Lydden Hill the track layout is a little like this: The cars leave the line and head towards the first corner, a left hand 90 degree turn with gravel traps and these big blocks of tyres around the outside. This was where a lot of ‘offs’ happened as a massive puddle formed in the centre of this corner which seemed to either pull the cars in and spin them or they would skate across the top and spin. If they made it through the first corner they would enter a tight right hand hairpin turn which would spit them out onto a long sweeping right hand corner flanked by a plastic wall. Then they would cross the finish line
There were 24 cars in the Pro class which ad to be whittled down into a top 16. This somewhat confused me, some cars qualified into the top 16 automatically and others had to battle fir the final places. If anyone could elaborate please do let me know. First up Danny Grundy would battle Matt Stevenson. Stevenson would be the first to lead and appeared to be the dominant force as Grundy ran a shallow angle through the later part of the track. The drift gods were on Grundy’s side though, in the second run Matt dropped into the gravel on the outside of the 1st turn which gave Grundy a huge advantage which allowed him through into the top 16.
Jason Greene would also end up in the gravel in his battle against ex BDC champion Paul Smith. Paul was due to be driving the GT86 that was revealed at Autosport. Sadly it wasn’t ready in time so he was driving this Lexus IS200 which turned out to be a great little car.
Paul’s Japspeed team mate and Boy Zone member Shane Lynch was driving his new car. A supercharged V8 powered 370Z which sounded absolutely evil! The Team Japspeed fan shroud was a nice detail!
Shane would be battling a Hel Performance liveried R33 Skyline. Shane would lead first and went super wide through the hair pin which took the driver of the R33 by surprise and forced him to slow right down and straighten to avoid hitting Shane. This mistake by the R33 driver was the only differing factor and allowed Shane to go through.
The next battle between MNM Engineering team mates Mike Marshall and Jay White was simply incredible. The first battle was more like watching a final, both drivers were on each others doors both runs and were inseparable. The judges agreed and a one more time was called. Again, both drivers put in amazing runs but Jay had the better proximity to Marshall on his chase run which was the deciding factor and saw Jay through to the next battle!
Wayne Keeber in his Toyota Soarer knocked a Skyline R34 out of the competition as the Skyline wasn’t able to match his proximity.
A David and Goliath battle came next between Matt Walker in his privateer BMW E30 against Jody Fletcher in his Team Lassa Nissan S15 was next. A battle that was sadly over too soon as Matt planted his car in the gravel on the outside of turn 1.
Driftwork’s Richard Grindrod in the Chevrolet LS powered E36, which sounded and looked absolutely amazing would face the S13 of Gary Dunne in what was one of the most controversial battles of the day. On track the battle was pretty much decided on the first corner as Richard slid into the gravel. The marshalls said that Dunne’s car was over the strict 98db sound barrier that Lydden Hill were enforcing to keep their silly neighbours happy and was therefore disqualified. This should have seen Richard through to the next battle but Dunne appealed and it was found that both the cars were over the sound limit so Dunne would go through on the grounds that he made his car quieter. Cue the stuffing of pillows in exhausts and down screamer pipes.
Once again Danny Grundy would be the first out the gate. This time he would battle last years BDC champion Jack Shanahan. Despite the difference in experience at this level of competition Danny put up a great fight against Jack. The only moment that let Danny down was a very small straighten on the wall run. A commendable and valiant effort though! I think Mr Grundy will be one to watch this season!
Adam Simmons in his R33 over rotated on his chase run against Paul Smith, he was able to save it but the mistake cost him his proximity to Paul and allowed Paul to advance.
Shane Lynch would battle his new Japspeed team mate Matt Carter. I’ve only met Matt once I think, at an RC meet in Milton Keynes many many moons ago. He is a super nice chap though and I think that his signing with Japspeed will be a good thing. The car looks great in its’ new black and white livery as well!
Shane was clearly the dominant force in their battle though. He was clued to Carter’s door in the first run and Matt had straightened a little trying to keep pace with the 370Z
In the battle of the E46s Jay White would take on Fraser Stark. Both cars flew down the starting straight, both aquaplaned over the puddle on the first corner and both ended up in the gravel! Whoops! Jay was the first off the track and therefore the first to score zero and was eliminated from the competition.
Phil Morrison in the V8 powered DW86 would battle Wayne Keeber. The DW86 is an amazing piece of engineering but is not infallible. Car issues caused Phil to spin in the first leg of the battle. He called for a 5 minute competition time out but was unable to get the car fixed in time and so Wayne goes through
Simon Perry in the Team Lassa R35 GTR Louis Geldart in his S14. Sadly Louis fell victim to the difficult conditions on the first corner and knocked himself out of competition.
Jody Fletcher was unable to maintain proximity with Japspeed’s Luke Woodham who went through to the great 8.
The last battle of the top 16 would see Marc Huxley go against Gary Dunne. The first set of battles were too close to call. The first OMT battle didn’t go particularly well. Huxley made a huge correction but Gary Dunne’s car cut out mid way around the track. He got it going again and made it back to the line for the second OMT battle. Dunne over rotated going into the hairpin which allowed Huxley to overtake. The crowd went wild and Huxley took the win.
the battle between Paul Smith and Jack Shanahan saw one of the weirdest incidents I’ve seen in all my years of drifting. Jack appeared to pull on the hand brake far far to early coming up to the first corner. Paul, now facing the threat of rear ending the rapidly slowing S13, pulled to the right and slid across the wet grass, through a block of tyres and came to rest in the gravel with his car crippled and his boot wide open. Battles continued whilst the car was taken back to the pits and repaired but for the simplicity of this blog I am going to cover the second part of the battle now. Not a huge amount of time passed anyway, it took Team Japspeed just six minutes to replace the entire front suspension of the Lexus and get it back out on track. In the second battle Smith would lead and Shanahan put on an amazing chase run but it was not enough to counter the effect of the crash he… I don’t want say caused… Initiated? Paul went through to the semi final.
Fraser Stark’s gearbox decided it didn’t want to play any more during his battle with Shane Lynch which saw Lynch into the semi-final and Simon Perry would take the win over Wayne Keeber. The battle between Marc Huxley and Wayne Keeber was tight was Huxley, as always, put on a superb show and planted his little Celica right on the door of the Soarer giving him the victory.
The first leg of the semi-final would be between the oldest and newest cars on the grid that day. Marc Huxley in his Celica and Simon Perry in his R35. The R35 simply dwarfed the little Celica in terms of physical size, in terms of presence on the track though I would say they were about equal. Sadly Perry dropped a tyre into the gravel on the second run so Huxley took the win.
Shane Lynch should have battled team mate Paul Smith. Unfortunately Paul’s car was still not right after that crash and his team were unable to get the car fixed in the allocated five minutes.
So our final would be between Shane Lynch in his fire breathing supercharged 370Z and the 400hp Celica driven by Marc Huxley but first the battle for third and fourth.
Paul Smith was certainly closer to Simon Perry on his chase run than Perry was to Smith when the places swapped. The damage to the front of Paul Smith’s car made it some what unpredictable and twitchy meaning that Perry was smoother and took third place.
Time for the final, amazingly the rain stopped completely and so myself and my brave band of explorers exited the Passat and uneasily squelched our way over to the fence at the side of the track. You could cut the atmosphere with a knife as Shane Lynch drew his 370Z to the line next to Marc Huxley. However, this is the pretty Kent countryside and not Essex so a knife was not to be found.
With the wind pulling at my note book I wasn’t really able to make many comprehensive notes but my scrawled hand writing and goldfish like memory tell me that Huxley would lead first and Lynch had to make a huge correction to stop himself from going into the back of the slower car on the hair pin. Huxley, who had been consistent (and insane) all day did not make an error on his chase run and so took home the victory.
Huxley very much deserved the victory. It’s nice to see that style and big balls can still triumph over money and horsepower.
Thanks for reading