I sadly hadn’t made it out to a King of the Ring event since Round 1 on the 5th of March which you can read about here: https://motorsportformentalhealth.com/2016/03/06/keep-drifting-fun-kotr-round-1/ . I knew I was missing out though as I have been reading so much about the positive changes to the track on Facebook so I thought I would take a trip up the A13 to see what all the fuss was about. I’m sure glad I did!
The first notable change is the introduction of a Formula Drift style pace cone. Basically they moved the start line back to the beginning of the main straight. The cars would leave the start line and drive at equal speed to the pace cone, which was at the end of the straight, where they would ‘drop the hammer’ entering the first corner and begin their run. This seemed to help negate the difference between the power in the cars and with the old system the big straight six and turbo powered cars would be pulling several car lengths on the little MX5s, Volvos and 318 BMWs.
The judges had also moved the qualifying line from the inside of the track to the middle of the track to promote proximity between the drivers and give the paying crowds a better show with more door or door action! They even blocked the inside of the track off with cones and barriers so the drivers knew exactly where the line they were supposed to be taking was.
What hadn’t changed was the dedication of the King of the Ring staff. As always the team from Rayleigh Tyres (Ron, Jodie and Dal) were doing a great job manning the flags, getting the battles started and providing mechanical assistance where needed. Mark Lappage and co were doing a brilliant job on commentating and the judges were making good decisions all evening.
The quality of cars on track is getting better and better as well. The cars from MAPT motorsport, driven by Mark Chapman, Alex Chapman, John Hudd and Hollie Haney were looking very professional in their matching liveries.
Martin Cheeseman’s E36 compact was back! I love this little car. A little lowered compact on banded steels would really make a nice road car!
Stephen Blanchard’s new E36 looks amazing! Believe it or not this car was built in 10 days! I tend to spend 10 days staring at something before so much as a bolt is turned so I find that really impressive haha! The car looked great in the Team S1 colours and went round really well!
This E36 owned by Alistair Sutton has got to be the fastest drift car I’ve ever seen going around Arena Essex. A small incident with another BMW in practise made it into this banana shape. Alistair, if you are reading this, what are those wheels off of? I really like them!
Finally, Mark Clarence left his 200sx at home and brought out this stunning Silver Cross liveried pram! There were some issues with its structural integrity throughout the evening but it held its own and proved to be a valuable support vehicle! Plus look at those wheels too! Stunning!
Qualifying is a bit of a no show in this report I’m afraid as I spent most of it stood around talking (terrible journalism!) however I can confirm that Martin Cheeseman qualified first of the 60 cars that turned up and so he would be in the first battle.
Top qualifier Martin Cheeseman would battle Dan Roberts who was driving a SAAB turbo engined Mazda MX5. It sounded incredible and I would love to learn more about this particular car. Sadly Roberts span out on his first run and Cheeseman put in two great runs easily securing his first victory.
Philip Christmas in a blue E36 with orange front wheels would battle Team S1’s Nick Fearon in his red E36 touring. This was the one and only battle of the whole night that I couldn’t quite see why the judges made their decision. Nick would be the first to lead and from my perspective he made a correction on the first corner which caused him to lose a bit of momentum and allowed Christmas to get right on his door for the rest of the run. On the second battle Nick straightened after hitting one of the cones on the first corner. In my eyes Christmas should have gone through there but the battle went to one more time, which Christmas did eventually win. Could anyone explain to me what happened?
Next the second of the Cheeseman brothers, Jamie, would battle Sean in a white E36 with a livery somewhat akin to the old Warsteiner touring cars. Cheeseman unfortunately spun in the first run giving Sean the victory.
Lee Reed in a silver E36 touring took out Team Twisted’s Ryan Sargeant. Both drive well but Reed did have the clear edge on both runs.
John Moss or Asbo Larry as he is known on Facebook would battle Darrel Smith. Smith was just settling into his new car, a E46 with a 2.8 straight six. A fair bit different to the Volvo 340 he is used to driving! John Moss was driving a R33 Skyline. Both runs from both drivers were sadly a little sketchy but Darrel went through in the end.
Team MAPT’s Mark Chapman in his green eyed monster took out a silver E36 with relative ease.
Next up Gymkhana champion driver Luke Woodham would battle James Wilkins. Wilkins simply dominated.He was able to pull a huge lead n his lead run as Woodham went really wide through the first corner allowing Wilkins to get a couple of car lengths in front then Wilkins simply sat on Woodham’s door in the chase run. Job done!
Alistair Sutton, in the banana shaped E36 from earlier would battle Steven Lee in a silver E36 compact. Sutton shot away on his lead run and then managed to keep the speed down to sit right on the door of Lee in the second run. Mark Lappage was loving it! I don’t think I’ve ever heard a commentator so excited!
Lewis Cole in a blue Nissan S13 battled Sam Smith in a Volvo 940. I’m going to assume that we aren’t talking about the famous singer, but Shane Lynch from Boyzone has been drifting in the BDC for a number of years so if Mr Smith wants to come down for a fun night in his Volvo then that’s fine by me! Anyway, the Volvo went backwards into the wall trying to keep up with Lewis’ S13 but as can only be expected from a Volvo it kept going. Lewis put in a great chase run and managed to keep his pace with the much heavier, slower, longer car well.
The next pair of drivers I’m afraid I don’t have the names for. A minty coloured E36 touring battled a Black E46 coupe. The touring led first and took the advantage as the coupe straightened. The second run saw the only bit of contact that was actually able to stop a run throughout the entire night. This just shows how good the quality of driving is at KOTR now! The coupe once again straightened and slowed down, the touring tapped it on the back and spun the coupe round 90 degrees before both cars slid to a halt wing to wing.
Tony Morgan made a return in his 300ZX and would have to face Jesse Ashley in a E36 saloon. Both drivers had good runs but a small straighten by a small straighten by Ashley entering the second corner saw him knocked out.
Alex McKenzie in the Team HD E46 tourer would battle a E36 compact. The Team HD E46 has hands down the most insane lock I’ve ever seen in a BMW! Whatever that lock kit is, I want it for Quasimodo! Alex dominated his first battle in what was clearly the better prepared car.
BDC driver Rhys Gamble’s first battle was against Oliver Bolton. Sadly Bolton spun chasing Gamble but Gamble still put on a show for the crowd by sitting on Bolton’s door.
Stephen Blanchard faced off against Dan Tyler. Blanchard would lead first with Tyler giving chase. Tyler first under steered into the side of Blanchard who simply shrugged the hit off and carried on going. Then in the second run Tyler once again under steered allowing Blanchard to pass on the inside.
MAPT Motorsport’s Alex Chapman driving the MX5 had a close battle with an E36 compact. The E36 pulled away from Chapman on the first run giving the compact driver the advantage but then the compact spun in the second run giving Chapman the win. It’s somewhat surprising how much bigger the compact appeared to be of the two cars. I thought they were both a similar wheelbase.
Rounding off the top 32 Robbie Yates, who is completely deaf, he drives without being able to hear what his engine is doing, sent home another E36 compact.
The first battle of the top 16 saw Martin Cheeseman battle Philip Christmas. Both are fantastic drivers and both knew they needed to push hard in order to succeed. Cheeseman lead first and Christmas went on the attack. He sat on Cheeseman’s door through the first 3 quarters of the track then dived in a little too deep on the final corner launching the plastic barriers into the infield in a most spectacular fashion then kept going like a movie star! The judges did mark him down for that and I’m sure the KOTR staff had a thing or two to say about it as they went to put them back up I’m sure haha! With the clear advantage, all Cheeseman had to do was complete a semi decent run in order to stay in the competition. Sadly though, he spun. Christmas went through.
The deciding factor in the battle between Lee Reed and Sean in the Warsteiner look E36 was Sean making a big correction on his chase run. Lee Reed put in a solid pair of runs though and deserved the victory he took.
The battle between Darrel Smith and Mark Chapman went to a one more time after both drivers put down a set of fairly scruffy runs. The new car then seemed to click for Darrel in the set of one more time battles and he took the victory over Chapman who unfortunately spun in the last run of the battle.
James Wilkins spun himself out of the competition trying to keep up with the rocket that is Alistair Sutton.
Lewis Cole put in two flawless runs against the mint coloured E36 BMW and secures his place in the top 8.
Alex McKenzie is the Team HD E46 tourer with crazy lock sadly seemed to retire himself with a mechanical issue in his battle with Tony Morgan in the 300ZX.
Stephen Blanchard gave Rhys Gamble a run for his money. He was clearly pushing hard against the BDC driver and made a little contact with Gamble on his lead run then straightened to avoid crashing into the barriers at the second corner. I think with a bit more practise Blanchard could definitely be a top driver at King of the Ring. Looking forward to seeing how this driver progresses.
The final battle of the top 16 would simply see Tom Yates dominate Alex Chapman.
Lee Reed and Phil Christmas kicked off the top 8. Uncharacteristically Christmas was shallow on both runs allowing Reed to go through. Again, Phil Christmas I think is another driver we should really be keeping our eyes on! He was doing well up to this point.
I wouldn’t liked to have been the judge for the battle between Alistair Sutton and Darrel Smith, both put in fantastic runs and after some deliberation the judges decided Darrel should go through.
Tony Morgan would battle Lewis Cole in a battle of the Nissans. Cole took the win!
Robbie Yates and Rhys Gamble were next. Both drivers put in solid runs yet one could clearly see that Robbie was the superior driver in this matching and deserved to take the win. It’s interesting to see the raw talent that is coming up through King of the Ring. Robbie Yates is another one to watch for sure!
All 4 drivers in the semi-final in my opinion were winners. Lee Reed had been driving on point all evening, Darrel Smith had really got to grips with his new car and was doing well, Robbie Yates was just (proverbially not literally) on fire and Lewis Cole had been driving his 200sx to its’ full potential. Sadly, two had to be knocked out.
The first to be knocked out was Darrel Smith in his battle against Lee Reed. As expected both drivers put in great runs but Reed was able to carry a little more momentum throughout the track.
Robbie Yates had a close battle with Lewis Cole. Cole eased off on his lead run ever so slightly after knocking over a cone on the top corner which gave Yates the advantage that would secure his place in final.
The battle for third was really just a victory lap for Lewis Cole as Smith decided not too run to save his overheating engine. I think Darrel Smith could be in contention to win the next event as he has a while to work out a couple of little teething issues in the car and he adapted to the new car really quickly. If he can get a practise day behind him between now and then too then I think he will do well.
I was hoping to see the final between Robbie Yates and Lee Reed go to a one more time. Both had been driving exceptionally well all night and both were driving similar cars. Reed did spin at the end of the second run though giving Yates a well deserved victory. Both did really well and I’m looking forward to seeing both at the next round.
All in all it was a great evening. Lots of good driving throughout and some close battles. The changes that King of the Ring are making to the competition are, in my insignificant opinion, all really good ideas! I’m looking forward to the next one on the 3rd September!
Thanks for reading!