First Blood: King of the Ring 2017: Round 1

For those who don’t know, Arena Essex is a short course oval track based in Thurrock Essex. It’s been open since the late 1970’s and is home to a number of Formulas including various classes of stock cars and oval hot-rods, motorbike speedway and of course bangers. It’s also the home of (legal) drifting in Essex.

Not many know that it has hosted BDC in days gone. It also hosted a round of Drift Allstars and has been host to its’ own grassroots practise days and drift competitions for a number of years. The competitions used to run under the name Pure Carma but evolved into King of the Ring. An organisation that gets more professional every year and finds new ways to push the drivers on the slippery concrete oval.

As time has passed and both the event and drivers have become more professional the cars have become more professional too. It’s still a grass roots event, one can turn up with a £300 318is E36 and have a lot of fun but the guys going for gold now are all running big lock, wide front tyres and most have BMW straight 6’s from 2.3s up to 2.8s. Since the cars are now able to carry a fair bit of speed safety has been tightened over the past couple of years. From this year fire suits are now mandatory for all drivers.

The first round of 2017 took place upon a rainy February evening. After a full day of practise the track was set up. A lap and a half around the oval with a wall of plastic barriers blocking off half of the top corner and numerous front and rear clipping points throughout the track.

Marshalling the event would be the Essex Transit Specialists team Ron, Dal and Jodie with Team S1’s Kris Morris and Motor Parts World’s Danny Grundy judging and Mark Lappage and team commentating. These guys all deserve a special mention as without them the event wouldn’t be able to run so smoothly.

Evil X Photography also deserve a special mention for allowing me to use their photos from the day in this blog! Their Facebook page can be found here:

If at any point you notice any wrong names or mistakes please get in touch and I will be happy to rectify.

Without further ado, lets get to the battles!

Top 32

Jack Almary vs Johnny Smith

Number one qualifier Johnny Smith in his E36 touring was able to pull several car lengths on Jack Holloway  in the first run but took a dive into the wall on the second run giving Holloway the win.

Johnny Smith

Johnny Smith’s E36 Touring

Martin Cheeseman vs Nerijus Voliukevicius

Martin Cheeseman’s new car would have to tackle a mighty Skyline on it’s first battle. The E36 held it’s own considering that the Skyline probably had twice the power, unfortunately a loss of angle would see Cheeseman knocked out.

Martin Cheeseman

Martin Cheeseman’s new saloon. I’m still mourning the death of the compact.

Tony Morgan vs Dan Tyler

Tony Morgan is a name you should recognise if you’ve read some of my King of the Ring posts from before. He is a regular at Arena Essex in his Nissan 300ZX. For whatever reason though the 300ZX was out of action and he was driving an E36 BMW with very little practise. Sadly a spin in the very first corner of the battle saw him knocked out and Dan Tyler through to the top 16. Dan Tyler will go on to do great things though!

Jay White vs Mark Chapman

Mark Chapman is a regular contender of King of the Ring with MAPT Motorsport. With a revamped car and a new season to contend with he was out for victories. However his first battle of the day would be against BDC driver Jay White in a well prepared R33 Skyline. Mark put in a good driver but spun in both heats of the battle allowing Jay into the next round of competition.

James Tookey vs Jay Wilding

James Tookey had the advantage of the first leg of the battle as Wilding made a few corrections. Tookey then crashed in the second leg giving the win to Jay Wilding.

Jay Wilding

Jay Wilding’s E46 BMW

James Wilkins vs Victor

Arena Essex regular James Wilkins drew a chap named Victor in a multicoloured E46 BMW in his first battle. Wilkins whos car is set up perfectly for Arena Essex was able to pull away from Victor easily who was having to lose angle in a bid to keep up. On the last corner Victor’s car dived into the BMW if Wilkins and spun it taking Victor out of the competition.


Victor’s E46

Paul Parnell vs Emre Taner

MAPT Motorsport’s Paul Parnell advanced into the top 16 following a spin by Emre.

Darrel Smith vs Mike Walton

This promised to be a close battle. Darrel is another well known and respected driver at King of the Ring and Mike Walton drives in Drift Cup. Unfortunately the battle never really came to flourish as Mike under-steered into the armco giving Darrel an easy win.

Darrel Smith

Darrel Smith’s new E46 compact. Name and number sticker by yours truly.

Jon Hudd vs Anthony Feery

Team Twisted’s Anthony Feery is a dedicated man. Entering the first corner flat out he plowed straight through the plastic barriers marking an inner clipping point spraying plastic walling across the track. Jon Hudd swerved to avoid the debris and hit the armco damaging his car. Hudd went through as the mistake was Feery’s. He woudl need to get his car fixed quickly though!

Jon Hudd

Robby Yates vs Ryan Sargent

Both drivers from Team Twisted and both in E36 estates. Robby Yates had the clear advantage in battle though as Sargent spun during both runs.

Ryan Sargeant

Ryan Sargent’s E36 touring

Bradley Cousins vs Peter Spinks

The battle between the two best looking BMWs at the event was sadly cut short as Peter Spinks spun in the first battle then hit the wall in the 2nd.

Peter Spinks
Peter Spink’s Touring

Jamie Stanton vs Matthew Ladds

Not much to be said about this battle really. Both drivers put in clean runs but Ladds had a better proximity on his chase run giving him the win.

Tom Yates and James Emerson

James Emerson was the only driver in a rotary powered car that evening. The old fashioned piston engine in Tom Yate’s BMW soon took it out. the rotary scream did make a change from the normal BMW noises though.

James Emerson
James’ RX8

Asbo Larry vs Joe Smith

The pressure of competition may have got into Larry who spun in the first run. Joe Smith was also driving well throughout the evening and didn’t show Larry any mercy.

Alex Chapman vs Oliver Bolton

Two Arena Essex regulars. This battle would be a win for MAPT Motorsport though after Oliver Bolton sadly spun out.

Rhys Gamble vs Ian Blackett

Both drivers well known in the drift scene. Rhys Gamble used to drive in BDC and Ian Blackett is the resident photographer at Santa Pod’s ‘Drift What Ya Brung’ days.

Gamble clearly had the experience though and took a fair win over Mr Blackett.

Rhys Gamble

Rhys Gamble’s E36 on attack

Top 16

Nerijus Voliukevicuis vs Jack Almary

Nerijus took the win after Jack spun. It was Jack’s first time in competition though so he did really really well!

Jay White vs Dan Tyler

‘A David and Goliath battle’ is a term I use a lot in my drifting posts. the following is a fine example of one of those battles though. Our giant, Goliath, is an R33 Skyline driven by a BDC level driver and our David is actually a dude called Dan who drives an E36 BMW.

Despite the difference in power Dan was able to keep his E36 firmly under the wing of the mighty Skyline then, when the roles reversed, Dan was simply able to leave him in the dust. An amazing drive that sent a BDC driver back to the centre of the track with his tail between his legs!

James Wilkins vs Jay Wilding

A close battle between the two BMW E46s. James Wilkins came out on top though. Experience is the key at Arena.

James Wilkins

James Wilkins’ E46

Darrel Smith vs Paul Parnell

This was a battle between two clean, consistent drivers that I would simply not like to judge. Thankfully Kris Morris and Danny Grundy did that for me and sent Paul Parnell through. Far too close for little old me.

Paul Parnell

Paul Parnell’s E46

Jon Hudd vs Robby Yates

Sadly Mr Hudd was not able to fix his car after its’ date with the wall so Mr Yates automatically got through to the  great eight.

Robbie Yates

Robby Yates’ E36

Bradley Cousins vs Matthew Ladds

For 9/10ths of this battle I would have said Bradley Cousins had the lead. The 1/10th was what lost Bradley the battle though. A huge correction entering the final corner the the most obvious mistake either driver made and saw Ladds into the great eight.

Bradley Cousins

Bradley Cousins’ E36

Tom Yates vs Joe Smith

The evening’s first battle that went to a one more time. Both sets of battles were incredibly close but the judges did their job and put Tom through to the top 8.

Tom Yates

Tom Yates’ E36 coupe

Alex Chapman vs Rhys Gamble

Another pair of great drivers only separated by one mistake from Rhys Gamble who touched the wall with the back of his car forcing him to straighten up.

Top 8

Nerijus Voliukevicius vs Dan Tyler

Nerijus would have to pull out all the stops to beat Dan Tyler, he knew that the Skyline’s power wouldn’t be a huge advantage in this battle as Dan would peddle his car as hard as he could to keep up. Dan on the other hand had slain one Skyline, what was to stop him taking another?

The battle that followed was close but once again Dan would fell the mighty Godzilla Skyline.


Nerijus’ Skyline

James Wilkins vs Paul Parnell

Another close battle between two of Arena’s regulars. The judges deemed it too close to call not once but twice! After a lot of deliberation the judges decided it would be Wilkins who took the win.

Robby Yates vs Matthew Ladds

Once again it was clear who the more experienced driver was in this battle. Matthew put down good laps but Robby was able to get closer to the clipping points and seemed to be a little more brave with his lines. Safe is fine but at this level one really has to push hard to get through the competition.

Tom Yates vs Alex Chapman

Now, call me controversial but this one didn’t make a lot of sense to me. The first set of battles were close and went to one more time but in the first OMT Alex straightened which I thought would have given the advantage to Tom. From my point of view I didn’t see Tom make any big mistakes so I was quite surprised to hear a second one more time called. The second set of OMT Alex one fair and square but I failed to see the mistake Tom made to warrant that OMT. If someone in the know could let me know then I can add that into this post!

Top 4

James Wilkins vs Dan Tyler

Dan Tyler was just on fire (proverbially. He can’t literally be on fire now KOTR have made race suits mandatory!). He has knocked two Skylines out of competition and has now taken James Wilkins out of the competition too which is no mean feat!

Robby Yates vs Alex Chapman

Would Alex be able to take out the younger of the Yates’ too? Yes he would! A close battle but Chapman’s chase run was really good and gave him the overall advantage.


James Wilkins vs Robbie Yates

Two local drivers with a lot of experience on Arena; the battle between James Wilkins and Robby Yates would be incredibly close! Only a correction from Wilkins in the second set of one more time battles would see the stalemate resolved and Robby Yates on the podium with third place.


Dan Tyler vs Alex Chapman

Another close battle that went to one more time. The pressure unfortunately got to MAPT Motorsport’s Alex Chapman who spun out giving Dan Tyler a well deserved first place.

The winner in my eyes thoroughly deserved the victory. Having hit the wall in practise Dan cobbled his car back together before going out to take down two Skylines in the most spectacular fashion and then take the event win. Superb driving all evening!

So overall we have:
1st place: Dan Tyler
2nd place: Alex Chapman
3rd place: Robby Yates


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