5:58… 5:59… “6PM it’s time to go!” I declared launching myself out of the front doors at work! Nothing quite makes a shift go as slowly as knowing that you are going drifting that evening but I had made it through! One quick pit stop at the Burger King on the estate for some edible cardboard and I would finally be on my way up to Arena Essex (in person) for the first time this year!
By the time I had arrived I had missed the start of qualifying. For those of you that have never been to Arena Essex it is an oval track set into a gravel/soil bowl with catch fencing running around the length of the track. It’s an awesome venue from which to spectate any of the events that take place there as you are naturally quite a bit higher than the track and can see the full length of the oval. I find it a difficult place to get good photos though due to that catch fence (Note to self: I must ask about a media pass). Some photos come out passable though.
With the technical difficulties in mind and due to their only being a few cars on the centre of the track I thought I would pop down to the pits to see who else was about.
My first find was Team MAPT. Team MAPT are in my eyes the most professional team at King of the Ring. They not only can all drive well but they all have matching liveries, a line of merchandise and so forth. They bring a lot to King of the Ring and are great for the series. It was great to catch up with Paul and to finally meet a couple of the other team members like Mark Chapman.
Darrel Smith was also out to play with his E46 touring. It doesn’t normally sit like this. Darrel was currently jacking the rear up to change the tyres. I just couldn’t miss the opportunity to get a shot of the car.
James Fiddimore’s freshly cleaned drift car was sitting in the pits. Haven’t seen this car at Arena for a long time!
I then thought I’d have a little wander up to the gate and the ambulance to see if I could take some photos from around that area. Thankfully all the King of the Ring staff know me and said that I could if I didn’t stray too far ahead of the ambulance. Not having the catch fencing in the way made life so much easier (Note to self 2: Really must ask about a media pass)
Under the sunset Arena can look pretty dramatic. Check Johnny Smith’s E36 kicking up the water!
Martin Cheeseman was certainly not afraid of using his new car in anger! Run that wall!
The little Panda in his window was looking surprisingly calm and collected considering just how close he had come to that armco.
Chris Taylor’s car was also look great! It’s always nice to see something Jap at Arena.
For the first time in ages I also took a proper look around the show and shine area. This is typically just in front of main club house/cafe/shops area overlooking the track but now extended to behind that building in a car park near the ambulance/practise day entrance.
All the show cars were there to compete for Autoglym prizes. Now, I know a lot of my readers are into classic Mercs and everyone knows how awesome Autoglym stuff is. I want to see some of you London based chaps turn up in your classics! Once it’s painted and if I can get the day off of work my W202 Designo will certainly be entered!
Mazda’s FD3S RX7 is such a timeless car. Over 20 years old and still looks futuristic.
There were a couple of other young timer classics on show including this E30 BMW and a Nissan Sunny.
This photo was taken a little later, as you can tell from the lighting, but this Mk2 Mondeo ST stood out to me. In was a really clean and original example! If the owner keeps it in that condition I can see it being a good investment for him/her!
The Proper Droppers sound off competition was also in attendance. Audio isn’t really something I’ve covered at all in this blog so I will try to do a little feature on that next round. A little audio project could produce some good DIY threads. E36 drift car with a sub? #weightreductionbro
I digress though, with qualifying all done this little huddle of people would suggest that top 32 is about to be announced.
“Hear ye! Hear ye!” called medieval town crier Baggsy from his plinth of concrete. “Qualifying in third placeth is Squire Darrel Smith of the parish of Hockley upon his white German steed”
You can tell we’ve gone back to 1194 as I appear to have taken this picture with a potato. Anyway, back to 2017 and we are heading to our top 16.
(Note: There was a top 32 but if I include that this post would be insanely long! Darrel broke a drive shaft pulling away from the line and there were a few close battles. Most of the regulars made it through)
Martin Cheeseman vs Rhys Gamble
Two regulars at King of he Ring, Mr Martin Cheeseman has reshelled his compact into the bright orange Garage Pandas saloon pictured a little way above us. Unfortunately the new car took a bit of a bump as Cheeseman slid nose first into the wall exiting the first corner. The impact was enough to knock the car out of action and give Gamble an easy win. Ron Rasburn from Essex Transit Specialists quickly moves the damaged car off track with his trusty Transit recovery truck so we can carry on with the battles.
Johnny Smith vs Joe Smith
Johnny Smith is one of my favourite chase drivers to watch at King of the Ring. He is super aggressive and always manages to maintain a great proximity to the lead car. His battle against Joe Smith was no exception. Joe also put in a good chase run but Johnny certainly held the advantage.
Dan Tyler vs Brett Beland
Brett’s regular drift car is a 500hp Nissan Laurel which is a fair bit different to the little E36 saloon he was driving at KOTR. He has taken the Laurel around Arena on multiple occasions which shows he is either braver or a lot richer than I am but with the tiny distances the drivers get to within one another in competition and the very narrow distances between the front clips and that solid armco it makes sense to leave the Laurel at home for competition and bring something that has more readily available lights, panels, radiators and shells.
His opponent Dan Tyler was super familiar with his car however and it showed when the two did battle. An easy win for Dan but with a bit more seat time I’m sure Brett will master the little E36.
Jamie Cheeseman vs Alistair Sutton
2016 KOTR Champion Alistair Sutton ran rings around Jamie Cheeseman. Sutton’s car is incredibly quick and he is a good driver. Catching him is going to take something quite spectacular!
Mark Chapman vs Chris Taylor
Chris would lead first and Mark really hammered his E36 in order to keep up with the Skyline engined Nissan S-Body. Unfortunately he went a little too hard and spun. Chris played the tactical game when the roles swapped and put in a safe, conservative chase run scoring him the win and a spot in the top 8.
Jon Hudd vs Peter Spinks
MAPT Motorsport’s Jon Hudd scored a victory over Peter Spinks in the Skid Row liveried car. Nothing overly dramatic, Hudd held the slightly better proximity in his chase run.
Paul Parnell vs Matthew Ladds
The first battle was fairly conventional. Ladds ran a good line and Parnell mirrored him nicely. In his lead run however Parnell ran a fair way astray from the qualifying line giving Ladds the advantage and the overall win. Maybe one for Paul to watch on the livestream footage.
Bradley Cousins vs Nerijus Voliukevicius
Two of the best looking cars on the grid in my opinion. Bradley Cousin’s wide arched E36 and Nerijus’ black and yellow R33 Skyline. With the prices of late 80’s and early 90’s rear wheel drive Japanese cars skyrocketing it’s nice to see chaps like Nerijus and Chris bringing them out to play at events like this. Even the most horrid, rustiest of shells are being brought up by national level comp drivers and people building street cars (hopefully some concourse restorations too. They were cool from the factory and are deserving of classic car status in my opinion).
Nerijus seemed to be struggling with an engine issue that meant the Nissan couldn’t seem to use the full extent of it’s power giving Bradley a huge lead in his first run. An experienced chase driver, Bradley also had no trouble staying on the door of the slower wounded car.
Rhys Gamble vs Johnny Smith
Both had a clean first run but in the chase run Rhys made very slight contact with Johnny causing a spin. It was very gentle and it was difficult to tell whether it was Johnny who span of his own accord or if Rhys made contact and knocked him off line. Rhys let Johnny continue his lead run and at the end said it was him that made contact. It’s a good bit of sportsmanship to be honest like that when it was fairly unclear whether he had made contact or not. Fair play to Rhys. It’s stuff like that that makes KOTR such a great competition.
Alistair Sutton and Dan Tyler
Dan Tyler and Alistair Sutton are two of the best drivers at King of the Ring and quite frankly this could have been a battle for the final. Both had awesome runs and it’s not one I would have liked to have judged. The judges gave Alistair the win though as he was slightly more aggressive on both runs.
Jon Hudd vs Chris Taylor
Jon gave a chase run but Chris really stepped up the game and planted his S13 on the E36’s door the entire way around the track giving Chris the win.
Bradley Cousins vs Matthew Ladds
As per usual Bradley put in an amazing chase run and then had the clear speed advantage over Matthew who was having to sacrifice getting close to the clips in order to keep up.
Johnny Smith vs Alistair Sutton
Johnny Smith appeared to be suffering from engine issues and the car was not properly getting power down. This gave Alistair Sutton an easy pass into the final.
Bradley Cousins vs Chris Taylor
The first set of battles were simply too close to call and we had one of the first one more times of the evening. The pressure got to Bradley though who unfortunately spun and took himself out of the competition.
Johnny Smith vs Bradley Cousins
Johnny Smith was the first to lead and Bradley Cousins would give chase. Mr Cousins was absolutely on Johnny’s door and Johnny simply could not reciprocate the proximity.
Alistair Sutton vs Chris Taylor
As one would expect from two top rate drivers this battle was insanely close! Again, not one I would have liked to have judged and even having watched it a couple of times not one I can say “Ah that’s the differing factor”. The judges found a difference though and we have our winner!
So, Mr Alistair Sutton took first place along with his £300. Chris Topher took second and £200 and Bradley Cousins took third place and £100. All three prize winners also got to take home a set of brand new Westlake Tyres in any size they liked! An awesome prize from KOTR’s new sponsor.
A big thank you for reading and a pat on the back from me if you got this far haha! I would like to say a big thank you to all of the King of the Ring staff for making this happen from Ron, Dal, Jodie and Simon on the ground to Mark Lappage and the commentary team and Steve and Adam and Terry for organising such a wonderful event and of course for Arena Essex for having us. You are all doing an amazing job and I’m proud to see the progress that drifting in Essex is making.
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