Eight of Great Britan’s best drift drivers were invited over to Tipperary International Raceway to take part in the most anticipated drifting event of 2004: ‘UK D1 versus D1 Ireland’. We arrived at the track to a host of rear-steer machinery including a variety of Nissans (200sx S13, S14, 180sx, Skylines…), Starlets, Corolla Twin Cams and even a few Vauxhalls and a Mark 2 Escort. The stands were packed with spectators and surprisingly the weather stayed dry though still dreary and grey.
We arrived at about 10am and already the pits were a hub of activity. Amongst the unloading of trailers, tyre changing and engine tweaking I parked up my ex-police v6 Omega. I met up with many familiar drivers and supporters of the events and the main topic of discussion was the English competition. It wasn’t long before we would find out how good they were – as soon we were all signed on and out for our practice laps.
I’ve never been able to master Rosegreen in the dry – perhaps it is to do with the fact I’ve brought a different car to every D1 event (well that’s today’s excuse!) It was clear to see from the practice laps that the standard of driving really had taken a step up. Most notably some drivers just had it going well right from the start – flat out from the pits into the first corner, not easing off. Impressive stuff. A lot of spins as well, but you could tell everyone was going as hard as they could from the offset. Serious competition was the order of the day.
The qualifying was intense – there wasn’t a driver out on the track who didn’t impress. This really must have made life difficult for the judges. They had to pick the top 16 which would then be whittled down to the eight that would be pitted against the guest English drivers in a Tsuiso (twin drift) battle. I can’t go on without mentioning 17yr old Alan Linnehan in the green sierra who really did astound the crowds with some great style on the track.
On to the top 16 and I joined the spectators to have a good look at what the best drivers were in. Mike Deane had brought an E30 3 series turbo; Damien Mulvey was steering Track Day Performance’s R32 Skyline; Julian Smith was in top form in his M3 powered BMW. Now out on the large oval track the cars were being driven to the absolute limit at speeds of over 70 mph sideways. Damien was caught out on a corner and ended up slamming the back end of the R32 (which wasn’t even his!)
The top eight saw the reintroduction of the English drivers since the practice sessions and we were all expecting big things. An evil looking black BMW M Coupé on throttle bodies backfired violently upon its entrance to the track, complete with drift scars as pilot John Moffat was too adventurous on the trip over. A turbo Corolla Twin Cam, MX-5 and a Nissan S14 were among the guest contenders, but they didn’t last long. The Irish drivers pushed very hard with some of the fastest and most aggressive drifting I’ve seen at Rosegreen yet.
By the time the final 4 had been chosen, the only Englishman left was madman Moffat along with Tommy McDonagh (Mk2 Escort), Smith and John Power (burgundy S14). Tommy had shown a fantastic display of car control throughout the day and although only taking 4th place you have to bear in mind he’s pitting a car of over 20 years of age against the jap monsters with huge horsepower seen throughout the day. John Power came in third behind Englishman Moffat who’s M Coupé was a joy to watch and listen to on track.
From the offset however, there was only one man to win this UK D1 vs Ireland D1 event, Julian Smith. There was no-one nearly as fast, consistent, entertaining or determined as him on the day. He filled the track with smoke as he tied every single corner together with big chucks and transitions. He delivered exactly what the judges asked and what the crowds wanted – the perfect combination of driving control and total entertainment.
And so ends the 2004 drifting season. Rosegreen was packed with spectators and I’ve no doubt that the sport will explode in growth over the next year. If you want to find more about the Irish Drift Series then log on to <a href=”//www.d1driftseries.com”>www.d1driftseries.com</a> for the latest info.