I appear to say this each time a brand new DMEC season begins, however this yr’s Drift Masters European Championship guarantees to be probably the most thrilling but.
Not solely has 2023 collection attracted numerous seasoned drifting veterans, however there are not any scarcity of hungry up-and-comers, all able to push their machines to the restrict and train the previous canines some new methods. It was all on present throughout DMEC Spherical 1 at Mondello Park in Eire the weekend earlier than final.
The truth that skilled racing drivers are usually not solely becoming a member of the DMEC competitor checklist, however stepping up their involvement and committing to the total season, is just including to the spectacle. Dakar Rally regulars Jakub Przygoński and Eryk Goczał are good examples, as is the WRC’s present and youngest ever world champion Kalle Rovanperä, who shall be contesting 4 out of the six DMEC rounds alongside his Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT obligations.
All instructed, Drift Masters has 50 drivers from 19 nations on its roster this yr. The season is ready to culminate in spectacular trend too, with the closing spherical being held on the PGE Narodowy stadium in Warsaw, Poland which has a seating capability of just about 60,000. I nonetheless can’t fairly get my head round that.
For now although, it’s again to Spherical 1…
As soon as all drivers had received to grips with the basic Mondello Park reverse format, it was time for qualifying the place one driver instantly stood out: James Deane. Making a comeback as a wildcard driver, the Irishman defied all odds to safe an exceptional 96-point run.
In a show of sheer Irish dominance, the Shanahan brothers proved that expertise really runs of their blood. Jack and Conor each attacked the monitor with surgical precision, every rewarded with a 94-point scorecard.
Everyone is aware of that it takes 4 leaves on a clover to provoke ‘the luck of the Irish’, and on at the present time it was newcomer Dylan Garvey who earned himself the fourth spot on the event desk. Discuss making an entrance.
When Sunday arrived and the principle occasion began, it introduced concerning the closest tandem battles I’ve ever witnessed in particular person. The High 32 event desk had some wild match-ups, however the one I used to be most trying ahead to was Irish drifting OG Darren McNamara versus Japanese fan-favorite Naoki Nakamura.
Sadly although, Nakamura was nonetheless chasing gremlins in his S15 Nissan Silvia from Saturday, so it was a straightforward win for D-mac. When the Japanese driver certified the day before today, he did so after finishing simply one follow lap. That’s expertise for you.
With that tandem within the books, I used to be genuinely uplifted to see younger Norwegian driver Ørjan Nilsen battle Eire’s Kevin Quinn and take the win.
In the course of the break earlier than the High 16 commenced, I made a decision to enterprise into the paddock, however rapidly remembered that DMEC R1 2023 was a record-breaking, sold-out occasion. Individuals had been in all places, so capturing automobiles was not going to occur. As an alternative, I targeted my lens on the followers.
And Irish drift followers actually are the perfect. Even the youngsters who demanded a high-five from anybody who handed them on the monitor facet of the security fence had been real of their help of their favourite drivers.
When the time got here to renew the tandem battles, nerves appeared to get the higher of some drivers. McNamara suffered the largest crash of the weekend in his PS13 Nissan Silvia. I’m positive he’s very grateful for the froth wall on the nook he went off.
Reigning DMEC champion Piotr Więcek, alternatively, was calm and really decided. The Polish driver had certified seventh, however because the day went on he was simply getting faster and extra exact. Więcek met Conor Shanahan within the High 4, and after a fierce battle moved on to the ultimate.
On the opposite facet of the event bracket, blisteringly quick Finnish driver Lauri Heinonen power-slid a path to his very first DMEC closing in his NASCAR V8-powered Nissan RPS13.
Heinonen’s highway to the ultimate battle was removed from simple although. He confronted fellow Nissan S13 drivers Dylan Garvey and Duane McKeever, in addition to Hungary’s Kevin Piskolty in a BMW – all achieved wheelmen.
The second of fact arrived sooner than anticipated for Więcek and Heinonen. The Finn’s decided drive pushed him only a contact too far, resulting in a split-second misjudgment that brought about him to veer off the monitor.
Więcek emerged triumphant, clinching the primary spherical win. It was a bittersweet victory, overshadowed by the data that Heinonen had pushed to absolutely the restrict.
Like all high tier motorsport, the distinction between glory and sorrow is razor-thin. Lauri Heinonen’s effort, although ending in disappointment, showcased the true spirit of a competitor who left every little thing on the monitor. This chapter might not have belonged to the Finnish driver, however Heinonen will undoubtedly return stronger and hungrier for his very first DMEC spherical.
Till Spherical 2 in Sweden subsequent month although, Piotr Więcek as soon as once more stays the man to beat.