REPORT: Round 3, Brands Hatch
Brands Hatch is an old favourite on the EDC calendar. This is a VERY fast circuit, with a 100mph+ entry and the infamous ‘Clearways’ corner spanning nearly 180 degrees. With many drivers shifting into 4th at the top of the corner the Pirelli’s take a serious beating, but not before producing obscene amounts of smoke much to the crowd’s approval. The biggest problem with Brands is not carrying enough speed or shaving too much off after the transition – with Clearways being such a long right-hander the drivers have no choice but to straighten, causing them to lose valuable points.
Round 3 saw a welcome return to both Tim Marshall in the SVA Imports 350Z and Steve Will in the monster BMW M3 turbo. Steve’s been plagued with bad luck, engine issues causing him to pull out of Oulton Park early and not even made it on track at Knockhill. We’ve got our fingers crossed for Steve – a serious driver in a serious car with 700bhp and 750lb-ft on tap. Heading up the rest of the field was Paul Conlan, Declan Hicks, Brett Castle, Karl Farrar, Andy Cooper and Vince Noot.
First practice turned out to be a wet one which, you’d think would be a positive but in reality it makes each car hugely unpredictable to drive. What most people tend to forget is that drift cars are setup to grip, so throw in a damp track with dry patches cropping up and it’ll cause monumental understeer – not ideal when you’re sideways at over 80mph. What’s more, Brands Hatch has recently been re-surfaced… excellent news in the wet, but an absolute nightmare with the greasy conditions Saturday morning has provided. EDC Commentator James Grimsby further explained, ‘The wet is really no good for drift cars, they’re set up very similar to EDC and are very grippy. The wet makes it a nightmare and very unpredictable, so the rear of the car has to be softened and the rear tyre pressures lowered to compensate.’
By mid-morning qualifying a full dry line has cleared on the track which, although good for grip, means drivers have to be even more precise with their entries – clip the greasy off-line section of the track and you’ll be sent into a spin as both Tim Marshall and Steve Will found out. Karl Farrar was hoping the rain continued, really using the Cresta’s long wheelbase and slippy conditions to compensate for lack of horsepower. But as usual Brett Castle and Paul Conlan in the S15s instantly got to grips putting in some cracking practice runs. With the now dry track Steve’s M3 turned into a full-on smoke machine. Towards the last bend you literally could not see the car for smoke, holding an obscene amount of angle while 700bhp of Bavarian horsepower tore through the Pirellis. With qualifying over two drivers stood out above the rest –Steve Will in the M3 turbo and Mr consistent Declan Hicks in the Cresta – both big power and both absolutely committed through the whole circuit, sitting on the limiter right through Clearways – awesome driving.
With the sun scorching and the track fully up to temperature it was time for the final eight. As number one qualifier Declan Hicks faced Karl Farrar – battle of the Toyotas time. Into the first run Karl’s lack of power was clear to see, simply unable to keep up with Declan who just speeds off into the distance. Into the second run and it’s much better for Karl, holding his own and really fending off Dec to score near equal runs. But after taking the initial advantage in the first run Declan goes through to the semi-finals.
Second pairing saw Tim Marshall in the SVA Imports 350Z face Vince Noot in the 1JZ S13. In the first run, a slight straighten from Tim sees Vince take the slight advantage, giving the S13 a 6-4 over the 350Z. By the second run Tim’s really pushing hard, pulling away from Vince with a mass of smoke. A 6-4 for Tim means it’s One More Time. First OMT and despite initiating sooner, Vince can’t keep ahead of the mighty 350Z, and by the final corner Tim’s pushing so hard he goes for a pass and makes it stick. All Tim needs to do in the second run is hold it together to go through to the Semis, and despite Vince trying his best it just wasn’t enough – Tim goes through.
The EDC third pairing pitted old rivals Brett Castle vs. reigning champion Paul Conlan, who are now on their third pairing in three rounds. Paul’s been slightly struggling with the S15 today while Brett’s been on his natural good form, and after the first run Brett’s taken the advantage 6-4 with a super-clean run. In the second run, Paul closes up to Brett after initially losing a bit of distance bringing it back to a 5-5, good but not quite enough with Brett going through to the semi finals.
Fourth and final pairing was hard-charging Steve Will in the turbo M3 against Andy Cooper in the RMS S14a. Steve really initiates early in the first run, Andy sticking to him but being shown the door with a cloud of smoke from the 700bhp monster M3. In the second run Andy is strong, initiating well and catching Steve off-guard who initiates a bit later, but makes up for it closing right up to Andy by Clearways bringing it 5-5. After the advantage in his first run, Steve goes through to the semi finals in his first ever EDC top 8 after two rounds of bad luck.
Semi final time and two EDC veterans were up first – Tim Marshall vs. Declan Hicks. After a cautious practice (psyching each other out) both drivers push hard on their first run, Tim producing plenty of smoke while Declan keeps the distance equal, taking it to a 5-5 first scoring. Second run and an uncharacteristic mistake from Dec sees him straighten against Tim, and despite clutch-kicking he just can’t get back onto the bumper of the 350Z giving Tim the advantage and win.
Second pairing was Brett vs. Steve. Brett initiates properly early, Steve’s been caught completely off-guard almost sleeping at the wheel. A clutch kick sees him close up to Brett towards the end of the run but Brett’s done enough to take the advantage. Second run and Steve starts off a lot stronger, but Brett’s nailed the second section – almost going for a pass. Brett instead keeps a good line just sticking to the M3’s bumper, putting him through to the final.
Before the Round 3 final it was time for the 3rd/4th pairing between Declan Hicks and Steve Will. Declan’s got a lot of experience, Mr consistent without a doubt, while Steve is quite simply a lunatic behind the wheel of the M3. Declan leads first going hard and transitioning very well, but Steve’s right on top of him right to the end taking the advantage.
In the second run Steve leads, initiating well but disaster. He’s straightened up, forcing him to go wide before hitting the dirt kicking up dust everywhere. Steve keeps his foot in like the maniac he is but it only makes it worse, sending him into a spin and giving the win to Declan – awesome driving, but Declan’s experience and cool-head was enough to take 3rd.
Final time and Tim Marshall in the SVA 350Z faced Brett Castle in the Nismo S15. Even in Practice Brett’s making his intentions clear, basically going for a pass right on the last corner. By the first run they both initiate at the same time, with Brett really getting close to Tim’s bumper. By the final corner something doesn’t sound right from the 350Z – it’s only running on 3 or 4 cylinders, and massively down on power. Brett takes the advantage, and on the way back to the pits the 350Z is forced to pull out giving the win to Brett – rotten luck for Tim Marshall and the SVA team but a well-deserved win to Brett Castle who puts an end to Paul Conlan’s winning streak.
Final results for the Pirelli EDC Round 3 were: 1st - Brett Castle, 2nd - Tim Marshall, 3rd - Declan Hicks
With Round 4 happening the very next day it’s a mad rush for Tim and the SVA Imports team to get the 350Z fixed in time. Paul Conlan will be hoping to get back up towards the podium, but if Steve Will continues the performance from Round 3 he could go all the way.
2011 Pirelli European Drift Championship Calendar
Round 1 - 16 April: Oulton Park
Round 2 - 15 May: Knockhill
Round 3 - 25 June: Brands Hatch
Round 4 - 26 June: Brands Hatch
Round 5 - 31 July: Cadwell Park
Round 6 – 28 August: Anglesey
Round 7 – 25 September: Snetterton