Some years ago now (I honestly couldn’t tell you when), I was working at Japspeed/BDC Events and would constantly yap on about the dream of a proper nationwide grassroots drift series in the UK. At some point, after hurling around D1SL YouTube clips like they were going out of fashion, the foundations for DriftCup were laid by the powers that be and I was tasked with hastily filling a blank website with the philosophy for the championship and some loosely enforced rules.
Back in those days, the championship was divided into two classes: one for cars with an MOT (the UK’s annual inspection for road going vehicles) and one for cars without an MOT (i.e. purpose built track cars). Back then it was a struggle to entice people to enroll in what was, essentially, a stepping stone to the BDC and entry figures were relatively low. Fast forward a few years and, while drivers still need to go through DriftCup to reach the BDC, an awful lot has changed. I headed to the second round of the 2018 series (held at the Three Sisters circuit in Wigan) to see how things had progressed.
There are no concerns about entry numbers nowadays, with the entire championship (comprising of five rounds in 2018) having been booked up by drivers within minutes of tickets going on sale for the last few consecutive years. The drivers compete within one class and have just two qualifying runs to impress and progress through to the Top 32.
Having not attended a DriftCup event in a very long time, what blew me away was the extent of the machinery taking part. The dream I once had of a field of 400bhp road legal S-bodies and JZXs has long since gone and, while the actual field is far more diverse than I had originally envisioned, one must wonder how some of these cars would square up against each other in the heat of battle.
At one end of the scale were the very serious cars which all tended to follow a similar format, which the R32 pictured above is a good representation of. Wide arches, big tyres and a chopped rear bumper showcasing an array of brightly coloured suspension arms; I’m not sure if you’re familiar with the “starter pack” style memes doing the rounds on the internet (see here if you’re not) but I feel these modifications would definitely be included on a “DriftCup Starter Pack” variation of said meme.
Considering that all of the drivers competing in DriftCup can theoretically secure entry to a BDC round as a result of finishing in the Top 4 of any DriftCup round, it’s understandable that many will build a car that is future proof and will enable them to be competitive should they achieve this level of success and earn a shot at the big league.
At the other end of the spectrum there were a number of drivers competing in cars that were much more “down to earth” so to speak. A stalwart of all UK drift events, the BMW E36, was present and correct and being wheeled by a number of drivers in various guises from former BDC cars to extremely basic setups with just the essentials.
Practice and qualifying took place under bone dry conditions and, while drivers from all parts of the drift car spectrum were laying down great runs and racking up big scores, I did wonder how the very apparent gaps in performance would present themselves once it came down to battles.
I needn’t of wondered for too long though as nature’s greatest horsepower leveller took effect as the Top 32 got underway; rain, and lots of it.
Many drivers fell off before they’d even reached the first clipping point, while others struggled to muster the delicacy needed to control their 500bhp+ semi-slick equipped monsters when doing battle with much tamer cars with more reasonable tyres.
You can view all of the battles in the latter half of my video at the bottom of this page. Paul Cunnington (S14), Jolene Sharpe (R32) and Dave Bastin (SR20-powered AE86) were the well-deserved podium finishers, with all of them rising to the occasion and fending off more extreme machinery while keeping their cool in the heat of battle.
Despite the majority of the crowd getting very cold and wet, having the rain fall made for much closer and more exciting battles. Had it remained dry, I think the battles would have taken a completely different course. With the majority of the Three Sisters layout in use comprising of a long right hander with a number of clipping points along it, those with big sticky tyres and sequential gearboxes would have laid waste to the slower and lesser-equipped cars in the dry. I’d even went so far as to joke earlier in the day that 90% of the battles would have been won or lost by people mis-shifting along this final section but, in reality, it wasn’t even a factor.
Either way, Round 2 of DriftCup was cool to check out and, while it does feel like some of the grassroots element is getting lost through the assortment of high calibre builds, pretty much everyone competing was hungry to win and the majority of the battles were very close. I’ll be keeping an eye on the subsequent rounds of this year’s series for sure.