Aside from the club stands and pitting areas at Japfest, the on-track action was a major attraction for the thousands of spectators.
I wasn’t particularly interested in the track sessions that various car clubs took part in; what I was interested in was the Drift Kings competition organised by Mark “Sweeps” Buckle and the rest of the guys that are part of the furniture on the BDC organising team. The competition would involve the drifters in attendance (themselves all being BDC or other drift competition license holders) being judged throughout the three drift orientated track sessions that would be run throughout the day.
The judging criteria for the first session was line and accuracy and, straight from the off, a number of drivers began to stamp their authority on the day’s proceedings. Matt Samuel from Car Loan 4U Drift Team was on the ball straight away and certainly opened a few eyes with his fast yet accurate entries and transitions as he tamed his large and unruly Z32 in admirable style. His team mate Joe took a little longer to get to grips with the fast and flowing layout – it certainly required a bit more raw power than the 220bhp that he has under the bonnet. Nevertheless, he got on with the job at hand and made the best of what looked to be a pretty difficult situation.
In hindsight though, Joe’s issues paled in comparison to team mate Alex Law’s, whose gearbox decided to lose both 3rd and 5th gears on his first entry on the first lap of the first session – a nightmare if there ever was one. Alex tried to press on but unfortunately the layout was crying out for 3rd and he inevitably had to retire.
Mike Gaynor was also quick out of the blocks in his borrowed S14, his raw talent really shining through as he piloted a car that he only drove for the first time a few weeks prior.
Walton Smith was a formidable opponent in his Jap Performance Parts GC8, while the wild sound of the RB25 lurking underneath the bonnet quickly made him a crowd favourite.
Ian Waddington seemed to be having a few issues with his Acorn Insurance S13 – the build quality of this car is incredible and highlights some absolutely awesome fabrication work from Ian. It looked and sounded great but drifting it seemed a bit of a hit or miss affair to be honest. I’m sure things will pick up as the season continues, though.
The Kyouto Drift boys are fairly local to Castle Combe and their experience of the track really showed, with all of them looking on form and up for pushing themselves in order to impress the crowds and judges.
Julian Smith brought along his Mac Tools ER34 for the day as his other ER34 (the infamous 2006 Nomuken Blitz car) was on display on the Cobra Seats stand.
Jo Fletcher was laying down some tidy runs in his very wide and very pink Lassa Tyres S15.
It’s funny seeing how far some drivers have come in the last few years – around two years ago I remember being up at Buxton, standing in the pouring rain and watching Adam Simmons give his bright turquoise Soarer death in the ring of steel. Nowadays he is competing in the BDC in his Slide Motorsport R33 with BMW V8 power and is really proving his worth in the Semi-Pro class. The R33 didn’t fail to impress at Castle Combe either and Adam was visibly unafraid of pushing both himself and the car.
The second session was all about entry speed and who could master the fastest initiation. Armed with a speed gun the judges paid close attention to the drivers as they dug deep to use every last bit of skill to rise above the rest and claim that all important bragging right of “fastest entry at Japspeed”! Matt Samuel instantly came to fore with a handful of stunning 100mph plus entries, peaking with a 109mph attempt.
Gaz Taylor from Team Rampstyle also found himself in contention of challenging for the top spot in his S14a.
Walton was also going really well until a prop failiure ended his campaign.
With the bar being set very high it was only inevitable that we’d see a few off-track excursions…
Mike Gaynor was doing everything he could to pull off the biggest entries out of all of those competiting, with many of them being eligible for backwards entry classification. Unfortunately he seemed to be losing power with each and every run, a problem that was later attributed to his turbo slowly separating itself from the manifold. It was a bit of a shame to be honest as it definitely seemed that Mike had even bigger and better entries up his sleeve at the time.
Mark Lappage was pushing hard in his Acorn Insurance S13…
…although a bit too hard at times!
For the last session the criteria was both speed and accuracy – a culmination of the first two rounds if you will.
Rich Tovey was really coming into his own in his Kyouto Drift S14a, being one of just three drivers to crack a 109mph entry.
If you’ve ever wondered what a 109mph drift looks like from the driver’s perspective, Rich was good enough to film some on board footage:
Due to finding himself tied on points for 1st place, Matt Samuel knew he needed to pull one last trick out of the bag in order to secure victory. After nailing another 107mph entry he went another step further…
…which I found myself being distracted from due to Joe appearing over Avon Rise.
I noticed the red flag in the distance which was quickly followed by Joe aborting his drift.
I soon saw the cause of the issue…whoops!
Thankfully both Matt and his Z32 were in much better states than the velocity of the impact would have you believe, with the damage extending to nothing more than a smashed bumper, cracked headlight, scuffed bonnet and cracked AFM. 300ZXs certainly are tough old girls.
With a large chunk of the session having been eaten into due to the recovery process it was decided to abandon the final session and calculate the results from what the judges had seen in the early stages of it.
After some careful deliberation and points calculations from the judges, the final standings saw Matt taking first place (and a rather handy £1000 cheque!) ahead of Wayne Keeber and Gaz Taylor.
Don’t consider a modelling career just yet Matt!
All in all, a fantastic end to a fantastic event – it really was humbling to see some close friends doing spectacularly well and gaining the attention and respect they deserve. What wasn’t so great, however, was the lengthy drive home in Alex Law’s S14a with nothing but 1st, 2nd and 4th gears. Ear defenders at the ready…