It was the second win in as many events for Paul Conlan this weekend, when he took his Sumo Power Nissan S15 to victory in the fifth and final round of the Pirelli European Drift Championship at Snetterton. However, the biggest accolade of the weekend was reserved for Mark Luney who, after achieving a podium finish in every round this season, became 2010 Champion.
Utilising the last sector of the circuit through the long right-hander of Coram Curve and the Russell Chicane, which leads onto the start and finish straight, the EDC drivers had a different challenge to that of round four.
Where as the track at Cadwell Park was narrow and undulating, with Armco barriers each side, the Snetterton layout provided a flat and open course, with far more room to run-off if things got out of shape.
As usual, eight cars were entered and would run in pairs, with the lead car alternating for each run, through a series of heats, a semi-final and a final. The outcome is decided by judges who base their assessments on lines, angles, speed and how much of a gap existed between the two cars by the end of the run.
The dramas started even before the competition began, when only seven cars arrived at the circuit. This elevated the eventual winner Conlan straight into the semi-finals, a bonus that also applied to Andy Cooper, when the HEL sponsored Toyota Cresta of Declan Hicks consumed two of its spark plugs and was unable to take any further part in proceedings. Therefore, there would be three pairs battling it out for the four places in the semi finals.
First out of blocks were the Cosworth/SVA Imports Nissan 350 of Luney, together with Brett Castle, in his all-chrome Apex Racing V8 Nissan. With almost identical moments of ‘straightening’ from both drivers in both runs, the judges ordered a re-run. The first saw Luney slightly ahead as Castle had to back off entering the chicane. But if there was any doubt, the second was to decide things, when an impressive start by Castle was spoilt when he ended up spinning onto the grass, his exit forwarding Luney to a place in the semis.
The second pairing of Peter Barber in his Swinton Insurance/Hayward Rotary Mazda RX7 against Kieran Cameron in a borrowed Nissan S13 was always destined to go one way. Although Cameron produced a worthy performance as he became more acquainted with his unfamiliar machinery, he could not match the pace and angles of Barber, who subsequently went through to the next round.
The first of the semis saw Barber face Cooper in his Really Mean Sounds Nissan S14, who took the advantage in the first run after the Mazda driver had to straighten momentarily. However, better control whilst he was chasing in the second run was enough for the judges to award Barber a place in the finals.
The next semi was between Luney and Conlan, which turned out to be one of the most exciting performances of the season by both drivers. Conlan led first, with the commitment from each being clearly demonstrated by the levels of smoke and amount of throttle used. They mirrored each other perfectly and, with the judges unable to decide who came out on top, the last place in the final was all down to the second run.
At first it looked like it was going to be another epic dual between the two leading exponents of the sport, but with Luney perhaps concentrating too hard on what his rival was doing behind him, he suddenly found himself off the track and on the grass. Although clearly annoyed with himself, Luney could now only aim for third place, but was still in line for the title.
Fifth and Third place Drift-offs
The battle for fifth and sixth places was between Castle and Cameron, with Castle holding the edge following the first run. Although the judges could see that Cameron was doing as much as he could to stay in contention in his unfamiliar car, it was Castle that was awarded with fifth place.
This left the battle for third and fourth, with Luney and Cooper going head-to-head – and both a reason to win: Luney wanting to achieve a podium finish in every round this season and Cooper looking to claim his first ever top-three place. A cautious approach in the first run saw both drivers straighten and the judges declared it a draw. So, when Cooper failed to initiate a drift in the second run, Luney achieved his goal of scoring his fifth podium finish of the season and, more importantly had just become 2010 Pirelli EDC Champion.
Conlan led for the first run and, right from the start, it was clear to see that both drivers were giving it their full commitment with good speed and great angles. But as they approached the chicane, Barber got a little too sideways and suddenly, he was heading towards the Armco. Although managing to avoid the barriers, he would now have his work cut out if he was to going to pull back the deficit in the second pass.
Leading for run number two, Barber delivered a faultless performance However, Conlan did the same and therefore the Sumo Power driver took his well-deserved second win of the season.
The outcome of the final round confirmed Luney as Champion, Barber second and Conlan third in what had been another fiercely fought EDC season. Organisers and teams now start planning for next year’s series, details of which are expected to be announced by the end of October.
The Pirelli European Drift Championship is sponsored by: Pirelli, Sumo Power, Kleers, Cosworth, K-Sport, SuperPro, Toyo Tires, BC Suspension, Speedhunters.com, HKS, HEL Performance, Samco Sport, Blitz and Santa Pod Raceway.
Round Five Results
1 Paul Conlan – Nissan S15 Silvia
2 Pete Barber – Mazda RX7
3 Mark Luney – Nissan 350Z
4 Andrew Cooper – Nissan S14 200SX
5 Brett Castle – Nissan R33 Skyline
6 Kieran Cameron – Nissan S13 200SX
DNS Declan Hicks – Toyota Cresta
DNS James Russell – Nissan Skyline R32
2010 Pirelli European Drift Championship Calendar
24 April: Oulton Park
16 May: Knockhill
27 June: Brands Hatch
1 August: Cadwell Park
10 October: Snetterton