The first round of the BRCA National series took place at its now traditional season opening venue of Herts Nitro Model Car Club over the weekend, and the level of competition went up a notch as it has year on year in recent times.
With the NEMO Village all set up and ready, we and our strong team of drivers arrived early on saturday morning ready to take the fight to the best drivers in the country for this years honours.
The track was as always these days at Herts in fantastic condition, although the dry conditions were sure to make the surface hard and grippy to catch out the unwary.
As the 2 practice rounds unfolded the Agama boys were performing well at the head of the pack, with Darren Bloomfield, Jon Hazlewood, Richard Barton and Ollie Currie all posting good times and looking fast.
With the conditions slightly cooler than had been the case during the recent warm up race, the drivers were trying to decide on what compound tyre they should be using as despite the temperature the traction on the track was already starting to come in.
Qualifying got underway and Darren was on the pace, although he found his car a little edgy in the conditions and made a couple of small errors as a result of this that stopped him claiming the overall TQ position, indeed the times were so close he was actually only 4th in round. Richard Barton was an excellent 6th overall despite being really under weather health wise, and really shouldn't have been out racing in reality. But ever the pro, Richard knuckled down and made the very best of a tough day. Ollie Currie continued his great form from last year and he would wind up 8th overall in round 1. Jon Hazlewood, Ben Williams, Jonny Skidmore and Tony Truman would all also make the top 20 in the first round in a strong showing from the Agama team.
Round 2 was a round littered with mistakes by everybody except the TQ man, and although Darren would go 3 seconds faster than round 1, and claim 3rd in round, there was still a lot of time left on the track with the small errors. Jon Hazlewood was actually looking even faster than Darren, and although he took 5th in round he felt 2nd was more than possible even how good his car was performing. Richard and Ollie both made the round top 20, but mistakes cost both times higher up the leader board.
The 3rd round was a very exciting one, with 3 drivers really going close to the TQ. Jon Hazlewood had an excellent run, and he would wind up 3rd overall but he kicked himself afterwards as he had a cautious final lap knowing he was having a good run, and this allowed the other guys to sneak ahead, but his car was performing faultlessly and he was enjoying his driving more than he had done in a very long time. Darren had an ok run to 5th, still being hampered buy the odd mistakes. He was working hard on the set up of his car in between rounds to make it a bit easier to drive, and he felt it was improving as he went along. Ben Williams drove and excellent round to put himself in the top 10 and with Richard Barton and Jonny Skidmore also making the top 20, most of the guys were building up scores that would allow them to challenge for the overall top 20 and direct qualification into the semi finals.
The 4th round was the final one of the Saturday programme, and it was a round where the guys started to try a few things. Jon decided to try running V-Max tyres as opposed to his usually favoured Freerides, and although the run was scrappy he actually felt they may be faster on a give and take run. Darren was once again kicking himself as this time he went the wrong way with the set up and wasn't as comfortable as he had been previously. Richard dug deep and made the top 10 despite feeling very tired now after being ill all day. Leon Goode finally got himself together and started to show the form we all know he is capable of with 13th in round, closely followed by Jonny Skidmore and Ollie Currie both finishing off the day with pretty good runs to give them a good shot at the semis in the morning.
Sunday morning and we all arrived at the track to a damp surface after some light overnight rain, this in itself wasn't a problem as the track is more than capable of taking a bit of water but the rain was coming in fits and starts as the round progressed leaving some guys with a drier track than others. Indeed the final heat would receive a large dousing for the final minute and half of their run which knocked the edge of few times as the concrete and paved sections became slick. The gamble for the round was tyres, and Darren felt he picked the wrong pattern by choosing Freeride, and should have gone for the Cubez to make the most of the conditions.
Overall it left Darren in 5th, Jon 6th, Richard 12th, Ollie 15th and Ben Williams in 20th as the direct qualifiers from the Agama tent. Unlucky for Jonny Skidmore as he ended up first man out in 21st and a 1/4 final to negotiate.
Onto the finals and the track was drying fast with the wind up a bit and this was giving the drivers difficulty over the big jumps as the cars would get caught by the odd gust of wind that would upset them mid air.
In the 1/64 A side, Scott Paulley was able to negotiate his way through into the final bump up spot and a place in the 1/32 finals, while both Dean Coupland and Steve Brunsden would miss out.
Yound William Skidmore showed some of his recent excellent form to claim 2nd in the 1/32 B final while Scott Paulley, Mark Boon and James Tatlow would all sadly miss out on a bump of spot from the A side of the 1/32 finals.
into the 1/16 finals and William now had the bot between his teeth, and he managed to see off the competition to bump again and take a place in the 1/8 finals after a super drive. Adrian Svensson and Arron Girling would not challenge for a bump up place, but ha both given a good account. On the A side recent Bullitt driver Nick Blackwell acquitted himself very well at his first national, and although just missing out he showed really good speed for his debut at this level.
Sadly the 1/8 finals were where William Skidmore would finish as he was just unable to carry on his bump up form from earlier, but he could be satisfied with his run through the finals.
Leon Goode bumped clear from the 1/8 final as expected as he was well out of position relative to his speed.
Now the 1/4 finals rolled round we were starting to see some of the heavy hitters who had had bad qualifying runs, and this was proved with 2 of last years overall top 10 drivers karl Jackson and Tony Truman finishing 1 and 2 to clear the bar into the semis. Tony had had a terrible day on Saturday, and had overnight reverted to his 2013 settings in an effort to fins a baseline, it was working as he looked much more comfortable on track than he had done all of the previous day.
The 1/4 A side featured both Jonny Skidmore and Leon Goode, and really both should have made the jump to the semi finals on pace but mistakes would cost both dear and leave them both missing out.
The first semi final was a bit of a disappointment for the Agama team with Jon Hazlewood, Ben Williams and Richard Barton all missing out. Jon was running exceptionally well in 3rd and closing down the 2 leaders when a lap or 2 after his pit stop his car stopped on track.He was bitterly disappointed as he was in his best form for years and looking really capable of challenging for the podium. Richard Barton would lose out in a last lap battle with Karl Jackson despite a lunge for the live, he would be 0.3 seconds outside the required top 7 at the flag. On the positive side, Tony Truman would finish 6th after his improvement continued and he comfortably made the main final after a tough weekend.
The A semi saw the Agama contenders Darren Bloomfield and Ollie Currie both make it through safely, Darren in 3rd and Ollie 6th. Darren was involved in a race long duel with Graham Alsop and Simon Willetts, that saw them all easily beat the time of the previous final to take the top 3 positions on the grid.
So Graham Alsop would place his Bullitt powered car on pole for the main final after an excellent semi final drive in which he used his 10 minute stop potential of his B-219 to take the number 1 slot.
The final got underway with a big battle between Alsop, Boots, Bloomfield, Martin and Cragg. Boots would eventually pull clear to leave the other 4 fighting over 2nd place, and this would flip back and forth as mistakes and pit strategies came into play. First to fall away was Lee Martin as he retired with an engine problem, leaving Darren to fight with Neil and Graham. Coming to the final stops it was very close between all 3 for the runner up spot, and with both Neil and Graham making mistakes in the final stint, that left Darren to cruise home to 2nd overall, a good start to his first National season with Agama after a weekend when he hadn't quite got everything quite as good as had been the case at the warm up races.
Graham would sneak 3rd at the line to make 2 Bullitt engines on the podium after Neil made a mistake in the final chicane on the last lap to let his old adversary through.
A successful start to the season, and with 3 Agama, 5 Bullitt, 5 Piranha and 7 BETA runners making the main final the NEMO Racing products were exceptionally well represented at the top of the leader board.
The race schedule os very hectic for the coming weeks, with the Silverstate race in the Las Vegas, the NEO International and the Rhein Main Warm up race in Germany all coming along in the next few weeks.