The 4th round of the BRCA National Championship was held at Coventry, originally scheduled to be the 2nd round but cancelled for weather reasons earlier in the season.
This race would have a big say on the Championship itself as with 4 rounds to count from 5, and with the other title contenders already having a bad round to count, it was important for Darren to obtain a great result and keep the pressure on going into round 5 at Slough.
The surface as for the recent Dirt Masters race was a combination of oiled sections where the traction was really low and the non oiled sections where the traction was better but the surface would break up as the weekend went on. The weather forecast was very good for the Saturday, but with the threat of showers on Sunday, meaning the guys would have be fully concentrated on ensuring the best possible qualifying performance.
Practice showed the usual suspects were up there and competitive, and as usual the main things were to be happy with the tyre choice and to see how the track cleaned up were the priorities in the 2 practice runs. From the Agama camp, Darren was clearly right on the pace and after practice chose the Cubez tyres for the start of qualifying, feeling they gave the best balance of traction and composure through the bumps.
Round 1 of qualifying saw Darren take 2nd overall just a second away from TQ man Elliott Boots, but Darren was happy and confident as he knew he had an error in his run and time to find. Excellent runs by Ben Williams and Leon Goode saw them take 7th and 10th in the round. Round 2 saw Darren make no error and storm to the round TQ in front of Elliott, these 2 guys seeming to have a few seconds in their pocket over the field at this stage. Leon Goode once again put a strong run together run to place 7th in round, and Ollie Currie was finding his form to take 8th in the round.
Round 3 saw another epic qualifying battle between Darren and Elliott and with Darren just taking the top spot again by only 1 second, both guy driving flat out and fully committed, it was good to watch. Ollie was on form again taking a superb 6th in the round and Tony Truman was finding his feet with the car of Jon Hazlewood taking 8th in the round.
Round 4 and the front 2 were at it again, this time Elliott just edged it to give them 2 TQ's a piece, with 2 2nds each to back them up leaving them dead level on points overnight and the final round of qualifying set to be the decider. Leon Goode and Ben Williams were on form again taking 6th and 7th and putting themselves in proper contention for direct semi final placings.
The final round of qualifying threw a further spanner in the works with a short but pretty sharp shower of rain a few heats in. Heats 3-6 were badly affected, but by 7 it was starting to improve and the grip come back. Elliott was out in heat 8 and on a drying track he produced a good run to put the pressure on Darren in the following heat. Darren was looking like he would have had a track advantage by being on later, but just as they went on the rostrum, another light drizzle shower dampened the surface once more to in all probability level the playing field. Darren produced an excellent drive, making no errors to take a round win by the relatively comfortable margin of 4 seconds and the overall TQ point. This was the 1st BRCA national TQ for the Agama chassis and Darrens 1st of the season. Ben Williams was excellent in round 5 to take 5th and cement his semi final place, and Tony Truman 8th, Leon Goode 12th and Ollie Currie 13th all did what was required to find their way into the semi finals. Richard Barton and Ben Williams also placed their Agama in the semis making it a total of 6 Agama cars lining up. 9 of the 20 direct qualifiers were on BETA rubber and 8 using the Bullitt B-219 power plant.
The finals were all very close due to the nature of the track and by the time we got to the 1/4 finals, there was plenty of close racing and pressure was on. The skidmore brothers found themselves on either side of the the christmas tree finals and both would miss out on a semi final place in to the line dashes at the end of the races. Jonny was dive bombed on the line to lose 4th position to Josh Adams. William couldn't quite catch Bruce Thompson after an epic final few laps to close the gap down.
On the B side of the semis Ben Williams drove a controlled race to finish 4th and ensure he made his first final for Agama and really cement his recent return to form. Ollie Currie came from a tough start to ensure he was in the shake up by taking 6th and Richard Barton took advantage of 2 drivers running out of fuel on the last lap to sneak through into the 7th and the final bump up position.
Darren Bloomfield had an uneventful run in his semi final to take the win, but a few mid race errors would cost him pole for the main final. Tony Truman suffered a terrible start and was bogged in the pack for much of the final, but some excellent pit work and using his speed in clear air got him through and up to 5th place and safely in the main final.
The main final got underway and the initially the top guys all followed in line, but mid way round the lap Elliott and Darren came together in the air over one of the jumps, resulting in them both tumbling fortunately on to their wheels. Elliott then tried very hard to get inside Darren on the next corner, and overshot the apex, came back on and tapped Neil Cragg, which ultimately put Elliott upside down and right to the back of the pack. This left Lee Martin in the lead with Darren and Neil chasing. Over the next 5 minutes Elliott tried very hard to get back to the leaders but suffered several incidents and also incurred the wrath of the referee resulting in a stop and go penalty.
At the front Lee was driving an excellent race, not making any errors and at a pace his qualifying form had suggested wasn't there this weekend, but his consistency was making it difficult for Darren to get back on terms. The battle continued for the entire race and after the final pit stops, Lee was just ahead of Darren. Darren pushed very hard to close the gap down but an error put him 7 seconds down with only a minutes remaining. A massive push from Darren got him back in contention when Lee also made an error on the astro turf section to put Darren in the lead with 2 laps to go. Going onto the final lap and Darren mad an error by turning in early at turn 2 and hoping over the pipe putting Lee back in the lead. Darren drove flat out to get back on his tail on the astro section and pulled off an amazing move on the inside of Lee in the middle of the section only for Lee to run hard into the final Astro corner to try and get back ahead, but he carried too much speed and traction rolled over the top of Darren leaving him to cruise the final few corners to take his 2nd win in a row and put himself in a strong championship position going into the final round at Slough in a few weeks time.
Another great performance from Darren as he has hit a great run of form in recent weeks to bring himself into championship contention.
We look forward to doing battle at Slough and hope we see such close and and exciting racing at the series finale.