The 2nd round of the BRCA Off Road series was held at the Kent club near Maidstone. The club had done a huge amount of track work prior to the event and the track looked fantastic, and is quickly becoming a drivers favourite with its really challenging layout and fun features.
In an effort to keep track deterioration to a minimum the club had used a lot of oil to bind the surface together which would be sure to change the driving conditions of the track and render any testing of limited value.
Practice was the usual affair of track cleaning and tyre evaluation before qualifying, and most guys in the NEMO Racing camp seemed to be settling for either a V-Max or Freeride in Supersoft compound.
Qualifying got underway and in round 1 it was Darren Bloomfield who came out of the blocks hard with a controlled run on a slippery track to take the round win, just in front of Neil Cragg. The two drivers were never more than half a second apart during the run and it was Darren who with a good last few laps sneaked the top spot. The rest of qualifying went the way of Elliott Boots after he got on a roll and found the groove with the track. Darren was in battle for 2nd overall with Neil, which went the way of Neil in the last round as he just edged out Darren. Tony Truman was showing his best form for a while and he came out strong with 3rd place in rounds 1 & 2, and then backed up with solid top 5 positions after that to end up 5th overall. Fellow Agama drivers Ollie Currie and Richard Barton also made the direct semi final places after they got going better as qualifying progressed. Callum Nibblet and Jonny Skidmore both ended up in the 1/4 finals, Callum through bad luck as he was actually one of the fastest guys out there, and challenging for top 3 positions in round but a combination of electrical issues and mistakes saw him not right in the mix, and Jonny only got himself dialled in late in qualifying so he was ready for a charge come finals.The track surface was very tricky to find the right grip and balance on, and this was showing in the disparate tyre choices, some insisting one was the best and others finding something different working better for them.
The finals were as usual very competitive right through the field, as the general level of driving has improved greatly over the last few years meaning that the lower finals are contested just hotly as those further up.
Stand out performers in the Agama camp were Winston Barnett who once into the groove, drove a through a few finals in excellent fashion, despite stopping for a break mid race in one of them! James Tatlow was showing the best for of his career by making the 1/8 finals, maybe he should get jet lag more often…
As the 1/4 finals came around Callum Nibblet was off and away at the front and after only a few laps was into 40 second laps which was fast by anybody’s pace and looking good, only to have a motor fail in his steering servo, gutted. Jonny Skidmore drove a controlled and consistent final to ease his way in to the semis while Leon Goode was looking good for his semi final place but would eventually drop down with a glow plug issue. Into the semis and it was a great showing from the Agama boys, with Darren securing safe passage through to the main final and Tony Truman, Ollie Currie and Jonny Skidmore all going with him to secure main places.
The main final itself was looking fairly ordinary until the last 15 minutes when all hell broke loose. First Neil Cragg flamed out on track while running second, meaning he dropped back into a battle with Darren Bloomfield which looked set to be the battle for 2nd until the last 2 minutes of the final when long time leader Elliott Boots also stopped on track. His car was restarted and he was back out again but it stopped again and Neil and Darren were through, and Darren couldn’t quite get back on to Neil to challenge leaving Neil to take his first win since 2010! Darren took a secure 2nd after a tough weekend and can take away good points to get his season on track.
The series now moves on to Wakefield, and a completely new venue which will be new to all…..bring it on!