The build up to this event had made it an event not to be missed, and one that I simply had to make the trip for. Regardless of the 5 hour drive ahead of me to get to my destination from Adelaide, that was no obstacle too big for me to miss out on seeing this amazing event for myself.
I left my room early on the Saturday morning filled with anticipation from what I had already seen on social media from testing the day before. As I drove to where I knew the event was to be held, I was in amazement at the wonderful backdrop of the area of Mt Gambier that was to host this competition. Heading past Blue Lake and to then arrive at the pits on the edge of the Valley Lake was an incredible scene.
This event was full of firsts for Aus. This would be the first legal street drifting event in the country, and the elevation change was second only to Sydney Motorsport Park’s South Circuit of any event held down under. Event organiser Luke Fink had organised to bring over Shinji Minowa, but also while Luke was over in Japan talking to other drivers about what he was planning for this event, Yoshinori Shinozaki was so excited to take part that he told Luke in his broken English that he would be there. This was the first time a professional Japanese drifter had made their own way over to the land down under for a DCA event. With the event now featuring two professional Japanese drifters it really was building up to be a great competition.
As well as the overseas talent of Shinji and Yoshinori, the talent was coming from all over Australia with contenders such as Mitch Doyle coming from the top end, and some making the short hop over the water from Tassie. There was also multiple competitors coming from the Eastern states, as well as from Western Australia.
Once Luke had finished his morning coffee, the drivers briefing got underway, and the air was filled with anticipation. The Saturday morning consisted of practice and qualifying. The DCA format runs all of these together to have maximum track time for everyone, drivers simply stated at the start line if they were doing a qualifying run. The day was full of action with some good lines run.
Throughout the day the number of people in the crowds was amazing to be seen, and a true testament to how well the event had been put together by Luke Fink and the whole DCA crew.
Later in the day the judges painted boxes on the clipping points to make it easier for drivers to judge hitting the clips, and this saw drivers really pushing hard to get deep into the zones, and stacking on some really big angle. All clips were outer clips, with the first corner a right hander before climbing the hill, and switching left over the crest to hit the second clip, from there it was a quick transition as they came down the hill to get back across and into clip 3 which was another right hander at the bottom of the hill, before a bit of a climb uphill again to finish. A big front end collision with the barriers caused a delay in proceedings with oil spilt on the track. The cleanup crew were onto this quickly and the track then tested and cleared to run again.
Qualifying of group 1 was then brought to a halt with a massive downpour of rain that saw crews huddled under their pit tents, and crowds heading for the trees to try to find some sort of shelter. After a 30 minute rain delay was called and the rain had started to ease it was decided group 1 qualifying would be completed, before then also running through group 2 qualifying.
Due to the downpour of rain the judges decided to take the drivers for a track walk before getting under way again to check track condition, and discuss any possible changes due to the saturation of the road surface. Qualifying was completed to allow the top 32 to be determined ready for the following day’s competition.
The top 32 battle tree featured a good mix of local, interstate and of course the 2 international Japanese entrants. As I arrived at the track on Sunday the conditions were a complete change from how it had been when I left the day prior. The sun was out and there was a warmth to the air, and a dry track made for some well anticipated smoke from the tyres.
The day’s events would see battles commence and work through the battle tree to determine the podium places. Due to the amount of talent at the event there were already some big names who fell short of qualifying. Top qualifier was Blake Patterson in his white S14.
The top 32 battles were hard fought and a great spectacle from early on, as a number of battles required re-runs for the judges to split the hairs to determine who would go through. Drivers were putting in some incredible runs with a lot of cars riding the wall well through the clipping points. As the battles progressed there was a number of incidences with drivers pushing it to the limit and beyond with some big wall rides and bumpers constantly being knocked off through such commitment to getting close to the wall. Also an over commitment to angle saw some drivers spinning in the later part of the course. It was clear that everyone was giving it everything they had to proceed, and there was no thought of protecting the car and taking it easy, but instead everyone was willing to sacrifice it all to get that one step closer to the podium.
In the end the top 4 battles came down to Steven Griffin, and Brodie Moore competing for 3rd place, and Joel Donegan, and top qualifier, Blake Patterson competing for top honours. Again as had been the norm for the day, these battles were so well run that re-runs were required to determine the better driver.
The battle for 3rd place went to Brodie Moore, with him just edging out Steven Griffin. This was Steven’s first DCA event, and he had evidently settled in well to the DCA format to be only one step shy of the podium. Then we were in for the final battle of the day between Joel and Blake. Blake had run well all day having qualified first and continued his fine form all the way through to be battling for the top spot. Joel had risen through the ranks after qualifying 11th to have battled his way to the final bout in his DCA debut.
The final battle was so intense with both drivers giving solid lead and chase runs, and the final run for the day was another re-run, which saw Joel battling with a blown gearbox and only able to use 2nd gear. As was the way with DCA however, the two drivers discussed this before starting, and out of respect for making it the best show they could the drivers adjusted their run accordingly, and after seeing them run through you would not have known there was any issue with Joel’s car, as the final run was just as intense as those before. In the end Joel wasn’t quite able to push up hard enough on Blake in his final chase run due to the blown gearbox, and the win went to Blake Patterson. Solid form from Blake and consistent driving all weekend to see him follow through from qualifying in top spot to taking home the trophy.
Of course there was the celebratory burnouts from the place getters and then onto the Expression Session. DCA is renowned for running multiple car drift trains in these sessions of up to 10 cars. This show was no let down and had the crowds loving every minute of it.