25 September 2011 – Snetterton

Modified Live came to Snetterton for its end of season finale.    Modified Live is a successful meeting, comprising car show for modified cars, as well as track action courtesy of Time Attack and the European Drifting Championship.

WTCC star Rob Huff was there to sample both a drift car and a Time Attack car.  Shown in the Gareth Lloyd Evo (right), an oil hose burst on his flying lap and the car coasted to a halt.   He isn’t drifting in this photo – its oil smoke!

The mechanics did manage to repair the car for the  Time Attack final, but it wasn’t in the best of health.

Time Attack is a phenomenon originating in Japan, but is now hugely popular in both the US and increasingly in the UK.

Most racers are aware of the normal concept of a practise of qualifying session, and then a race where the first across the line is the winner.    Time Attack isn’t like this.  For the people used to racing, an analogy of a series of knock out qualifying sessions is most apt.

It is more similar to Sprinting, but unlike sprints where each car is released on its own, and is unlikely to encounter traffic, Time Attack uses an open pitlane format, and overtaking is permitted, although there is no actual wheel to wheel racing – they are not racing for position.      Some competitors have graduated from Sprinting and to compete in some of the lower classes, a race license isn’t needed – just a National B non-race license, which can be applied for on the day.    The higher classes just require a National B race license which many readers will possess, although some drivers are vastly experienced racers.

Those who know they have a fast car will pace themselves early on – fast enough to get ensure safe passage to the next round, but not so fast to risk the car or to reveal the true speed of their car to their competitors. Sandbagging, or keep your powder dry as long as possible…

Those with slower cars will want to go as fast as they can to get as far as they can in the days sessions, and may knock out some faster cars caught napping or with problems.

Because these sessions are open pitlane format,each driver has to slot their way into the traffic on track, and as the track rubbers in times start to drop, unless the weather interferes.    Its crucial to get a clear lap and to ensure you slot into clear air.

When the final round is there, the cars are wound up to their maximum potential.   Boost is turned up to eleven.   Rev limits are raised.  He who dares… …may just win.

The cars are often highly tuned – some pushing out 800bhp or thereabouts.    One control element is that Pirelli are the tyre supplier and each class is limited to what tyre compounds they can use.    Many cars are road legal too.

As there isn’t any racing to watch, the commentary is all the more important as the tannoy can advise who to watch and what the current benchmark times are.

The European Drift Championship is another controversial discipline and this event will also entertain the crowd.   Drift cars will start from Corum and drift through to Murrays (formerly Russells) whilst observers judge each run and allocate points.   The driver with the best score wins.    Some say this isn’t motorsport, but when asked if Ice Dancing is a sport, or Diving, they say yes, and both of those are scored by a panel of judges.    Yes this is motorsport, but maybe a form of motorsport many are not comfortable with.

The crowd that does turn up certainly does ‘get it’.   In terms of audience it is behind British Superbikes and BTCC, and probably level with the Lotus Festival, certainly one of Snetterton’s top 5 events.

Anyway – Gavin Renshaw won the Time Attack, and the overall championship, and Brett Castle the Drifting.