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HGK Drift Challenge – Battle of Nations

HGK – for those of you who doesn’t know that those three letters mean – listen to the latest podcast with Kristaps Blušs! JK – it’s the custom car shop created by three guys located in Riga, Latvia near Bikernieku race track. Three years ago, those guys decided they want to make a fun drift competition with lesser technical requirements the official championship had and invite all the cool drivers from everywhere around. They named the competition – HGK drift challenge.

Every year HGK guys invite the drivers from everywhere – including FD drivers with exclusive rights to drive one of the HGK cars and some VIP sports for best RDS drivers too. It’s the third year of competition, first time when drivers could openly register and first time when besides the title drivers gets additional prize. Two exclusive tickets to FD last round at Irwindale was there to be won.

There is something special about the track layout for this competition as well. Fast entry and initiation to the half blind right turn, where if you don’t do math right you end up in the concrete wall. Then few was transitions in front of grand stand are followed by a loop wall ride, that drivers exit in the face of everyone at grand stand again.

I’ve mentioned previously, that drivers from FD join the challenge. The special guests this year were frenemies – Matt Field and Aurimas Odi Bakchis. The following got his competition spot confirmed just a day before it started, HGK managed to put a completely new engine to the car he was racing – an E36 that’s owned by 13 y/o kid Nicolas Bertans. Matt Field got to drive HGK kit car – an E46, that was driven by Daigo Saito on the same track year before.

Unfortunately for me I had to miss the Friday qualification for this competition. Luckily – there is internet and live stream. As anyone would expect qualification was won by a home driver Janis Eglite. He’s definitely holding a record for qualifications and competitions wins on this track. His homie Ingus Jekabsons was left behind in the second place, beat by just two points. Kristaps Blušs, who had his first appearance on the home track this year got himself a 5th place resulting to a straight pass for Top 16 battles. Odi feeling pretty comfortable in the E 36 scored 80 with his second run and that got himself 7th place. Matt, on the other, hand seemed to struggle with the car and the track, which resulted getting on a 19th place in the qualification score board. Moreover, this meant that Field is meeting Sergey Kabargin, more known as ddKaba, fierce Russian driver, who likes to amaze with his exclusive drift cars.

There are definitely more drivers worth mentioning – such as Dimitriy Iljuk, Ukrainian drifter with an s14 that spits fire. Dimitriy qualified 11th and was the first driver who needed to compete in Top 32. The TOP 10 drivers in qualification got a straight pass to Top 16. Last year winner – young Estonian Harold Valdma scored 84 getting into 4th place, just couple points behind the fast-growing Polish talent Pawel Borkowski in the 3rd place.

The competition day was Saturday – the day when Riga‘s petrol heads gather at Bikernieku race track. Official race part wasn’t due to start till midday’s parade and tandem battles. First things first – morning practice had few accidents that potentially effected the rest of the competition. Sergey Kabargin crashed hard into the bank wall, wrecking the front suspension and some parts in the rear which resulting to him missing the rest of the practice and just putting back the car together for the competition. Harold Valdma had a crash with Benedictas Čirba, got his all suspension set up out of place and it seemed that he didn‘t feel comfortable with the car after the team did all the needed fixes.

Practice was finished by Robyworks crew making some chase car shots. After that, cars were lined up for the Top 32 parade. All the drivers were presented to the grand stand and live stream viewers.

The competition went really fast. Top 10 qualifiers did the bye runs. One Top 32 battle everyone was waiting for was ddKaba vs Field. Sergey was able to put his car back together after crash in the practice, unfortunately for him it wasn’t all properly lined up and Field was really keen on getting this battle to his favor, so he did. Another Top 32 battle worth mentioning was Sergiy Kremets, NoMotors driver from Ukraine, after OMT battle he had to acknowledge Edmunds Berzinš advantage, which left Ukrainian DK taking the rest of the day off.

Next part of battles was pretty unexpected – Janis Eglite got knocked out at Top 16 by Estonian driver Kristjan Salmre. Odi fought against another Lithuanian driver Benediktas Čirba and only after a OMT battle was able to prove himself. Clements Kauderer – aussie driver that just got his freshly built HGK Euro Fighter, stood against former HGK winner Harold Valdma and that meant an end of the competition for him, Valdma went to Top 8 where he met Kristaps and by that his competition was over. Dimitriy Iljuk, lost his Top 16 battle after making few mistakes in the runs, to the local driver Ivo Cirulis. Ivo met Matt Field in the Top 8 and was unable to claim the home track advantage. Matt was just on fire.

Odi got to Top 4 easily, after beating the local driver Ingus Jekabsons, where he met his FD team mate Matt Field. This time Matt proved him being a better driver and went to the final. Kristaps Blušs was already waiting there, after winning a battle against local driver – Eriks Ulass. The third place was decided in the Latvian-Lithuanian battle. Ulass met Odi and Aurimas once more proved his years of experience drifting by winning the third place of HGK drift challenge. However, there was still one more battle to go – Matt Field against Kristaps Blušs. You might be wondering did the home track advantage helped for Kristaps – no it didn‘t. Matt looked super pumped all day, finally got comfortable with the car and claimed the HGK drift challenge winner‘s title for 2018. What can I say – it was a full FD podium at HGK drift challenge 2018. By the way, Matt won two VIP tickets to Irwindale FD round with all inclusive… 🙂

I used to build Honda engines but stopped doing it because I got tired of terribly looking nails. I’ve been shooting circuit races and drift for past 6 years. I had an S13 drift car with a BMW V8 and placed 13th in street overall 2017 season and been running my own team of track marshals for past 5 years.

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