Round one of the Drift Masters European Championship 2019, at the fast and technical PS Racing Center Greinbach in Austria, saw Northern Irish and Link ECU-sponsored driver Duane McKeever overcome an all-star international roster to claim the top step of the podium, defeating defending DMEC champion James Deane in a tense final battle. Polish star Adam Zalewski would take third place, with Lithuanian Benediktas Cirba finishing up in fourth.
The stage was set as Europe’s best professional drift drivers descended on Greinbach, Austria to do battle and determine who would become the first winner of 2019. The three international judges set out one of the longest competition circuits in DMEC history, with the fast, undulating and twisting track doubling back on itself several times before the drivers burst over the finish line in front of the crowd.
In qualifying, Ireland’s Jack Shanahan claimed P1 with a 91-point run, backed by Norway’s Tor Arne Kvia in P2 with 90 points, and James Deane in P3 with 89 points.
With the livestream broadcast across social media and on Red Bull TV, the Top 32 became the Top 16. There would be no easy route to the finals with a host of national champions left on the board. Drift Masters is the only championship where you can see the likes of Deane, Rintanen, Karkosik, Cirba, the Shanahans, Zalewski, Fontijn and the Hountondji brothers on one circuit. Local wild card driver Daniel Brandner had the crowd behind him as he tackled Adam Zalewski, however Zalewski’s experience and pace shone through as he proceeded into the Great 8.
A highlight in the Great 8 was Duane McKeever, who went head-to-head with Juha Rintanen, with the Northern Irish driver coming out on top after a closely-fought battle. Cirba and Hountondji’s face-off was equally close, whilst on the other side of the bracket Zalewski and Deane would also come out victorious in their respective battles. In the Semi Finals crucial mistakes from Zalewski would hand James Deane a hard-fought place in the finals, whilst Benediktas Cirba gave it his all against an on-form McKeever. It seemed as if nothing could stop McKeever, so we had an all-Irish final.
With both drivers having travelled side-by-side half way across Europe to do battle, they would settle things side-by-side too. Both McKeever and Deane gave it their all, with maximum commitment during both runs, whilst narrowly avoiding any substantial contact. As the smoke settled no-one in the crowd could call a victor, but the judges saw different. McKeever had done enough to separate himself from the defending champion in his first ever Drift Masters event.
Duane McKeever is the winner of round one in Austria!
Round two takes place at Croix en Ternois in France on 15-16th June, 2019. We’ll see you there, but if you can’t make it then be sure to tune into the livestream on the Drift Masters European Championship website, the Drift Masters Facebook page, or on Red Bull TV.