The third round of the 2021 Drift Masters European Championship rolled into Riga, Latvia this weekend, bringing Europe’s best drivers, tens of thousands of horsepower, an epic circuit layout, challenging weather and some of the most dramatic driving we’ve ever seen. This fan- and driver-favourite stop on the DMEC calendar did not disappoint, and a nail-biting finale saw points leader Piotr Wiecek from Poland narrowly lose out to Irish Red Bull athlete Conor Shanahan after a big impact during the final battle of the day. Another Pole, Adam Zalewski, would round off the podium in third place, shaking up the points standing going into round 4.
Qualifying on Friday brought forth its own drama, with heavy rainstorms coming and going as the 55-strong grid tussled to narrow down to 32 judges favourites. All three of our top qualifiers laid down their runs in the dry, before the heavens opened, causing havoc for the remainder of the grid. Returning three-time Drift Masters champion James Deane topped qualifying with a 91 point run, followed by British driver Max Cotton in P2 with 88 points and Polish driver Pawel Korpulinski in P3 with 87 points.
The Top 32 rundown on Saturday would see an unusually high number of both crashes and mechanical failures, throwing a few surprises into the mix. Still, familiar names made it through into the Top 16 – James Deane, Sebastian Fontijn, Adam Zalewski, the Shanahan brothers, Max Heidrich, Red Bull Drift Brother Elias Hountondji, Piotr Wiecek, and Benediktas Cirba remained, to name but a few.
Former Drift King of Riga Martin Richards would make a surprise early exit in the Top 16, losing out to Zalewski after Richards impacted with the Polish driver after initiation. Benediktas Cirba looked to be a strong contender throughout, making it as far as the Great 8 before losing out to an aggressive and fast Piotr Wiecek. Things looked to be going the way of another Polish driver, Mikolaj Zakrzewski, as he found himself in the Final 4 before ultimately losing out to Wiecek also.
On the other side of the bracket the two Shanahans, Conor and Jack, would meet in the Top 16, with younger brother Conor taking the win over his sibling. James Deane would make an unexpectedly early exit after a mechanical issue during his battle with Adam Zalewski. To further add to the drama, Max Heidrich suffered a substantial crash during his battle with Conor Shanahan, and while he lost the battle he narrowly avoided causing any serious damage to his car.
The Play-Off for third and fourth place was between Polish countrymen Adam Zalewski and Mikolaj Zakrzewski, with Zalewski’s runs being more consistent and earning him the bottom step on the podium.
The final would see points-leader Piotr Wiecek face an eager Conor Shanahan. In run one, Piotr would pull a large lead over Conor, making it look likely that the Polish driver would top the podium once again. However in run two, with Conor leading, Piotr would overcook it going into the final wall-run, making impact with Conor, sending him into the wall. The mistake was enough to hand Conor the win, propelling him to the top step of the podium as the winner of Drift Masters European Championship round 3!
So after 2 fantastic days of action, Shanahan’s victory sees Wiecek’s lead at the top of the DMEC driver standings slashed, and as we prepare to do it all over again tomorrow for Round 4 here in Riga, who knows how the standings will look when the dust has settled once again? All we know is, you cannot afford to miss out on a single second of the action tomorrow; tune in LIVE on Red Bull TV from 10.25am local Latvian time.