After an off-season that felt like an eternity due to the building excitement, the Drift Masters European Championship roared back into action this weekend in Ireland’s Mondello Park. A field of 50 drivers from 19 nations made the journey to the Co. Kildare circuit, but it would be Polish driver and 2-time back-to-back reigning champion Piotr Wiecek heading home the happiest, as he overcame the a stacked and extremely-talented field of drivers to take top spot on the first podium of the season.
Delighted in taking his first win of the season, Piotr had the following to say – “I’m absolutely delighted to have taken the win here at Round 1. It was a really difficult weekend, and the competition was tougher than ever, so to come out on top is an incredible feeling. I have to give a huge thanks to my team and partners, who have worked tirelessly to keep the car at its best all weekend long and ensure that we were in the best possible position to compete. Without their support, none of this would have been possible.”
After a 7th place qualifying finish during yesterday’s qualifying session, some might have thought Piotr’s start to the season wouldn’t be the dream start he would hope for. His first battle of the 2023 season would see him face off against Dutch driver Clint Van Oort. However, Wiecek would show us why he’s a 2-time champion and prove too strong, seeing him progress to a battle versus fellow Polish driver Kuba Przygonski in the Top 16.
That Top 16 battle would be one to remember, with both drivers giving it their absolute all in one of the most aggressive battles we were treated to all weekend long. However, the champ would once again prove his worth, moving on to a dream Top 8 battle against last year’s second place finisher and hometown fan-favourite Jack Shanahan.
That very Top 8 battle would be another one to delight the fans, but Wiecek would be the one moving on the happiest, with Jack Shanahan unfortunately throwing it away at the last hurdle in a wild battle, seeing Piotr progress to a Top 4 battle against Jack’s own younger brother and last year’s third place finisher, Conor Shanahan.
If ever there was a run to show just how good Piotr Wiecek is, it would be that very Top 4 battle with Shanahan. Conor would barely put a foot wrong, but Wiecek would arguably pull out his best runs of the weekend, putting it right on Shanahan’s door to earn himself a spot in his first final of the season.
Facing off against Wiecek in the final, would by the blisteringly fast Finnish driver Lauri Heinonen. Heinonen would return this year with a mere 300 horsepower increase over last season to claim his place in his first ever DMEC final. It wouldn’t be an easy road to the final, as he would have to overcome Sweden’s Christian Erlandsson, Ireland’s Dylan Garvey, Hungary’s Kevin Piskolty and Ireland’s Duane McKeever to claim his place there, but he did just that and truly deserved it.
Having been the higher qualifier, Wiecek would lead first and Heinonen would be the one to give it his all going closer than we’d seen him go all weekend long. However, it simply wasn’t to be for the Finn, as he would push just a touch too hard in his lead run, going off the track to gift Wiecek his first win of the season.
Irish driver Duane McKeever would round out the podium in third place, as he would fix a clutch in just minutes and get back out in time to overcome fellow Irishman Conor Shanahan, who heads into Round 2 with his first points on the board.
So with Round 1 and the first points of the season now in the books, our attention turns to Sweden’s Drivecenter Arena for Round 2 of the 2023 season on June 9th & 10th, as we progress towards the biggest ever season finale Drift Masters has ever seen in Poland’s PGE Narodowy on September 15th & 16th.
2023 DMEC driver standings (After 1 of 6 rounds)
- Piotr Wiecek – 102 pts.
- Lauri Heinonen – 88 pts.
- Duane McKeever – 77 pts.
- Conor Shanahan – 70 pts.
- James Deane – 56 pts.