After the success of Keep it Reet's inaugural Battle Royale championship in 2021/22, the popular action-packed formula was continued for a second season. A handful of changes would make the competition even closer and the action fiercer. Round 5 of the 2022 season proved that the amateur drivers could dance with the big boys in Pro, so both categories would merge into one, with now 40 drivers able to attempt to qualify for the Top 16 battles.
New tyre regulations would be put in place too. Using the Drifting SA approved tyre list would keep the competition close and fair between pro drift cars and more street style cars, whilst also having consistent regulations across state championships for ease, as many drivers compete in both Battle Royale and Drifting SA events.
The recently returned and fan favourite 'Run the wall' layout would hold Round 1 of the championship. In the driver's briefing, the judges explained where they were expecting drivers to put the cars to garner the perfect run. A tight drift through the first two corners were preferred, but not too tight as for the car to jump over the kerbs. On the run to the bowl, the judges wanted to see the whole section drifted, although would allow for lower powered cars to grip up and catch up if needed. For the wall section, the entire concrete was one large clipping point, so the closer the better. If your car wasn't on or behind this crack in the middle of the bowl, you wouldn't be scoring points.
Most drivers would ease closer to the wall with each run during practice. However, Matt Walker from Team Rushstreet in his S13 would slide centimeters from the concrete straight out of the box.
Keep it Reet had also brought over Irish pro drifter Dave Egan from Drift Games, who also competes in Drift Masters to battle it out against Victoria's best in the Reet R32. Within a few runs, Dave Egan became acclimatised to the R32 and the unique track layout, just not the Melbourne heat.
With practice done and dusted it was time to better explain how qualifying would work to the drivers. They would be randomly paired together for two qualifying battles each, that's four runs, two leading and two chasing. Your worst run would be removed, not counting towards your final score, and your best run would be doubled. This format from Drifting SA rewarded brilliant runs in qualifying rather than lots of consistent, semi-decent runs.
Jason Ferron and Marcus McCathie treated qualifying like it was the final battle, putting on a show with heaps of angle and even more proximity to each other.
Daniel Ridley in his R32 with a fresh wrap would just miss out in qualifying for the Top 16 battles. Mike Lake would qualify 12th in his fresh new E36 chassis, which was finished that very morning as Ben Coady would qualify well in 7th in his red rocket VN Commodore.
However, it would by Drifting SA reigning champion Scotty Miller who would just pip Jason Ferron and Adge Punaro for the top qualifier spot.
All eyes would now be on the Top 16 battles and onwards. The media team at Keep it Reet would stream the night's action on Youtube, with multiple camera angles, live commentary and live results through live.keepitreet. Stewart Bryant and three-time VicDrift champion Leigh Pidwell would use all the camera angles to fairly judge each run, as Tauri Onus tried distracting them.
Russel Cunningham would unfortunately start this year's championship battles how last year's campaigned ended, with a broken gearbox.
In the Top 12, Jamie Stevkovski jumped the gun at the start during his lead run against Baldeep Shergill in the Hartless Knights R33, making for a one more time of just his lead run. Unfortunately, the only AU that qualified was knocked out early.
Patrick Barlee would win each of his battles, saying he wanted to do the least number of runs on his way to the Top 4. A close battle between the two S13's of Marcus McCathie and Sam Mudge would see them go one more time, with McCathie holding on to give Mudge his first loss of the night.
Jason Ferron would send Dave Egan home in two ways, out of the competition and back to Ireland. Despite being knocked out earlier than special guests in the past, Egan was all smiles and praise for Battle Royale, saying later it felt as if he had been 'thrown into the tiger's den'. Later Sam Mudge would go up against his teammate Ben Brentnall, sliding into the concrete wall, and receiving enough damage to take him out of the night's drifting completely.
Patrick Barlee would defeat Jordan Sanderson in a very close fight on his way to battle Adge Punaro for a ticket straight to the finals, who had also not lost a battle all night. Despite being frequent at Friday Night Drift events, Punaro had not drifted competitively in three years, although you simply wouldn't have known by his consistency.
Before the final battles of the night, there was a break for a signing session with the drivers and the opportunity to meet Dave Egan. Pictures were taken and posters, number plates and even air filters were signed.
When the action returned, Adge Punaro would halt Patrick Barlee's charge and advance to the Final Two. Marcus McCathie would beat Adrian Bono in the fresh 'Firefly' Toyota 86 and then take on Jason Ferron, winning again to have another go at Adge Punaro.
Scotty Miller and Jason Ferron would go side by side in their fight for fourth place. With contact made, Miller would slide through the bowl with the front bumper holding on for dear life.
Just like in the Top 16, these two very similar set up Silvia S13's would compete side by side for victory, however this time with the overall on the line. McCathie had been dealing with a faulty alternator and had borrowed a battery from Matt Walker, nursing the car to the start line and drifting without any lights. For the final battle, it would be a best of three. It was neck and neck until the final run, as McCathie spun in the bowl during his lead run.
Marcus McCathie's mistake would hand over the win to Adge Punaro, his first competition event in three years, and he would find himself, on the top step of the podium. Punaro would dedicate his win to Anthony Carrio, an amazing member of the drift community who we lost the week prior.
Matt Walker would appropriately take home the 'Thrash Kings' award, for best displaying the spirit of drifting and absolutely shredding not only tyres all day, but his car's body panels too.
Scotty Miller would be classified fifth, with Jason Ferron fourth. Patrick Barlee would claim third with the two S13's of Adge Punaro and Marcus McCathie first and second.
Round 1 showed that there will be plenty of competition for the 2023 Battle Royale title until the end. Punaro and Barlee look to be main contenders with the amount of drifting they plan to do throughout the year. McCathie came off a win in the final round last year and a second place in round one this year, so he certainly has some momentum behind him. But don't count guys like Scotty Miller or Adrian Bono to go even better next time, or drivers like Sam Mudge who unfortunately got unlucky this time around.