Round four of the 2019 Drift Masters European Championship saw the series roll into the vibrant and exciting city of Riga in Latvia – more specifically the charismatic Bikernieku Circuit nestled in the heart of a wild forest.
For drift drivers and fans alike, Riga holds a special place in their heart, and the 2019 layout is one of the fastest, most exciting and dangerous in the calendar. Underdog British driver Martin Richards would come out of nowhere to steal the show, beating all that stood before him, with Russian star Gocha Chivchyan finishing in second and Jack Shanahan completing the podium in third.
During qualifying on Saturday morning, it looked like Irish domination was set to continue, with an all Irish top-four locking down the qualifying order. Jack Shanahan once again finished in P1 with a 95-point run, with James Deane taking P2, Conor Shanahan in P3 and Duane McKeever in P4.
In front of a capacity crowd, the stage was set for some truly memorable battles. The Top 32 bracket threw up some huge surprises, with points leader Duane McKeever being knocked out by Austria’s Brandy Brandner, closely followed by 2018 champion James Deane, who fell due to engine issues. Conor Shanahan wasn’t far behind either, falling out of the Top 32 against local wildcard Eriks Ulass. Ireland’s last hope was Jack Shanahan, who beat Michal Reichart in the Top 32, before overcoming Andrius Vasiliauskas in the Top 16 and Tor Arne Kvia in the Top 8.
Elsewhere in the Top 16, Elias Hountondji overcame Max Miller, Adam Zalewski bested Max Heidrich, and Gocha Chivchyan ran a riot against Benediktas Cirba, much to the elation of his travelling fan club.
Meanwhile, British driver Martin Richards was quietly making light of everyone in his way. Local wildcard Mihkel Norman Tults went toe-to-toe with Richards and fell in the Top 16, before Elias Hountondji took the Driftworks driver One More Time in the Top 8. The Red Bull driver couldn’t hold back Richards, however, and he went on to storm past Poland’s Adam Zalewski in the semi-finals.
Chivchyan against Jack Shanahan in the other semi-final was a battle to remember, with the two drivers trading paint throughout the course, setting the scene for a final that no-one could have called earlier in the day – Chivchyan versus Richards.
As the crowd rose to their feet and the two drivers burst into sight, they were mere inches apart at full throttle. After battle one it was too close to call, however, a mistake by Chivchyan in the second run would be enough for Martin Richards to take the win!
With Richards dominating the top step of the podium, Gocha Chivchyan would take second, with Jack Shanahan in third and Adam Zalewski in fourth.
Up next is round five of the 2019 Drift Masters European Championship, which takes place at Ferropolis in Germany, at a decommissioned steel mine of all places – it looks set to be an event to remember, in an incredible setting!
We’ll see you on August 16th-17th for this unique showdown, 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.