We promised everyone a spectacular season finale and that is exactly what was delivered at RD4 - Night Strike at Raceland Krško. 32nd Drift Squadron’s event is perhaps still a little young to call traditional, but the hype and anticipation surrounding it, as well as the great vibe throughout the event are strong indicators that Night Strike is traditionally excellent.
To add to the build-up, free drift practice started already on Friday and along with drivers getting a feel for the track and the layout, the day ended with a Game of Drift that was brilliant fun for the drifters and spectators alike.
But Saturday soon came and playtime was over. It was time for the last race of the season, the glorious season finale in the glow of reflectors - operation Night Strike had commenced. Going into RD4, 8 drivers still had a mathematical chance of being crowned the new Adria Drift Series king. 7 of them were among the 30 names on the starting grid, ready to claim the title. And the competition has never been more fierce - two-time series champion Uroš Berdajs was finally back with the S65-powered BMW E36 and next to him in the paddock, the Italian newcomers - Alberto Cona and Gianluca Lazzaroni of 01 team, along with Salvatore Vitale - meant business as well. Tomislav Kovačević made his premier Adria Drift Series appearance with the turbo E46 (560HP), a car well-known by the hardcore fans of the series, while guys like Christopher Böhm, who drove amazingly in Hungary 2 weeks ago, but lacked the horsepower for that track, were set to prove themselves on the far more technical track here in Krško. This is also home base for Miha Petač, who proved he knows the track well by qualifying in 10th place. The first of the championship contenders, who fell out of contention, was quite surprisingly Zoltan Szanto, who finished in 17th place. A mere point more and he would have been 13th, which goes to show just how close the drivers are. Marko Brkljačić, whose skill is unquestionable, only managed 15th place and Berdajs finished outside the Top 16 as well. The big winners of qualifying session, on the other hand, were Andras Molnar, Marko Brdek and Alberto Cona, who placed from 1st to 3rd respectively. Clemens Kauderer in the HGK Eurofighter took 4th, ahead of Gregor Kavalir, Tony Višković, Lukas Dobias and Alen Gregorič, the latter 2 still within grasp of becoming the series champion.
Top 16 started with an amazing Hungarian battle between Andras Molnar and Elek Borcsik, the first of whom prevailed to face championship leader Lukas Dobias in the Great 8. Lukas priorly eliminated Ivan Vogrig of Italy, whose countrymen Vitale, Cona and Favaron also fell short in Top 16. Stefan Bloder’s hopes of winning the title were ended by a loss to Kauderer, while both Višković brothers got past their Italian opponents to face each other in the Great 8. Croatian battles started started already in the Top 16 with a magnificent match-up of Marko Brdek and Marko Brkljačić, whereas Alen Gregorič eliminated Miha Petač in the battle of the only Slovenian drivers to make the qualifying cut.
Great 8 was spectacular on paper, but to see these drivers all-out under the lights, illuminating the asphalt from which giant smoke clouds were rising into the night sky is beyond words. Lukas Dobias had no option but to watch on the Final 4 and hope his championship position would not be altered by any of the remaining drivers after having lost to Andras Molnar. His Final 4 opponent was to be Clemens Kauderer, who beat Gregor Kavalir to get there. In a very tightly-contested brotherly duel that had even seen a OMT, in the end it was the younger brother, Tony who would move on. And then there was the last Great 8 pair - Marko Brdek and Alen Gregorič. Both guys still in hopes of becoming champion. Two young guys, who made a name for themselves this season. Moreover, guys who were about to go head-to-head, door-to-door for the incredible 3rd time this season and if their previous battles are anything to go by, it was going to be epic. It was and it took a one-more-time to decide the winner - Marko Brdek, who was then up against his countryman Tony Višković for a spot in the Final battle. But before that, it was time for the most highly anticipated battle of all - Andras Molnar, the former European vice-champion in his Nissan S13 against the former King of Europe Pro2 champion Kauderer. Between their runs, race control ordered a short pause so as the smoke would clear and enable the judges to see the second run.
As it turned out, Clemens Kauderer and Ivan Višković had to battle it out for the last spot on the podium, whereas Andras Molnar and Marko Brdek were under the spotlight in the Final Battle. The 3rd place battle did not disappoint, but Kauderer proved to be a nut too hard to crack for I. Višković. The night had long fallen, but the spectators persisted in large numbers as there was only 1 battle to go. A single battle to determine not only the winner of the race, but the 2019 season champion.
Andras Molnar was the first to lead and his initiation was on point going into the first corner. But even the judges and race control seemed to have stopped breathing for a second after seeing Marko Brdek’s ‘full send’ into the first corner, chasing the Hungarian. Just as everyone started breathing again and cheers started erupting, Molnar’s car straightened out. It lost all power, having struggled a bit with overheating throughout the elimination battles, and it caught up just at the pinnacle of the action. The spectators were deprived of what we’re all sure would be another epic battle, but in the end it was Marko Brdek with the 1st place trophy held high in his hand, while the winner of RD3, Andras Molnar, had to be satisfied with taking second.
And the championship? With Brdek taking his 2nd win of the season, it was a close call between him and Lukas Dobias. Molnar finished 3rd in the standings, but all eyes were focused on the ceremony to declare the champion. Among teams, it was the Austrian Nanashi Drift Dudes (Stefan Bloder, Nikolay Stefanov) who claimed the title just ahead of Brdek Drift Team, but Marko Brdek got his moment when he was declared the Adria Drift Series 2019 champion, ahead of runner-up Lukas Dobias.
What an epic event this has been. What a season, no less. With the growing support of fans and partners, as well as excellent drivers entering the series, the only question now is… What awaits us next year?