The Rush 2011 review, Brands Hatch 25/6th June

Start Ramps Graham Driver

Very few British Slalom Skaters can resist the draw of Brands Hatch. Since the seventies, the Kent Motor Racing Circuit has been the spiritual home of British Slalom Competition. Having played host to Martin Sweeney’s Guinness Book of Records 100 Cone Challenge, the Grand Prix Section at Hawthorn Hill has to be on every skater’s checklist for racing.

How easy is it to gain permission to use this part of the track? Not very. We last skated here in 2005 with American skaters Richie Carrasco and Michael Dong. An event at Brands makes the Olympics look like a regular trip to the gym. It was a combination of Rob Ashby’s stoic perseverance, diplomatic dexterity and inability to understand negative response that opened doors again. And Glen Horncastle from Modified Live saying ‘why the Devil not?’ With numbers support from Jamie Tharp at Dangerous Decks, The Rush 2011 was on. Time was heard to creak as vintage skaters zombied back in to life to take on the new blood.

Overnight rain had the racers on edge. The weather reports had suggested the reverse. Water was dripping from the bridge on Hawthorn Hill that was just after the traditional start point. Sliding hazard. With team effort the Octane Sport ramps and timing gear were rapidly moved to the steeper part of the hill just below the bridge, ensuring that riders were thrown straight in to the fastest part of the slope.

Whilst registration was ongoing, Chris Linford and Pig City’s Mmedo Duffort set a hybrid slalom course that started out with a rapid left turn to cut pace, followed by wide, sweeping rhythmic sections and a final third of two tight groups of cones which could throw the complacent off balance and test the agility of a rider at speed. A carnage area.

Mike Allison and Paul Coupe started the running and were quickly put to the sword by the challenging course. It took Brands old-hand Frank Wheeler to open the qualifying account with a time of 18.74 seconds, using the flowing ski-stance style of the seventies. With Pat Holden running a 17.35, it was left to tactical late runners Louis ‘Slipa’ Selby and Bruno Oliveira to blitz the pace. Along with Sam Gordon, both qualified with times in the sixteens; Bruno achieving a group best of 16.41 seconds. It became clear that faster times were being set on the right-hand, orange course. Team Octane held places first, second and third.

We had a message through that the Brands management had cut the session time from 9pm to 5pm. After a discussion, Rob decides that the A Group (top 16 riders) should be run through whilst the weather still held.

By 4:30 just four riders remained; the top three qualifiers and Chris Charalambous, who had just despatched Mmedo in a very even race. Slipa, despite his recent ankle injury, outpumped Sam to make his way to the final, whilst Bruno took out the vintage LSD rider. The two Hyde Park training partners battled out for first place. After run one the times were pretty equal, but with Bruno on the orange course for run two, the die was cast. Victory for the tattooed Brazilian!


With Sam getting third to Charalambous’s fourth in the run off for minor places, the slalom bunch decamped to the fields behind the track for locally sourced fish, chips and beer. It was a peaceful evening, kept alive by the bullfighting donuts of a Cosworth-powered red Ford Capri as it spun around a lone figure under the stars.

Sunday heralded the attack of the killer Bs on a blisteringly hot day. After team fry-up in the Kentagon, the remaining qualifiers were joined by latecomers and the Double DQd in order to form a bracket of sixteen. Luke Baxter and Graham Driver may have turned up do GS, but they battled their way through the rounds to take on Steve ‘Conan’ Greenwood and Rob Ashby respectively in the semis. Organiser Rob, determined after so little practice, found time to move away from the timing sheets and knock out his opponent. Graham,in turn, went on to slay Conan, whilst Luke took the group win after Rob pulled out of the course. Queen B!

Now that the hybrid was wrapped up, the Giant Slalom came into view on the opposite hill using the offset camber of Hawthorne Bend. No-one knows or understands the layout of Brands Hatch better than Chris Linford (Clingfilm), so again he was chosen as official course setter. Chris had not only skated the track for thirty years, but as a motorsport fan had seen it from all angles. With Louis and Bruno testing the course for safety and fluidity, a testing single-lane run was laid out using the full width of the track. The top section was flat and needed pumping, whilst a rapid left followed by right hand traverse and back tested traction on the steeper part of the course, finishing with a fast in-line straight section to the line.

Under Sam Slaven’s control, Michael Stride’s Top Gear style leader board gave a good visual guide as to how the times were progressing. Although we had planned to do three runs, once again time constraints meant that the best of two runs would decide the race. Louis quickly took control of the top with a 33.38 second run, with Bruno close by with 34.39 seconds. Sam’s low GS style moved him into second place with a time of 33.81, still half a second behind Louis. Bruno was frustrated by the lack of a third run, but Slipa had won the day easily, with his fast pumping style gaining speed on the top of the course that was maintained all the way through to the final tapeswitch. The Pavel Teamriders had taken first and second place. Loius had seized the weekend podium over-all.


The gnarliest bit? Mmedo’s full tilt pearler at the bottom of the hill, straight into full body slide. With road rash scoring a wide purple mark across his hip, the Frenchman had officially won his Brands Badge.

The closest racing? After the top three, there was just a second-and-a-half separating Mmedo, Vincent Tanguy, Rob, Charalambous, Sam Slaven, Ian S-C, Paul T-C, Jon Merrifield and Jason Martin. With tight competition like that, it looks good for the rest of the season. Next stop Brighton.

Thanks very much to Rob Ashby from the UKSSA and Glen Horncastle at Modified Live for making the weekend happen, and to Michael Stride at Octane Sport and Paul Nash at Glastonbury Ales for their continued support.

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