The first round of the BRCA Nationals took place at the popular Cotswold Model Car Club, which recently celebrated its 10-year anniversary. Team Associated made full use of the testing available at the circuit to dial in the new TC7 car ahead of the first major outdoor race for the new platform in the UK.
The weather forecast was looking mixed, which meant drivers would need to make the most of the track time they could get. The opening qualifier proved exactly that, with rain falling halfway through the B heat, leaving the best times to be set from the lower heats. The BRCA rules, unlike most other national organizations, do not call for track conditions to be equal throughout the whole round, which left the Team Associated drivers, and a number of the other expected contenders, outside the top ten after the first round.
However, this didn't deter lead TC7 driver Chris Grainger; his experience shone through as he set the fastest times in the wet second and dry fourth qualifiers, backed up by a second-place in round three, securing the overall Top Qualifier spot. The TC7 proved to be very adaptable, demonstrating great speed in vastly different track conditions throughout the weekend. With pole position secured for the three-leg A Finals, Chris was joined in the main show by fellow Associated/Reedy drivers Matthew White in sixth and Zak Smith in ninth.
The opening A Final saw Chris under early pressure from former champ Olly Jefferies, but Chris' pace was enough to force Olly to push too hard and make a mistake through the infamous Cotswolds chicane, allowing Chris to cruise to the win, with Matthew White moving his TC7 up to third at the finish.
The second leg saw Olly again pressuring Chris, along with defending champion Elliott Harper joining in the battle. Elliott and Olly had a coming together, which then allowed former IFMAR Champion Andy Moore into second. But even the 2006 world champ wasn't quick enough to catch Chris and his TC7, which meant Chris comfortably wrapped up the first BRCA National with a leg to spare.
However, Chris wasn't done there, and wanted to make it a clean sweep of the finals. The final race saw a nose-to-tail freight train for the entire five minutes, consisting of Chris, Olly, Elliott, Andy, and EFRA Champion Alexander Hagberg. But none of them could come close enough to Chris to defy him taking all three legs of the A Final, and a secure lead in the BRCA Championship at the end of the first round. Matthew took fifth overall, with Zak eighth for Team Associated.
In the Pro Stock (13.5 boosted) class, Team Associated was represented in the A Final by Mark 'Waldo' Wallace (Chris Grainger's expert pit man) and Chris Clarke. Mark qualified second behind the defending Pro Stock champion, with Chris lining up third. After three hectic A Finals, Mark secured a strong second place overall, with Chris ending up fifth.
The result was a fantastic way to start the 2016 outdoor campaign, and credit must go to the entire UK Team Associated on-road team for their teamwork in the lead up to and during the event. The TC7 proved its competitiveness amongst some of the UK and world's best drivers.
Thanks to Oli Meggitt for this report.