We have been to Manfeild Raceway, Mt Smart Stadium, Bay Park Arena, and Hampton Downs Motorsport Park. Now we are flying down to the bottom of New Zealand to attend the 5th round of the Demon Energy D1NZ National Championship Series in Christchurch at the Ruapuna International Raceway! The only round of the series that is held in the South Island of New Zealand. It was a sell out crowd last year. What will Christchurch bring to the table this year?
The Ruapuna International Raceway which is known as the Mike Pero Motorsport Park is owned by the Canterbury Car Club. The Raceway is host to the Porsche GT3 Cup, Southern Festival of Speed, and the New Zealand Grand Prix to name just a few. The drift section has 5 long sweeping corners with one quick uphill switch which would be the achilles heel of many drivers this weekend. Apart from one heavy shower, during Saturday morning’s briefing leaving the track soaked for the next hour, the rest of the weekend was to permit sunny skies and dry conditions.
As most of the drivers are from the North Island, a long trip had to be made to get them and all of their equipment down to Christchurch. The two main options for drivers and their crew were to either trailer their car and equipment down or send everything via a container and fly down. From what I saw it looked to be about 50/50 for driving and flying. Driving however meant that they had a long day on the road before competition where flying down would give the drivers an extra day to rest and prep for the mostly unknown track that not all drivers had taken on before.
After the driver’s briefing and media’s briefing it was straight onto the track to kill the hundreds and hundreds of tyres that all the teams had brought down. Most likely more than a thousand in total. A few of the tyres were used when D1NZ drivers competed in the Drift South round a week before. Joel Paterson competed in his AE86 and placed 2nd close behind Drew Donovan who took out the top spot on the podium in the Pro Division with his S15 Silvia. This gave drivers a good couple of days to practice for the longest drift section in this season of the D1NZ series.
The 3rd corner in the drift section gave for some up close and personal action with the clipping point a few feet in front of us. Pernell Callaghan is a rather new name in the New Zealand drifting world, but he is one to look out for. With only about a years experience behind the wheel he is showing dedication like no other. Chad McKenzie’s skyline was one of my favorite styled R32 Skylines from the weekend that was competing. His driving was most definitely on point during Saturday’s practice runs and although there was no podium finish for him there is no doubt that he finished the weekend with a smile.
The day progressed and practice continued. Here we can see Joel Hedges from C’s Garage chasing Jaron Olivecrona in his Ninja styled S14 Silvia. Having never been to Ruapuna I found it much easier to get around the track than other rounds. Since only a section of the track was being used it meant that not all parts of the track were live so crossing into the infield was an easy task. Also due to the flat nature of Christchurch it made for simple viewing to see what was going on and if it was safe to cross over. There was also no live streaming (with the exception of TV3 on Sunday) for this round which gave us photogs more freedom around the track. At one point I was a mere metre away from oncoming drifters with no protection whatsoever. Luckily the weight and direction of the car would have pushed it to the other side of the track if any disaster was to happen.
It was good to see even the Pros taking up some battling during practice. Watching a battle is always more entertaining than a solo run, it also makes for better photos. This shot was taken up on the two cherry pickers which were available for spotters and judges. Being the opportunist I like to think I am, I snuck up there for one or two session. Since the track was flat, everything was viewable. Next year I think D1NZ will have to line cherry pickers the whole way along the track just for the spectators!
International drivers are a thing of few. One of those few are Michael Prosenik. He has put on a good show for the New Zealand drifting scene for this years series of D1NZ. However a rather sad decision was made that the team, the car, and Michael will be heading back to Australia before seeing the season through. He has shared many close battles with the New Zealand drivers and brought international eyes to the sport. We only hope to see more international drivers compete in next years series, as well as the return of Michael.
These are two of the angriest looking Silvias taking on some friendly battles during practice. Shayne Giles on the lead and Nico Reid on the chase. This is just before the uphill switch that would see a few drivers going wide on and hitting the grass. However not during this run, both drivers kept it tight during the whole drift section.
I’m not sure exactly who was having more fun over the weekend, the competition drivers or these two. Every time I looked over there they were, eagerly watching the action or doing jumps over the ripple strips to grab debris off the track or reposition clipping points. With an eventful first half of the day it was time to head back to the pits to have some grub, gulp down an ice cold refreshment and see what local talent I could scout under the Link ECU tent and spectators parking lot.
The cars in Christchurch are on a whole nother level compared to Auckland. They don’t do half ass, it’s all or nothing for them. When Chris told me the owners of these cars were interested in a feature article, I said to him “I only see one car?”. I looked again and saw two, then another look and saw three. Sadly the trio could not be together as one was engineless at that moment in time. I was still blown away by the amount of attention this pair of cars owned by Cany and Jared from Slide Wize Crew received. Look out for a feature of these two bad boys on our website soon!
Another one of the stand out cars was this super stylish old school Toyota DX. It’s to be featured soon in the New Zealand Performance Car magazine by master photog Richard Opie. So look out for that to see more pictures of how cool Zero 3 really is. One hint, there are no gauges whatsoever.
Every now and then you look at sponsors and go okay, I can see the correlation. Then on the odd occasion you see one that makes you double take your thought process. Benjamin Wilkinson pilots this black and yellow Pak’n’Save sponsored S13 Nissan Silvia. Red Bull sponsored drives of course get free Red Bull. I wonder what Benjamin’s sponsors give him? Never the less he knows how to drive! I just can’t wait for the time when a driver is sponsored by KFC, that driver will be winning. Maybe not on the track but that doesn’t matter when you have KFC for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
After my KFC-less lunch it was back out on the track for some more practice runs and team battles before Pro-Am qualification. The C’s Garage drivers Joel and Adam, and the Jenkins drivers Ben and Troy always make for some good entertainment. They look like cars right out of the motherland that is Japan itself. It’s crazy to think how much a drivers ability can change when pressure increases. Just like those hilarious singing shows, drivers crack under pressure. However afterwards, when the pressure is gone they can pull the best runs of the weekend.
Afternoon had now hit, the Pro-Am drivers had sped through qualification. Plenty of single runs were had (usually the most uneventful part of the day). The track conditions hadn’t changed at all since the sun came out in the morning so every drive had a hot and predictable track to place two qualifying runs on. A score out of 100 that three judges will give them. The score based on three factors, that of style, angle and line.
Battle time was upon us, the best time for a photog to be out on the track as this is when drivers should be door knocking to see who is home. It’s times like these when nerves get the better of you and one bad chase can knock you out of the round. The top Pro-Am battles were to be held on Sunday in the morning and drivers would be crowned with the Pros later on in the afternoon. It had been a long first day in Christchurch, but It wasn’t over yet, we were off to meet up with another avid Silvia fan and owner to shoot and feature her classy S15 Silvia. As I hit the road, I wonder what Day 2 will bring. Who will take the top spot on the podium and be crowned winner of Round 5 at the Demon Energy D1NZ Championship Series.
After a late night out and a couple hours of sleep I was back at the track. After morning practice was done it was time for the semi finals of the Pro-Am to take place. These four drivers, Troy Jenkins, Joel Hedges, Joel Paterson, and Adam Davis are also leading the series in total points. It’s a better day than yesterday, not so hot, a shield of clouds, perfect for photographing the day’s events.
The first battle was between Troy and Adam. Troy in the Team Jenkins Motorsport Nissan Silvia S15 running an RB30DET Skyline engine and Adam in the Mimico Rotary powered Nissan 180SX with an S14A front end conversion. Adam just wasn’t able to shake the mighty RB engine, Troy went through to battle for 1st and 2nd with Adam battling for 3rd and 4th.
Next up in the semi finals battle was C’s Garage driver Joel Hedges in the SR20DET powered Nissan Silvia S13 with a 180SX front end conversion battling Joel Paterson in the mighty Toyota AE86. Both of these drivers and cars are a pleasure to watch. When they aren’t battling you will still see them rubbing doors during practice runs. Unfortunately for Paterson, he couldn’t keep up with Hedges pushing him back to battle for 3rd and 4th. With Hedges going through to 1st and 2nd place with the win.
Mechanical faults would cause Joel to take his 5 minutes to drive back to the pits to fix the issues, not being able to solve the problem in time Troy lends his 5 minutes so the 1st and 2nd battle could take place. As bad luck would persist 10 minutes just wasn’t enough for the C’s Garage drive to fix the issues handing the win the Troy by default. The 3rd and 4th place battle was super close, both Paterson and Adam have the potential to take the series win, with a very close first run, a one more time was announced. Paterson coming out on top taking the final place on the podium and Adam coming in at a close 4th.
Lunchtime hit again, it was time to take a trip back to the pits to see what I could find lurking around. As I spend most of my time focusing on Silvias, my knowledge of other chassis’ are rather low. If I could however have an old school car, it would be one like this for Sunday cruises. Long, low and loud are my only criteria for these kind of classics.
Daynom Templeman’s FD RX-7 brings its own style to the drifting scene in New Zealand. With a turboed 2JZ power plant under the hood he sure knows how to put on a smoke show for the crowd. As one might know, drifting, compared to some other motorsports is rather tiresome on the vehicles. So some drivers this series have not only developed a new car but also kept their old one as a back up vehicle. This is something that Mad Mike used to do and still does, along with Fanga Dan and Daynom. There is nothing worse than breaking a diff or blowing a gearbox to bits in qualifying and not being able to compete in the battles. A second car ensures drivers that if the primary car was to have mechanical issues, the backup car is right there waiting to burn some tyres.
Some people however put everything they have got into one car to make it shine like no other. A perfect example of this was Jonny’s super sick R32 skyline. This thing broke necks like no other. It wasn’t only just a trailer queen, but also a drift king when it put down some rubber during the local’s lunch time drift session. If you want modified cars, head to Auckland. If you want countless amounts of style head straight to Christchurch and spectate at a local Team SHHH or Street Meat track day. I can guarantee you will not be disappointed!
It was time to get back out on the track and for drivers to get a little more practice in before the main event of qualifying and the top 32 championship. Bruce Tannock was looking good throughout the day with plenty of angle and copious amounts of artificial smoke.
You may just have to watch out for this young gun. Having only just left teenagerhood, Joe Kukutai drives this menacing Rockstar Energy R32 Skyline packed with an RB30DET weapon. Having attended countless amounts of Meremere drift days, Joe’s skill has improved ten fold. If you want to be left on the edge of your seat, this young feller is the one to watch during battles.
With a few minutes left before qualifying the Christchurch locals hit the track to put on a sweet display of drifting and tandems for the crowd. Andy’s sick 180SX or as some like to call it a SIL80 flowed smoothly around the track with Jonny’s R32. Packing an RB25DET Andy’s SIL80 is not something to mess around with, unless you want unlimited amounts of smiles on your face. Look out for a feature on the yellow bee in the coming weeks.
Ben Jenkins took on the challenge to run it with the southlanders. Plenty of door to door action was had between these two and the rest of the Christchurch folk. As time would have it however, practice needed to come to an end and the main event was to start.
Qualifying went smoothly with the usual names hitting the battles. Michael Prosnik in his Team SCR Supercharged V8 Nissan Silvia S13 will hopefully give the New Zealanders a run for their money. With consistent runs throughout the whole weekend he sits towards the front end of the battle grid.
Drivers are starting to feel the pressure. The whole trip down to Christchurch is in preparation for the battles. As the commentators go through the top 32, each and every driver gets their chance to stand proudly next to their weapon of choice onlooking the crowd.
A new emphasis on the word style has come into play for this season of D1NZ judging. As drivers now get points deducted for missing body panels. So looking good while killing it out on the track is just as important during the two qualifying runs.
It was now about three in the afternoon. Daylight savings had ended in the morning so we were losing sunlight fast with the combined effort of thick clouds above. Track conditions still held up, with only a couple of hours left before the sun would set behind the mountains leaving Christchurch in darkness it was time to get underway with hopefully some of the fastest, closest and most teeth clenching battles of this season.
No matter what type of motorsport background you have, it’s hard to deny the level of skill and commitment drivers competing in the Pro class have. This is balls to the wall, full throttle, edge of your seat kind of entertainment. Sadly Joe Kukutai missed out on a podium this round being kicked out by Curt Whittaker who was putting on a A grade show all day long.
It’s great to see the experienced battle it out with the newer generation of drifting. Here you can see Daynom Templeman lurking in Shayne Giles smoke cloud. A set of tyres on this track only last one or two taps when battling as hard as these guys. Because the majority of teams are from the North Island of New Zealand they needed to bring enough tyres to last throughout practice all the way up the final battles with the hope that they would make it into the top four. Unfortunately for these two drivers, they would not being seeing the podium this time round.
Dave Steedman from Team DSR racing and C’s Garage driver Joel Hedges always have some tight battles. Both Dave and Joel have team mates in the Pro-Am series who battled for podium spots the previous day. So to see the older brothers of sorts battling with the Pros gives somewhat of a deja vu effect. These cars however are bigger and badder with plenty more horsepower hiding under the hood.
Nico Reid in his Nissan Silvia S15 was having engine problems throughout the day, you could hear it spluttering from any point on the track. Four times D1NZ Drift Champion Gaz Whiter was close on his tail trying to make sure that his chance at a fifth D1NZ title would still be in his grasps, when it’s time for the final round at Pukekohe Park Raceway. Pukekohe supposedly has the fastest entry in the world where cars come in at a slow run of 200kmp/h. Nico’s driving despite engine problems was still better than Gaz’s taking him through to the next round of battles.
Bruce Tannock hasn’t step foot onto the podium for a while now, so for him to battle in the top four gave all of his fans the hope that he will once again grab that podium spot. Curt Whittaker gave a solid chase run and then another textbook lead run meaning that Curt would go through to the top two to battle Nico Reid and Bruce drops back to battle for the last spot on the podium against former drift king Fanga Dan in his Holden Commodore.
Watching Nico’s lead run you would have thought he had it in the bag. A clean line, lots of smoke and a decent gap between him and Curt. If only it were that easy. Watching Curt take the lead run it was clear who the winner of Round 5 in Christchurch would be as we all watched the former Pro-Am champion slowly drive through the drift section. Nico had been battling engine problems this whole series, to see him get a podium spot was a huge surprise. Obviously Nico has full control over the car even with engine malfunctioning problems. So as it would seem to be, Curt Whittaker takes out the top spot on the podium. Battling through some tough opponents, Curt kept his cool and battled to the end which would in turn see him with the biggest trophy and smile of the day.
When a driver wins a round or championship, all the spotlight is directed at them. Being behind the scenes and around the pits for the whole 2014/2015 season now it’s a simple fact that without the drivers team they would not be finishing on a podium anytime soon. The amount of effort and dedication that the team members have towards their drivers is unfathomable. Changing diffs in a few minutes, tyres in seconds, even staying overnight to swap out engine and gearboxes isn’t unheard of in this sport. So I’d like to put out a rather large thank you to all team members that help their drivers get out on the track to do what they do best.
The two day Easter Weekend event had come to an end and victors were about to be crowned. Troy Jenkins took out first spot in the Pro-am division putting him in first place with 417 points going into the final round. Joel Hedges took runner-up and now sits at 412 points, a close 5 points between Troy and himself. Joel Paterson takes the last spot on the podium and goes into the final round with a nice 386 points with Adam Davis sitting closely behind him at 373 points. With only 44 points difference between 1st place and 4th place it’s going to be a close finish at the last round in May next month held all the way back in Auckland.
The Pro series points are spread out a bit more loosely. Curt Whittaker steals first place with a series total of 388 points which puts him in 2nd place behind Championship leader Darren Kelly who has a nice lead of 423.5 points. Nico Reid settles for second place pushing the Pro-Am Champion up to 9th position with 259.5 points on the series table. Bruce Tannock grabs the last spot on the podium and creeps up just behind Nico Reid on the series points in 10th place with 255.5 points. 3rd and 4th position going into the final round at Pukekohe Park Raceway are held by Andrew Redward with 385 points and Fanga Dan with 382 points. Only 6 points between 2nd and 4th place. Darren Kelly has a big lead heading into the 6th and last round of the 2014/2015 Demon Energy D1NZ Championship, but can he take out the series win and be the first ever Pro-Am and Pro New Zealand Drift King? Well, only time will tell.
Victory burnouts, the last part of the massive two days of drifting. This meant that the adventure was now over and it was time for drivers to head back to reality until the final round later in May held back in Auckland at Pukekohe. A track that only a handful of drivers have drifted. It’s going to be an epic ending to a D1NZ series, who will take out Pro-Am and who will be crowned the Drift King of the Pros? Pukekohe is home to the worlds fastest entry with speeds over 220km/h. So pack your bags folks and get ready for another extraordinary weekend of drifting!
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Photos: Shaun Constable ~ Words: Shaun Constable ~ Proofer: Chadd Davis
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