We’re back to the beautiful Tauranga’s Bay Park for another week of clear skies, dry track and clouds of smoke. I’ve had a bit of a hiatus from New Zealand’s drifting as I’ve been a guest to some of Japan’s talent, however now that I’m back in the country I can’t wait to experience once again one of NZ’s most entertaining drift events.
Missing the first round at Manfield’s Raceway meant that I missed all the new entrants laying rubber for the first time with the D1NZ banner on their windscreen. So obviously, round two would be the first time seeing these new pro-am entrants take on one another.
The track itself is one of my favourite in the D1NZ series line up, and not because I don’t just have to walk far. My reasoning is it’s a manmade track, meaning it’s no one’s home track, everyone is on the same level, same knowledge, and same practice time, so it makes for a fair fight of big balls and raw talent.
Sadly, Tauranga did not live up to last year’s weather conditions. Last year we were graced with blue skies all weekend long, this January we were not so lucky. On Friday the skies gave us showers, downpours, torrential rain, and puddles big enough to engulf one’s competition car. Let’s just hope Saturday brings better conditions.
It’s nice to come back to the known after being in the unknown for so long. Even just seeing familiar cars was a pleasant sight to my eyes. Although the rain wasn’t as welcomed for us photographers, usually rain or hail I’d be out there all day long just like last year at Pukekohe’s finals. I just happened to forget trash bags to protect my gear from the downpour that lasted all day long.
As you may have gathered it’s not much fun in the rain for us road cones, but for drivers it’s a different case. Mainly, how cheap it is to run the car in the rain. No tire changes every few laps and little to zero engine problems considering how cold it was. It was not all win win for the drivers, some had the bad fortune of not having windows, only nets. So keeping water out of the cabin started to show itself as one of the biggest problems of the day.
Some people took it easy in the rain, not wanting to make contact with the concrete walls, and a few drivers flourished under the rainy and wet conditions. One of, if not my favourite drivers proving his talent on Saturday was Ian McShean piloting his rotary wagon around the circuit. No one lap was boring to watch when smoke or later in the afternoon water came pouring off the rear wheels.
I was actually thinking in the rain, more drivers would crash. On the contrary though, drivers held off the gas and played it safe in the wet with only a few knocks here and there. Maybe it’s not worth the risk? Or maybe the drivers just didn’t have the talent they thought they needed to rub their massive wings along the top of the concrete barriers.
I had a little small hope that the rain would back off in the afternoon, I didn’t want to think that the whole day would be a battle of getting wet and taking photos. It was though, and the rain just kept on coming, and coming. Not ideal, but you have to take what you’re given and work around it.
Pro-arm which is now labelled as Pro-sport had qualifying and top 16 battles scheduled for Friday night, at the consensus of the drivers this was postponed. So all the action was now to happen on the Saturday night, giving all drivers a bit more practice in the wet conditions. Was this a good decision? Or tomorrow would we be in trouble with the same bad weather as today gave us?
By about 16:00 all of the media had taken cover, the track was missing it’s usual road cones to give some contrast to the dull and grey carpark. With the track supposedly occupied until the setting of the sun, I decided to pack it in early to recover from a very challenging day shooting!
Ohh lordy… The skies heard my constant moaning yesterday. My wish was granted overnight which meant the skies showed a clear blue colour and white fluffy clouds. It was going to be a long day considering round two was classed as a nigh round, and yesterday’s events were cut short. A good 12 hours day ahead, so let’s get into it.
This season of D1NZ will bring international drivers to the table, with a different start every round. Tauranga’s star is America’s Ryan Tuerck, a constant contester for first place in Formula Drift on the other side of the world. Will he be able to take first spot at NZ’s top drifting championship or will he crack under pressure? We are all human after all…
The newest car to come out of the D1NZ stables, the car that all international drivers will be piloting is this brand new Toyota 86 with a swapped out Subaru engine and in its place a nice and big 2JZ monster of a heart.
By about 11:00 all white blemishes in the deep blue sky had vanished, and to our deep enjoyment it would happen to stay that way all day long. Hundreds of people were pouring through the gates, show cars were glistening in the sunlight and the artificial smoke was, for another year about to grace the carpark turned racetrack at Bay Park.
One of the most talked about new cars was Daynom Templeman’s new nitro injected BMW easily mistaken for a rocket ship and now the most powerful car in the series.
Yes, I admit livery on cars do look cool, and New Zealanders are doing a better job at it every year. However there’s nothing quite like a clean and untouched pro-sport car with no sponsors and only his family and friends getting them through.
There were actually quite a few unsponsored pro-sport cars competing this season. Some of the cars I’ve watched countless times in their element at Meremere Dragway rubbing wall after wall all the way down the run off of the drag strip and even pulling off impossible looking reverse entries. It’s a different ball game at D1NZ, you’re competing to win, so some of the drivers will experience pressure that has never been present before while drifting… Will they crack under the pressure? Or take out the round win?
If you’ve never been to Bay Park and experienced one of the most vibrant rounds of D1NZ this is what the track looks like. A short run up into a long winded first turn with an outside clipping point, into corner two and three with two more outside clipping points. Next is the aggressive switch into the fourth corner with a long concrete barrier considered as the last clipping point towards the finish line. Not a considerably long track, or one with many corners, but as you can see it’s lined with danger points, concrete walls at every clipping point would prove a battle for every driver to overcome.
Finally, after so long away from the smoke that New Zealand drift cars produce I inhale my first few puffs of pure white rubbery goodness. The action packed day had finally kicked off and the spectators were promised a good show into the night.
Current Pro champion Darren Kelly was looking strong into the morning pulling off some consistent runs. Pedal braking into the first corner to shift the weight to the front so the back just slides out. It’s rather interesting seeing smoke come from both the rear and front wheels. It’s a mystery what some drivers do in the pilot’s seat, and how they move the cars around the way they do.
Pro-ams last and final champ Troy Jenkins was setting a good pace coming into his second round of Pro Championship. Clean runs and plenty of smoke could see him getting his first big boys trophy.
The ground was getting nice and hot, drivers were starting to push harder and harder during practice to sort out their perfect runs before qualifying. The squat on some of these cars are unreal, it’s like they’re stalking their prey and counting down until they pounce.
A little too fast and furious for some drivers as they experienced the pain of coming in way to hot and making contact with the unforgiving wall. The pain of having your car smashed to pieces is something I have yet to experience myself. To my surprise, Aden was back out within an hour smoking more tires.
Bay Park claimed damage to more cars than I can remember, a gruelling track that takes no prisoners. One little mistake causes damage, last year hearts were broken as cars were hitting the walls like a magnet sticking to a fridge. This year saw a little less loose body parts, but still a fair amount.
Come to think about it, there was something missing this time. Something that last year had that the crowd missed out on this time round. Team battles, this was one of the best ideas out of D1NZ headquarters, four cars only battling for the cheers of the crowd. For one reason or another, this little gem of an idea didn’t transfer into 2016, how sad indeed.
Our two international drivers were on point throughout the day, Michael Prosenik easily took the award for best driver of the weekend, constantly on the door of the lead driver. Aussie bred he’s been shaking up the D1NZ championship and he’s getting better and better every time I watch him.
Veteran of the sport Curt Whittaker and team mate Shane Allen know each other’s driving style like the back of their hands. Battle after battle had door on door action between the two V8 machines. It makes for good viewing when teammates get paired up with only the winner going through, however it also means one driver will have to deal with losing to their mates.
Some quick entertainment, while there was a break at the track saw Tuerck coming out and getting the crowd off their feet and shouting for some t-shirts. Mike’s brand new missile car took its first outing on Saturday struggling to spin the massive tires on 18inch wheels. While it may not be 100% finished it sure looks the part for a simple missile car, doesn’t it?
Benjamin Wilkinson’s newly built Pak’n’Save S15 was looking angry all day long. The rear wing is positioned perfectly where it just glides along the top of the barriers then sparks come gushing out of the metal works. Troy was showing constant talent holding his ground behind Ben, proving that he deserved the title of Pro-am champion.
It was a spectacular day, I can’t stress this enough, and the position of the sun setting was just magical. Setting right behind the judge’s tower, pouring that highly desired golden sun right in front of my lens. It’s like a photographer’s wet dream.
Skyline vs Skyline. During my short few year stint doing drifting photography, I’ve never really known how the chase driver actually sees what’s in front of them. They’re covered in smoke, from the lead car and their own one. I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s basically raw talent to the bone.
I’ve tried shooting other kinds of motorsports, circuit and drag. But nothing is as exciting that I’ve experienced as drifting. One of the reasons is the smoke, and the way it gently slides out from underneath the guards, the smell also, that smell of rubber really is like nothing else.
Pro-Sport drivers gave us a good show during battles, showing you can chase just as good with a car with much less power. It’s great, the variety of cars that enter D1NZ. There are no regulations of what kind of car you can use, and it should definitely stay that way. It separates drifting from other kinds of racing. When you can see a BMW battle a 30 year old Silvia, it’s a site of beauty.
The pit walk showed crowds of people pouring into the pits. Hundreds of different colour shirts was all you could see. This is the time where people can see their favourite cars up close…
Or get their favourite drivers to sign a poster for them. Although it’s little old New Zealand, we still idolise our drifters and they just play the fame down like a good Kiwi would.
Some drivers use this time to work on their broken car, or make tweaks to the suspension as the track heats up. It’s a good time to inspect how the drivers and teams work on their cars, have a casual chat to them or take a quick photo next to the cars.
In New Zealand we bring out the top 32 and line them up in front of the crowd. Each driver has a turn to talk about how the days going, what their challenges were, and what they plan to do to win the round. When Ryan Tuerck’s turn came up, there was a road cone overload, those American’s sure do know how to attract a crowd that’s for sure.
This was the first time Wilkinson had actually driven his car. Straight from the driveway to the track. That’s obviously not advised, but watching Wilkinson over the weekend showed me that his team definitely knows how to build a competent and consistent competition drift car.
It was starting to get late into the night, the sun was getting really low now and we were getting closer to finding out who would be round champion. Would it be Tuerck? Or Aden Omnet? With an unlucky turn of events, Tuerck had a spin and lucked out getting anywhere close to the top three. Omnet also spun during his next battle pushing both of these contestants out of the running.
The sun was setting very fast, we were able to start shooting in the night which was the first time I’ve ever done it. So it was going to be a new challenge that’s for sure. Until then we were granted with this crisp flare of sunlight as it crept behind the spectators.
The most entertaining battle of the night was Adam Hedges and Michael Prosenik’s three one more time battles ending with a sudden death on the third. Everyone loves an OMT and these boys provided the crowd with three amazing battles which ending in Prosenik going on and placing 4th overall.
It’s a hard job doing something different from every other road cone out there. Every event I’m thinking of ways how I can get shots that other people don’t. I like to imitate photographers from other countries to spice up my style, it’s a work in progress, and it always will be.
Although Tuerck’s chance of winning was over, he must’ve felt bad because he kept on coming out to burn the few remaining tires he had left. The next round in Taupo will bring a new international drifter to pilot the 86, one from Japan, can you guess who?
Tom Marshall from ATJ drift managed to squeeze past Prosenik and pull off a miraculous win placing him in 3rd place for round two of the pro championship.
The final battle, one that nobody saw. Templeman vs Nico Reid, the original vs the new. It was a battle of two skilled drivers, that may have been a different story if Templeman didn’t end up crossing the yellow line handing Reid the round win at Tauranga’s Bay Park Arena.
What a great 2nd day compared to Friday, 12 hours of drifting later and we have a new set of round winners. Burned, blistered, and covered in rubber it was time to head back home, clean myself up and start to reflect on the weekend just been and think about the next round to come.
Photos: Shaun Constable | Words: Shaun Constable
© Ambition Works 2015