The 2016 Demon Energy D1NZ National Drifting Championship was about to come to an end for another year. Finishing off with a massive bang at the final round held at Pukekohe Park Raceway in the upper part of the North Island in New Zealand. This wasn’t just any old D1NZ event, it was one for the history books. A huge amount of trophies would be given out on Sunday. Round winners of the Club Auto Triple Crown will be decided along with the overall winners, the round winners and series winners of the first ever Hi-Tec Oils Trans Tasman Drifting Championship, and of course the Demon Energy D1NZ National Drifting Championship Pro-Sport round and series winners. Also the Pro round winner and overall Drift King for 2016 would be announced too. It was going to be a crazy weekend ahead, that’s for sure!
Last year D1NZ won a long and testing legal battle to hold drifting at Pukekohe once again. All that weekend we were fighting the torrential weather supplied to us. This year we were hoping for a different situation, people wanted to see drift cars hitting the sweeper at 200kmph. Testing day, Friday, was upon us and the weather gods had granted the drivers a dry and hot track.
Smoke, and lots of it too, was made during testing. No rain all day, it was heaven. Drivers used the day before practice, Saturday, to get back into the groove of Pukekohe, some had driven here last year, some maybe 10 years ago, or even never. A day of getting back into the swing of things would hopefully see drivers and crews being able to set the cars up perfect for the dry weekend ahead.
As mentioned earlier this event was not going to be your run of the mill drifting event. No, much more than that actually, as part of the newly created Hi-Tec Oils Trans Tasman Drifting Championship we would be host to seven Australian drivers this weekend to challenge Team New Zealand and its seven drivers. The first Australian piloting his Hi-Tec Racing Fuel Mazda RX7 is Glen Atkins powered by the historic 13B rotary engine.
If you’ve read previous articles by me, you’d know I’m a big fan of teams. The next duo competing in the series is Scott Schembri and James Abbott driving the Australian Brewery Nissan 180SX powered by the trusty SR engine and the Goodride Tyres Nissan Silvia S15 with a replacement heart of a 2JZ respectively. It’s so refreshing seeing some new cars, drivers, and styles in the mix.
One of the more consistent drivers of the day, and because of this my favourite to watch, was Matthew Hill sitting behind the wheel of the orange and black 4.Mance Automotive Nissan Silvia S15 with the popular 2JZ fitted in under the bonnet. Sitting down in 17th place with only 24 points, he won’t win the series, but still has a fighting chance to come out with a round win!
Sitting at pole position into the last round with 90 points is Rob Arbolino piloting the Maatouks Racing Nissan Silvia S14, again powered by the ever so reliable SR engine. Daniel Woolhouse sits in second place with 81 points and Dave Steedman in third with 76 points. I’m sure the New Zealand Team won’t let Arbolino win without some hard battles to come.
Another rotary, in typical New Zealand and Australian style. Well that’s what I thought until I heard it make its first pass. Sitting under the bonnet of this Mazda is a hearty 1JZ power plant, and controlling all the power is none other than Alex ‘The Shark’ Sciacca in the Hi-Tec Oils Mazda Rx8. It’s almost refreshing seeing a Mazda and not hearing the screaming noise of a rotary engine destroying my eardrums, almost.
The last car, and the one I was most excited to see was Cameron Mote’s Hi-Tec Oils Nissan 350Z. This beast runs a 6.2L LS3 engine with two massive turbos attached to the top, pushing out a modest 700hp. If that didn’t make you a little bit wet, I’m not sure what would. Sadly you can’t have everything in life as the car broke itself a few weeks ago while competing in Christchurch. A whole lot of new talent to compete against New Zealand’s best, will it be an Aussie or a Kiwi who will take out the newest championship down under? Only time will tell.
While it was only a testing day, D1NZ sat back and let the track staff at Pukekohe Park Raceway run the day. This was a plus, as it meant that other cars that weren’t competing that weekend could partake. I’ve been wanting to see this Lexus in the flesh for a while now, so today was my lucky day. Under the hood lies a crazy four rotor 26b set-up with a massive turbo, and if that’s not enough for you, Carl has gone and thrown in a nitrous kit for good measure.
A few practice runs saw Carl running a smooth line towards the end of the day, plenty of smoke and way too much noise filled the atmosphere. It was a treat to see some show, street, and grass root cars mix it up with the pro-sport and pro fields.
This little 86 was pushing its limits around the track picking up plenty of speed and throwing itself into the corner at well over the recommended manufactures safe travel speed. It had been a while since I’d been back at Pukekohe shooting cars, and even longer shooting drifting. A good time was being had by all participants indeed.
It wasn’t all push push push as hard as you can. Some drivers for one reason or another took a grip lap to sort things out. Now I was starting to get excited, I could hear the big boys starting up their cars in the pits. Believe me when I tell you standing stationary a metre away from a car going sideways at well over 180kmph isn’t something you can do with only one pair of undies.
Cars started to pump through, trying to find their lines. Vincent Langhorn in his fully road legal C33 Laurel drove to the track each day and drove home each day, the only car in the Pro category that didn’t need a trailer that weekend.
So, here it is. The corner that will either take your balls away from you, or turn them into steel. If you come in too hot, you’d head straight for my camera. Not enough speed and you’d struggle with straight line issues. It was a fine line between too much angle making you spin and hitting the wall and not enough where you would find the car running the rumble strips.
Lucky today was only testing, as a whole bunch of drivers struggled to tackle the first corner with success. Too much speed or the wrong line would see you in the kitty litter, waiting for the rescue truck to pull you out. Hitting this area had its consequences, body parts that were too low got ripped clean off and dirt found a new home in every crevice it could find.
Once drivers managed to get past the first turn, the switch proved to be somewhat troublesome. Not getting the switch right into the next inside clip meant hitting the concrete wall, just like Jodie Verhulst had done.
If you flicked the switch too hard, you’d find yourself floating across the grass just like Ching Jin. It was a tricky switch to get right. Massive amounts of speed had to be lost before entering the second inside clipping point, luckily for the drivers they had all today and some of tomorrow to practice getting it right.
Once the drivers sorted out their lines for the weekend, and got the car set-up exactly how they wanted it – it was easy sailing from there. The last inside clipping point provided a nice cambered corner with a rolling burnout to finish off the section. This is the part where chase drivers can catch up to the lead driver as speeds slow down around the final part of the drift section.
As well as practicing today, it was also considered a sponsor/media day. A day where crews could pay back their sponsors with some epic hot-laps, and what better track than Pukekohe for that. A day also for media to get in some photos that wouldn’t be possible on the weekend as drivers and crews are more relaxed for the obvious reason of having no spectators.
Smiles all round today, the skies stayed clear and the rubber burned long. Everyone had got in a good day’s practice without any big mess ups. Soon we would have a new Drift King, so many champions to be crowned on Sunday, but for today we wait, tonight teams will plan their tactics for the next two challenging days ahead. Anything could happen, who will win and who will miss out?
I’d planned out my day well, got around the track and scoped out potential positions for the days to follow. It was time to get some well needed sleep as the next two days were going to be a big challenge, especially if we get a repeat of last years weather forecast.
Photos: Shaun Constable | Words: Shaun Constable | Proofer: Chadd Davis
© Ambition Works 2015