The 2017 Demon Energy D1NZ Drifting Championship returned to Pukekohe Park Raceway for the 3rd time since the tracks drift revival. Pukekohe is a special track being the practice ground of most of New Zealand’s veteran drifters and sporting one of the fastest entries in the world. The past two years finals have been wrought with terrible weather changing the dynamic of the track massively. During the lead-up weeks to the final, the country was battered by storms and it looked as if this year’s final would follow the same trend as the previous years with rain and high winds. However, that wasn’t to be the case. Skies cleared and the weather held out for the whole weekend allowing mind boggling 205km/h entry speeds and setting the scene for an intense final battle.
The first day of the event focuses on the recently renamed Pro-sport class, which is D1NZ’s feeder into the Pro championship. For a long time, this class has been a breeding ground for some of New Zealand’s favourite competitive drifters with both Darren Kelly and Nico Reid being previous winners. This class sports a 235mm wide tyre restriction and a ban on semi slick compound tyres, the aim of this is to keep costs down while also restricting the horsepower competitors can realistically run.
The Pro-sport championship was taken out by Bruce Tannock in the Achilles S13. Tannock was competing for the first time in Pro-sport due to a recent rule change removing the restriction against pro drivers competing. Tannock participating in both classes of the D1NZ championship simultaneously is a testament to the reliability of both his car and driving style.
The Saturday proved the lethality of Pukekohe’s monster entry corner, adding to the record list of cars claimed by the concrete wall that backs the outside of the high-speed sweeper. Both Pro and Pro-sport drivers fell victim to the carnage over the weekend. I cannot stress this enough, one mistake at Pukekohe and it’s all over. Drivers such as Liam Sykes in the ECD RX7 and Shane Allen in the Rattla Mustang were among those that had fallen to the ruthless wall with Shane sending his wheel, hub included, flying across the sand trap.
Sunday had practice start early to stay on schedule, getting straight into the action was definitely a positive as the fans had already begun to flood through the gates by the time I arrived. With the sun out, excitement was definitely building to see if long time drift legend Cole Armstrong would pull through to take the D1NZ crown, a goal he had been fighting to reach for 7 years.
Cole was in a solid position going into the final with a 39 point lead over 2nd place Tom Marshall. With Coles V Energy 250GT running strong, Tom was definitely on the back foot after selling his car prior to the finals and therefore having to drive the borrowed Toyotaz Galore GT86. That being said, you would have been hard pushed to realise it was a borrowed car with Marshall throwing the 86 around as if he had been driving it all season.
Fanga proved in qualifying that as always he is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to tackling the Pukekohe sweeper, taking P1 with a score of 95 ahead of Cole’s 2nd place 90-point run.
As battles got underway the weekend saw crowd favourites Fanga Dan and Darren Kelly go out during the top 16. With two powerhouses out of the way the door was open for those chasing the 3rd place spot. Tom Marshall fought his way to the top 4 after an impressive chase run against Joel Patterson. However, the weekend was not in his favour as he straight lined on the final corner during his top 4 battle, handing Daynom Templeman the ticket into the round final. This essentially secured Coles season victory.
Cole faced off against Nico Reid in his semi-final battle. The first run was solid by both drivers though Nico ran into technical difficulties resulting in both drivers calling their 5-minute timeouts.
Cole stayed glued to Nico’s bumper despite the smokescreen chucked up from the rear tyres of the Evergreen S15 during an impressive final chase run. With that Cole was through to the round final where he was to face off against Daynom Templeman.
The final battle would have Cole lead first. A tight run through the sweeper, however, Templeman straight lined through turn 2 leaving the door wide open for Cole to take the round win after a bumper to bumper final chase run.
A dream 7 years in the making, Cole Armstrong was crowned the 14th D1NZ Drift King. After an impressive performance all season, Armstrong took out both the season win along with the Round 5 victory. In true New Zealand Motorsport spirit, an ecstatic Cole Armstrong was joined by his team, friends and family on the podium as they celebrated a long time coming D1NZ victory!
As the crowds began to disperse, I managed to make my way through to the show and shine hard-park set up near the gate. The D1NZ events really do cover all the bases, with some of the most intense door to door drifting as well as show and shines featuring some of the cleanest cars the country has to offer.
A massive congratulations to Cole Armstrong and the V Energy team for taking out the championship. Not to mention, big props has to be given to Brendon White and the team at D1NZ for putting on a huge season this year, each round truly raised the benchmark for competitive drifting in New Zealand.
Photos: Kane Pilcher | Words: Kane Pilcher | Proofer: Shaun Constable
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