Cody’s D1NZ – The Title Fight Begins – 193
After attending the opening round of the Cody’s D1NZ National Drifting Championship there’s no denying drifting in New Zealand is on the rise. In this, its tenth year of competition, Cody’s D1NZ will showcase the biggest-ever field of competitors, with 35 drivers in Pro and 31 in Pro-Am. As usual, the comp will follow a two-day format, with practice and Pro-Am top 16 on the Friday and the Pro-Am top eight and Pro top 32 on the Saturday. In the months leading up to the first round everyone was revealing new cars, set-ups and liveries. The power figures had risen and the amount of race-bred gearboxes had increased ten-fold. We couldn’t wait to see them out on track, and similarly, we’re sure they all couldn’t wait to get out there.
The Manfeild section is one that, like the Pukekohe sweeper, rewards the brave, with an entry speed between 140–160kph and an outside clipping point on the exit of the first corner; this is one of the best corners for drifting in New Zealand — watching two cars enter door to door is spectacular. Drivers then switch for another outside clip and then an inside clip on turn two. The run through the centre section leading to the final hairpin was left to the drivers’ discretion. Run a shallow line and you carry more speed, run a wide line and you slow up, but carry too much speed and the hairpin can spit you out. To end the section the hairpin has an outside clip, inside clip and then an outside clip to finish. During drivers’ briefing it was asked by the judges that drivers use line rather than shallow angle to gain and maintain proximity on the lead car.
The two spots through the section that caused the most issues for drivers were the first switch and the hairpin — many runs in both qualifying and battles were thrown away at the end.
Pro-Am qualifying saw newcomer Matt Lauder taking first place with three runs all in the 70s — the best a 77 — followed by Jodie Verhulst with 76 and Michael Thorley in third with 76 as well, with Jodie placing higher because her second run of 68 bettered Michael’s 44. With 31 Pro-Ams signed up and only 16 spots available in the top 16 it meant many drivers would be packing it up early, but for the eight that did advance past the top 16 it meant more battles, and more track time in front of the bigger crowd on Saturday.
Friday didn’t finish without drama for the Pro field with more than a little paint swapped and plenty of breakages. Hugo MacLean crashed into the tyre wall, Gaz Whiter snapped a castor arm, Mac Kwok and Sky Zhao both broke steering racks and Robee Nelson blew a head gasket. But those inconveniences were nothing that would end the weekend for anyone, those types of breakages were lying in wait for Saturday morning practice, the most spectacular of which was Darren Benjamin breaking his driveshaft and in turn splitting his gearbox in two. The gear oil dumping under the rear wheels sent the car into a spin along the concrete-walled front straight, and luckily he kept if off the wall considering he was travelling at over 140kph at the time.
By Saturday lunchtime the stands were full and the stage was set to get underway with the battles; first up was the D1NZ Pro-Am top 8 which saw number-one qualifier Matt Lauder battle his way to first place, eventually meeting and defeating Russell Sifleet in the final. It was then time for D1NZ Pro top 32, and with just 29 drivers fronting up after a few had suffered mechanical failure, this gave the top-three qualifiers ‘Mad Mike’, Daynom Templeman and Bruce Tannock all bye runs through the top 32.
The crowd didn’t have to wait long for an epic battle when ‘Fanga’ Dan in the Castrol Edge Commodore and V8 Supercar driver Shane Van Gisbergen in the Rattla Falcon squared off. The Giz laying down one of the best chase runs of the weekend, but a few mistakes on his lead run handed the win to the on-form Fanga Dan Woolhouse, who then went on to defeat Carl Ruiterman and Mad Mike and meet defending champion Curt Whittaker in the final. Meanwhile, Curt had defeated Carlos Walters, Andrew Redward, Daynom Templeman and Ben Belcher on his road to the final.
In the final, with Fanga leading first, Curt dropped two wheels off on turn two and handed Fanga a 10–0 advantage. But watching Fanga’s chase you would have thought Fanga wasn’t aware of the advantage, as he came in with an extremely aggressive chase right on Curt’s front door, the two making contact and breaking Fanga’s hub. This meant the pair had to go ‘one more time’. After limping back into the pit the race was on to change the hub. In D1NZ rules your five minutes doesn’t start until your opponent pulls up to the grid, something that Curt didn’t do. Meanwhile in the Drift Corp pit bay a flurry of activity ensued as the boys attempted to make the change. After three minutes, clerk of course, Dan Teeboon, forced Curt to line up and Fanga’s five minutes started as the team continued to work furiously. With about 10 seconds left on the clock the LS2 fired into life — but just as the clock ticked over — with the boys needing probably another 15–20 seconds to complete the hub change. And so the round one win and $1000 website from Finman Solutions was Curt Whittaker’s. Fanga had to be content with second, while Mad Mike took third over Ben Belcher. Look out for round two of D1NZ, when it moves to Whangarei to be raced on a brand-new specialty track on December 1–2.
This article is from NZ Performance Car 193. Click here to check it out.
Words: Marcus Gibson Photos: Adam Croy