D1NZ's Pro season kicked off on a freshly laid track at Wellingtons Family Speedway, and after qualifying in pole position it was Australia’s Matty Hill coming out on top after a dramatic opener, battling mechanical issues all the way through to the final round.
Hill was not the only one caught up in the drama. Ben Wilkinson spun his Pak n Save sponsored S15 on his top 16 lead run, forcing his opponent Cole Armstrong into the wall. Luckily for Armstrong, the damage was superficial and he was able to get back out and battle on.
Hill found himself up against Link ECU backed Stuart Baker, and after defeating him was up against Armstrong for their top 8 battle.
Things got a little messy in this battle, with Hill going wide, but Armstrong making mistakes himself, forcing the judges to call OMT (one more time). With Hill in the lead position, Armstrong started out strong in the chase, only to be overcome by a few mistakes that took their toll, with Armstrong ending up in the wall again.
Initially, the judges ruled in favor of Hill, which gave the V Energy Drift Team 5 minutes to carry out the repairs needed to get Armstrong back out there. After further review, and in true drift sportsmanship the judges allowed Armstrong’s team more time, which saw other teams coming to lend a hand. Unfortunately, there was too much damage to the R34 and the team were not comfortable sending Armstrong back out. With this decided, Hill progressed on to the top 8 battles.
Unfortunately for Gaz Whiter, an NZ drift legend and 4 times DK, a zero on his first run ended his round, despite putting on one of the most impressive runs in the top 16 in his battle with George Myburgh. Whiter was knocking on Myburgh’s door pushing hard to force a mistake, but it wasn’t enough to deter Myburgh who moved on to battle Daniel Woolhouse who was debuting his new Ford Mustang.
Mistakes by both drivers in their battles forced an OMT run, which saw Woolhouse knocked out after a couple of wheel drops in the chase.
Ben Jenkins made his Pro debut in the Team Jenkins S13, moving through to the top 8 after a spin by Vincent Langhorn during his lead run. Sadly Jenkins round came to an end after being knocked out by Team DSR driver Dave Steedman in his S14.
Jase Brown also made his Pro debut in his Boss Bunny S13, battling longtime drifter Dave Templemen in his BMW, with the judges once again ruling an OMT run, seeing Templemen progress. It was noted that the judges were impressed with Brown's efforts. He will be one to watch this season.
The first top 4 battle featuring Hill and Myburgh was short-lived, with Myburgh making a series of small mistakes. While trying to correct a dirt drop, Myburgh slowed down, causing wheel contact with Hill that sent him airborne, breaking Myburgh’s rear suspension in the process. The judges ruled in favor of Hill, moving him through to the finals.
On the other side of the table, it was Steedman against Templemen. Templemen started out strong but had a few issues, including a straight line which saw points deducted. Steedman also made mistakes running shallow, but with fewer points deducted Steedman moved on to the final battle with Hill. Interestingly making it a battle between first and second place qualifiers. Hill was strong on his first run, reaping rewards for following the judge’s lines on the technical circuit. With Hill producing lots of speed and smoke, Steedman got lost, clipping the wall which dragged him in and ended the run at 10-0 to Hill.
After a lengthy delay, Team DSR finally had Steedman’s S14 ready to go, but with the engine suffering issues, Steedman was unable to make it to the line, handing Hill the round win.
A huge Thank You goes out to KCL Photography for these photos. You can check out the full albums on his Facebook Page.
The next round of the Link ECU D1NZ National Drifting Championship takes place at ASB Baypark Stadium in Tauranga on February 19 and 20.