Yay, spring, and with it comes round one of the South Island’s very own grass-roots drift event, the Japanese Race Supplies Drift South series, held at Ruapuna’s Mike Pero Motorsport Park. There was a good showing for the first round, with 18 drivers entered at the beginning of the weekend.

Returning to the competition were several regulars, including Mark ‘Clooney’ O’Hara in his Nissan 180SX, Jamie Nelson in his Nissan Skyline R32 (on the chassis’ tenth year), and the distinctive gold Unit23 pairing of Shawn Alston and Glen Pupich. Demon Energy D1NZ National Drifting Championship–driver Phil Sutherland also entered in a red 2JZ-GTE–powered Nissan Laurel C33.

Neil Walmsley’s KVS Mazda RX-7 (FC) had an off-season facelift, and now features head-turning, dark, glitter-infused paint and chameleon rims, as well as a dogbox to improve reliability.

Qualifying saw Mark O’Hara and Shawn Alston making comeback impressions at the outset — both applauded for their first-corner commitments. O’Hara posted two equally convincing passes, with the third noted by judges for its smooth corner-to-corner flow that they were after, earning him first in qualifying. Alston was just behind in second place with a near-backward entry into the first and second corner. Glen Pupich and Dan Robinson were less fortunate, both dropping passes with spins into the Demon Energy dipper before earning redemption in later runs.Ryan Abrahamson also impressed the judges, however not in his own vehicle. Scrutineering issues had him piloting Corey Farrant’s 180SX — rather convincingly, given it was an unfamiliar drive.

During the battles, O’Hara repeated his qualifying efforts applying enough pressure on Michael Sloan to advance to the next round. The Demon Energy dipper left Neil Walmsley in a cloud of smoke, and he was unable to push Sam Dunfoy into a similar demise, sealing his fate. Joel Counter versus Corey Farrant saw the Achilles Silvia S14 pull away through the midsection, while Farrant’s transition speed had him sliding toward the judges, and off the circuit.

Shawn Alston kept pace against Dan Robinson, however noises from Robinson’s car saw his five-minute card called and his eventual withdrawal. Kent Freer, who was back for another season, showed improvement, applying pressure on Chris Belcher. Ryan Low faced off with Glen Pupich, however Pupich entered hot into first corner, which resulted in two noticeable wheels off onto the grass. He was dominant during the chase, but was not able to advance.

Phil Sutherland and Jamie Nelson pushed hard, both straight lining in the attempt to keep close — Sutherland got the advantage. Alston was once again blindingly quick against Freer — both nullifying midsection errors — but dropping wheels on a rerun gave Alston the advantage, as well as more angle. Sutherland and Ryan Low were blow for blow — a rerun saw shallow chase by Low, and the relentless dipper hampered Sutherland’s next two battles.

At the sharp end, Counter and O’Hara faced off. Counter’s wide turn three evened his advantage, and a rerun saw small errors by O’Hara to keep chase — the 180SX later able to squeeze a lead out on Alston, earning O’Hara third. The final was to be a battle of the large-capacity V8s, with Low and Counter vying. Counter lead the way with a clean run; Low was less tidy in the first section, and the Demon Energy dipper curse handing Counter yet another top podium spot.

And that’s us until round two, which will be held December 12 on the always-popular ‘B’ track at Mike Pero Motorsport Park. With even more drivers looking to be there, it will be a good one — see you there!

Images: Craig Crew