Well, it's been four long years and after a lot of hard work, Brendon White, CEO of D1NZ, has finally managed to return drifting to its spiritual home in New Zealand — Pukekohe Park Raceway. Many in the current top crop cut their teeth at Pukekohe, and its the very track that gave people their first glimpse of drifting, inspiring a generation to build cars and give it a go. I
grew up near the track and can remember going along to the first few D1NZ days as a little lad, seeing these cars carving up mud and smashing against walls. It was a cool time to watch drifting — before it really became professional. Nowadays we're a lot more safety focused and so is the track. So what does that mean for the final of Demon Energy D1NZ 14/15 season?
The cars are faster, the tyres are stickier, and the overall level of sport is much higher than it was four years ago. There is much talk of the 200kph entry into the sweeper. Will it be much faster then before?
The entry section along pit straight has been redone and a section of bumps that has plagued that track for years has been cleaned up. The entire track has also had an overhaul since we last drifted here — thanks to a big cash injection from when the V8 Supercars returned. The entire track has been chopped and changed and had new buildings and safety measures imposed. From a media viewpoint, the track is now lined with mesh fences — this will no doubt make coverage interesting to get.
Safety measures or not, it's likely someone's going to crash. I'm not going to make any bets on this as it's a bit of a rough thing to happen. Most of the top drivers have had their moment in the wall over the years and have learnt from it.
Enforcing the noise limits at the track is always a sticking point. With the track surrounded by neighbours, it's taken a lot to get the drifting back, so ensuring that we're not being kicked out again has been an important focus. ‘Mad Mike’ Whiddett had to install this secondary muffler to keep the noise of his 26B down. What sort of contraptions are we going to see this time around to keep the noise down?
Curt Whittaker has since moved to a V8 powerplant and is now parading for a championship win, sitting in second behind Darren Kelly. Kelly was an up-and-coming Pro-Am competitor back when rounds at Pukekohe last took place.
Personally, I think Daynom Templeman's 2JZ-powered FD RX-7 has the power to truly push the boundaries on the track. With the course providing a strong chance of 200kph-plus entries, there's no reason why we shouldn't see him pushing the limits.
Bruce Tannock has had a solid run this year and will be another to watch out for with his RB-powered S13.
I'm definitely looking forward to checking out the Demon Energy D1NZ National Drifting Championship on May 23—24! Keep an eye out for more updates over the weekend.