Continuing on from part one of the post-season report by ‘MGN’, outlining the Demon Energy D1NZ Pro class (check it out here), the drivers in positions 14–7 of the championship were mainly those who either had a single podium finish for the season, or drivers who were more consistently getting themselves through to the later rounds of battle.
With no event this season having a full top 32, drivers who grabbed a top qualifying spot guaranteed themselves positions in the top 16. This had benefits as far as wear and tear was concerned, and removed one of the real challenges of the sport in chasing what is often a much slower car in top 32 battles.
It's been a better season for Shane Allen, who didn't have to share a car this time around, which saw him benefiting as a result. Shane looked right at home at the early concrete jungle rounds during practice — perhaps thanks to his speedway background — but just couldn't quite get it together in qualifying after having a couple of incidents with walls, which perhaps left him thinking more about ensuring he made it into the field. The ‘Rattla’ Falcon has a monster of an engine, so it was notable that throttle input had influenced his season's style scores. He will no doubt already be thinking about Rattla Motorsport's new car for next season (see coverage here), which should be less of a handful than the circuit-racing–orientated Falcon. Allen's season definer, I would think, was that he was the guy everyone was talking about at Baypark as being on form — only to later tag the wall and fall off the pace.
Wellington's Shayne Giles announced his intentions when he and his RB26 S14 were the top qualifiers at Manfield during round one — seemingly showing everyone what he was going to bring to the table for the season. However, he wasn't able to carry that form though to the tighter concrete jungle rounds, and as a result he fell back down the table. Shayne never lacks pace or commitment, and will get better since he now knows what it takes to mount a full season campaign challenge.
It was just a matter of time before the English ATJ duo of Joe Marshall and his brother Tom established themselves as part of the new generation of D1NZ stars. There is clearly something in the water in Northland, underlined by ATJ's fearless attitude and ability to practice battle at test days. Sadly, Joe will probably be remembered best for what didn't go his way this season, as opposed to the fact that he was the strongest performing Pro-Am graduate. He receives my unofficial ‘Rookie of the year’ award, but he can share it with his brother.
The Milwaukee S15 driver may well feel like he's angered the ‘Drift Gods’ somehow, with a couple of big wall impacts punctuating his season, then an engine failure right before the final round. To me, Drew always feels like the guy who quietly sits there waiting for his chance. He's consistent, but rarely spectacular, and he knows how to get battle wins, which will make him dangerous if he can string a whole season together. He had multiple big moments this season in his huge wall impacts at both the Mt Smart and Baypark rounds. Like Phil Sutherland's smash at the same meeting, high-definition video ensured that his Mt Smart incident got plenty of television time.
Once ‘The Tanefa’ behaves for a whole season, this guy will be a champion. He has no fear, loves to crank on the angle, and battles very well. Nico Reid has managed to eliminate a lot of the frustrated driving that you would have seen in the past, and always seems to be smiling and moving on to the next challenge. His Townsend Brotherz Racing (TBR) squad deserve huge credit for how much they have evolved, and Nico has become a strong and more confident media personality, which will make the team a strong proposition in years to come. His key moment of the season would be his return to the podium after a number of mechanical issues.
Daynom ‘Slim’ Templeman always seems to alternate between having the best and worst car in the field; and you're never sure which one you'll get to see. At his best, with a working car, Daynom is the class of the field, and very few would have a hope of keeping up with him. But when the car is off, it is well off, which has seen a frustrated Daynom exit certain events much earlier than he would want to. In his eyes, as a highly driven and accomplished racer, it is first place or nothing at all.
I've been open in the past about how I felt Bruce Tannock didn't know how to drive his very fast car slow. That might make little sense, but we've seen a number of events where the car simply straightened up or went off track as Bruce attacked, only to find he couldn't quite keep the car where he wanted on the road. The Achilles Radial driver openly stated that he needed a good result this year, and was justifiably incredibly happy to reward his long-standing team with a podium at Christchurch — the first time he has stood on the steps of glory. With the monkey now off his back, and some very good high-speed chase runs now banked, it seems like Bruce has less fear of damaging the always immaculate Rocket Bunny S13, and could be poised to be a real threat next season.
Credit needs to be given to Dave Steadman and teammate Adam Davies. When Dave suffered a major engine failure, Adam made his car available — and off the back of this we saw the best-ever season result for both DSR cars. Dave and Adam both finished within the top 10s of their respective classes. Daves biggest moment of the season came at Hampton Downs, where he piloted the car to a fifth place qualifying position, much to the delight of his always vocal team. The performance earned him his first television spot of the year. Like Drew Donovan, he is always there or thereabouts, and with his own car for all of next season he will have high hopes of being a real contender.
Up next are the top six, and I have separated them out for a reason. To be continued ...