Ihave been involved with drifting here in New Zealand for the better part of 10 years; I’ve gone weeks without much sleep to build tracks at places like Mystery Creek, and I’ve worked as media at plenty of events for the last eight years. So it’s fair to say that I’m pretty passionate about the sport. As I sat there at Mt Smart stadium for D1NZ round two, watching the concrete consume car after car, I couldn’t help but feel extremely sorry for those left with the repair bills, some for more than one car, and there were certainly a few lump-inthe-throat moments as we waited to see if the drivers were OK.
Custom concrete-lined tracks are nothing new to the sport, and neither is the carnage they bring. Thankfully at this Mt Smart event, nine times out of 10 the crashes inflicted only minimal damage to the cars involved, and with the tube framing and fibreglass quarters run on most cars, it often looks 10 times worse than it actually is. Even the damage on the likes of Phil Sutherland’s Cefiro was not that bad, considering he flipped the damn thing.
D1NZ has a very good safety record with drivers, and I for one want to see that perfect record stay intact. D1NZ runs under MSNZ ClubSport Advanced, which allows drivers to run the likes of motocross helmets and cheap, inferior bucket seats. Hell, even some military combat helmets meet the safety standards listed by MSNZ. With the speeds and proximity these Pro-level cars now compete at, I find it a little odd that our top drifting championship is lumped under the same rules as your regular track events. You wouldn’t see a V8 SuperTourer driver with an MX helmet on, and strapped into a cheap $200 seat, so why is this acceptable for a top-level drifter? I would like to see the use of such helmets and seats outlawed. At minimum an FIA seat with helmet supports should be mandatory, and a helmet designed for the types of impacts experienced in a roll-caged car. Perhaps even the use of the likes of a HANS device should be looked into, something that some drifters around the world are beginning to use. I realize increasing the safety requirements would add a significant one-off cost to each team’s budget, but in the long run it’s cheap insurance when you consider what could happen to the driver.
On the lighter side, man did I witness some of the greatest battles I have seen in D1NZ history. It seems like round after round the drivers and cars are stepping up, and the battles are now split by mere half points. My hat goes off to the judges, that’s certainly not a seat I would like to fill.