LET THE BATTLE COMMENCE
ROUND ONE OF DRIFT SOUTH
Teretonga Park played host to its first competitive drifting round after a long six-year absence, when Drift South rolled into town to kick off the 2017/’18 season. Anticipation was high, and the event even drew retired competitors such as Glen Pupich and Paul Tomlin out of retirement — the only two competitors to have run the track before, in rounds between 2009 and 2011.
Teretonga would rate as one of the faster drifting tracks in the country, though, compared with other venues, there’s a slower start — you pick up speed through the section that sees most give the rev limiter a good bashing in fourth gear.
Track width — or lack of it — combined with high speed made for a real challenge, and, for those drivers who experienced it for the first time, the thrill was apparent in the pits after practice. The downside was that lower-powered cars struggled through the judged section, particularly in the Development Series, where a few non-turbo cars really strained to link up the whole section, though the smiles were just as big on those drivers’ faces.
The south is known for the occasional drop of rain, so not many were surprised when the practice sessions switched from the dry on Friday to wet Saturday morning, but the fact that it again dried up for the ranking battles really caught a few folk out. This is the second season that the ranking battle format has been used, in which each driver gets three battles with randomly selected opponents, and the scores then set the battle tree of the top 16 — everyone loves more battles, right?!
The usual players were looking strong in practice. Last season’s champ, Dan Currie, and runner-up, Sheldon Kneale, had both made upgrades in the off season and didn’t take long to pick things up. On the other hand, local favourite Scott Welsh was still dealing with mechanical issues right through practice. Paul Tomlin looked strong early, only to suffer a driveline failure in the wet, and being seven hours away from needed parts meant that his weekend was over.
Temuka-based Josh ‘Snoop’ McMillan was back in the rebuilt Cefiro after his crash in D1NZ, and he scored first equal with Sheldon Kneale in qualifying. Hot on their heels was the returning Glen Pupich and Jacob Cuthbert, rounding out the top four heading into the eliminations.
No big surprises in the top-16 round meant that the top eight qualified drivers all went through. Corey Farrant and Brogan Mooney had to go one more time due to a mistake each, with Farrant in his 180SX eventually going through to the top eight, where he had to go one more time again in a battle of the 180s against Sheldon Kneale, who took the win.
An unlucky draw for Snoop meant that he was knocked out in the top eight against defending champ Daniel Currie, despite pouring the smoke on, Currie’s speed helping to take the win. Snoop later found that he had been running only 10.5psi of boost for the weekend, which didn’t help with chasing the 2JZ monster.
Newcomer Jacob Cuthbert battled it out with another hometown driver, Brad Knight, who also performed very consistently through to the top eight, with Cuthbert in his S13 taking a close win to move to the semis.
Scott Welsh was slightly disadvantaged by Glen Pupich, but was thrown a lifeline when Glen slid off on the final corner, only for his diff to later seize and prevent him advancing further, thus gifting Sheldon a finals chance.
Cuthbert almost took out reigning champ Currie from the podium running, causing Dan’s chase drift to stutter, but Dan was again the lead run king and locked himself in. That was a solid effort by Jacob, getting third in his second-ever Pro Drift competition.
The weekend ended with another Sheldon and Dan final. Again, Sheldon showed consistent angle throughout the section, and Dan’s rocket ship needed small corrections to tuck in behind. Both runs were hard to pick and needed a rerun. The battle looked identical the second time around, but Sheldon slid wide on the last corner, and Currie stamped his mark with another win.
The judges commented that the course is one of the hardest to judge, and, as the section is so long and narrow, there was really only one line to take, though the high speed meant that it topped the entertainment list.
Thanks to the southern locals and Southland Sports Car Club for having us down. Hopefully, we’ll be back soon. We’re looking forward to another good season, with round two coming up on December 2 on the same section of Mike Pero Motorsport Park, Ruapuna run by D1NZ the last time it visited Christchurch.