ALL HAIL THE KING

THE LINK ECU D1NZ NA­TIONAL DRIFT­ING CHAM­PI­ONSHIP FI­NALE SAW MUL­TI­PLE TI­TLE HOPES CUT SHORT AND, FOR ONE VETERAN DRIVER, A BACK-TO-BACK TI­TLE WIN

NZ Performance Car - - Welding Direct - WORDS AND PHO­TOS: JADEN MARTIN

Pre­dict­ing the podium for any round of the na­tional drift­ing se­ries is an almost im­pos­si­ble task, one that re­quires a mix of guess­work and ed­u­cated as­sump­tions, and even those who have been around since the se­ries’ in­cep­tion of­ten get it wrong — you re­ally need to have a tal­ented psy­chic on speed dial and a healthy dose of luck on your side to get within the ball­park. It’s one of those sports in which no one re­ally knows what’s go­ing to hap­pen, or when, and even those who look to be on a hot streak can be knocked out within a sin­gle bat­tle for just one sim­ple mis­take.

The 2018 Link ECU D1NZ Na­tional Drift­ing Cham­pi­onship sea­son has been no ex­cep­tion to this rule, with both the big­name and lesser-known driv­ers trad­ing places on the Pro leader board round by round. Head­ing into the fi­nal round at Pukekohe Park Race­way, May 12–13, Dar­ren Kelly had a firm foot­ing at the top with 277 points, while Cole Arm­strong was only just be­hind with 24 fewer points (253); Aussie in­vader Matty Hill was still in with a shot at the cham­pi­onship ti­tle on 229; and ‘Fanga Dan’ Woolhouse, on 214 points, could have nabbed a third ti­tle if a few key bat­tles went his way.

But, for two hope­fuls, the Top 16 would see that dream

shelved for an­other sea­son. Matty Hill was pipped by Dave Steed­man, and Fanga Dan was taken down by the gi­ant killer, Carl Thomp­son, who forced the two-time Drift King (DK) into a string of one-more-time bat­tles, with Thomp­son tak­ing the vic­tory. With both Woolhouse and Hill out of ti­tle con­tention, it was the Top 8 bat­tles that saw an ag­gres­sive-driv­ing Benji Wilkin­son send home points leader Dar­ren Kelly, putting his ti­tle hopes in jeop­ardy, while Cole Arm­strong knocked out young buck Cody Pullen-Burry to make it through to the Top 4.

On the other side of the tree, Gaz Whiter had beaten out Steed­man for a Top 4 plac­ing to face Thomp­son, but the ex­pe­ri­ence of the four-time DK couldn’t be out­matched, and Whiter went on to the fi­nal bat­tle against Arm­strong, who had top­pled Shane Van Gis­ber­gen in a one-more-time re­peat bat­tle that mim­icked that of the pair­ing at Round 2, and pro­gressed against Wilkin­son.

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