Fanga Dan Woolhouse is a heavyweight of New Zealand drifting with more than 15 years of experience to his name and his Vortech-supercharged war machine is the perfect mechanical reflection of the man
Watching ‘Fanga Dan’ Woolhouse shimmy his Holden Commodore sideways at 200kph (322mph), you don’t notice whatever shriek the tyres emit as their hold on the tarmac is torn away. All sound is dominated by the hard-edged scream of a firebreathing L98 pushing all eight cylinders to the upper reaches of its rev limit. The Pukekohe sweeper is a bitch of a corner if you mess it up, but Fanga gives the impression that he could do it in his sleep. He probably could — he’s done it plenty of times during a drift career spanning close to 15 years. As Dan grew up around high-performance Japanese imports, a future behind the wheel was guaranteed, although even he is unlikely to have predicted just how far he’d get. However, as Dan and his mates avidly followed drifting culture in Japan, they were at the forefront as drifting in New Zealand evolved from illegal late-night missions to an organized form of motorsport. The Driftcorp drift team was founded not long after, and Dan began drifting competitively in 2003, behind the wheel of a Nissan Laurel that has since become an icon of the local drift scene. His aggressive style of driving earned him the ‘Fanga’ nickname — and he certainly merited it, finishing third in the 2005 D1NZ National Drifting Championship in his first year of full competition. Fanga’s next year of competition saw a move to a Nissan Silvia, and, by the time the D1NZ season ended, he had emerged on top — the new champion, in only his second year. The legend of Fanga Dan had begun. While Driftcorp and its iconic livery eventually faded, Fanga didn’t. At the forefront of the local professional drifting scene, he’s had to stay competitive as times have changed and as purpose-built drift cars have become increasingly serious. This hasn’t always been easy, especially with his switch to a Holden VZ Commodore in 2008, but it’s what keeps him going.
“To be honest, if I had stayed with the [Nissan] Silvias, I still probably would have gone V8, but I would be bored of it by now and [have] stopped,” Fanga says. “At a time when most people were going to shorter wheelbases, for faster switching, we went the other way.” Despite the relative lack of aftermarket parts and knowledge for the VZ chassis in drift applications, the Commodore proved a successful base, helping Fanga to gain recognition overseas, and, on local soil, to take the 2013 D1NZ title. However, after four years in the drift taxi, Fanga began to feel the itch to build something new. Since the team had amassed a wealth of knowledge, and the Commodore platform was still pushing his capabilities as a driver, it made perfect sense to make the step up the then-new VE. “I had seen what Holden did with the older chassis, each year reworking the guards and lights to create a new model, so the VE made sense, as, in a way, it would future-proof it for me. This was always meant to be a car in which, if I gave up drifting, I could go and do other circuit events or something, so we went about the build in a slightly different way to what we would normally,” Fanga explains. The team began piecing the build together in 2013, based on a shell purchased with a bunch of serious development already done. With an extensive roll cage, adjustable blade-type sway bars, and V8 Supercars–spec AP Racing six-piston front calipers and four-piston rears, Fanga had the bones of an all-out race machine before the team had even started. Just as with the VZ chassis, the VE meant a whole lotta trial and error in development, notable in the custom-developed steering lock kits.