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
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.