Round 5 of the Cody’s D1NZ National Drifting Championship saw the series return to Ruapuna Raceway in Christchurch. Located in the South Island of New Zealand, the round required about a 16 hour drive for most teams or paying for shipping and flights. Ruapuna was a huge success last season so it was no surprise to see this round would host the biggest field of entries all year.
The track is also the longest drift section this year and one of the fastest, meaning it was a tire killer at only 1-2 laps per set. The teams were prepared for this and packed extra tires into every nook and cranny they could find. Alongside his stock of Nitto’s, Mad Mike Whiddett decided to ship down both the RX7 Madbul and RX8 Badbul being spoiled for choice.
It was my first time visiting the track and I found it a blast to shoot. The fast, flowing corners and vast scenery made for cool photos. It was also great to see some new cars from the South Island entering in competition.
Earning the best result of the southern drifters was Phil Sutherland in his A31 Cefiro. Qualifying in a respectable 6th place before taking down both Nico Reid and Bruce Tannock to show he was a serious threat. Eventually beaten out by Shane Van Gisbergen and finishing in 6th place making the locals proud.
Running late into the day we were treated to some awesome golden light. Qualifying in third place was Fanga Dan Woolhouse in the Castrol Edge LS Holden Commodore. Started the day by winning against Darren Kelly before he too was taken out by Van Gisbergen.
A surprising and controversial battle was that between Mad Mike Whiddett and Dave Steedman. With Mike judged as putting two wheels off on his lead run and Steedman spinning following that – the battle went one more time where Steedman took the win. An early exit for the current series leader Whiddett who was battling mechanical gremlins in both rotary machines all weekend.
Moving on to the top four was Gaz Whiter and Drew Donovan. Both LS V8 powered Silvia’s had proven their potential with consistent driving from the pilots. A closer chase run saw Gaz into the final and Donovan battling for third place.
After taking out Andrew Redward in his top four battle, Shane Van Gisbergen met Whiter in the final. It was awesome to see these two cars against each other, both with a deafening V8 roar but that’s where the similarities end. The Rattla motorsport Ford Falcon is running a billet alloy 460ci Ford V8 good for 800hp compared to the big LS7 in Whiter’s S14.
With SVG applying his immense talent from the V8 Supercar series and Gaz showing his experience and control behind the wheel, it was a great battle the fans will remember for a long time. A decision had to be made by the judges however and with Whiter’s chase looking a little closer he was announced as the round winner and walked away as the new series leader! Taking a close second of course was Shane Van Gisbergen and rounding out the all V8 podium was Drew Donovan.
Next round we return to Mt Smart stadium May 23-34 in Auckland city for the grand final under lights!
-Images and Words from David Atkinson