Australia’s Matty Hill topped qualifying for the opening round of the Link ECU D1NZ National Drifting Championship Pro Series, despite battling mechanical dramas, at the Max Motors Wellington Family Speedway in Upper Hutt.
The drifter came back from a crash in the final practice session while battling Stuart Baker. The clash with the outside wall saw Hill suffer a steering failure, which needed to be quickly replaced for the qualifying session an hour later.
Qualifying for the Pro Series began with former Toyota Racing Series racer Daynom Templeman topping the order with a 74-point run. Australian Hill nearly edged out Templeman with his first run. A 72-point effort put him just two points shy of the top marker set by the Tauranga driver.
There were some early dramas in the session. Dylan Woolhouse was one of the first casualties and failed to make qualifying having battled mechanical woes all day.
Brad Smith pulled out of his first run halfway through and only a few moments early Pro Series debutant Jase Brown looked to have a mechanical failure as sparks flew from the back of his car during as he exited the pit lane.
Whangarei drifter ‘Fanga’ Dan Woolhouse was the only pilot in the field with a left hand drive car. In his first time qualifying the car he got to second, one point ahead of Hill and one behind Templeman with 73-points.
2016–’17 D1NZ champion Cole Armstrong stuck his car to the wall on his first run, sending sparks and his rear tail light flying. After much deliberation by the judges whether Armstrong dropped a wheel off, the V Energy drifter went equal first with Templeman.
The second half of the session began with Carl Thompson and his Wonderbread Talladega Nights liveried Nissan Silvia S15. Having been eighth in the order he moved up a place with a 68-point run.
South African-expat George Myburg didn’t quite nail his second run and a wheel off meant he dropped three points. He shuffled up two spots to 14th provisionally, but eventually fell to 20th.
Templeman’s second run saw the 2JZ-powered BMW E46 drifter go fast and wide, but he got marked down points for a wheel drop. However, he still got up the order with an 83.5-point run.
After a zero in his first run, Shane Allen was lucky to get through to the battle stages despite a re-initiation. That put him into 18th at the tail end of the field.
Ben Wilkinson leapt to second in his second run having sat at the bottom of the pile. Even though he lost his rear wing at the first turn he carried on scoring high in his line.
It was then that Matty Hill stormed to the top of the order with a margin five points clear of his nearest rivals. With an 87.5-point run he was comfortably ahead of the field, but with some still to go.
Pro Series debutant Jase Brown launched to third on what was effectively his first run after his mechanical dramas. It was a stand out debut for the Nissan Silvia S14 pilot who was running a new engine package.
The level of competition stepped up and up as the session went on. Immediately after Jase Brown went Dave Steedman. He stuck his car to the wall and once again line judge Dan Mackie rewarded the Nissan driver for it and so he leapt to second.
‘Fanga’ Dan Woolhouse just missed out on breaking the top-three with an 81-point run on his final attempt. His former Drift Corp teammate and four-time champion Gaz Whiter was out soon after. He went from ninth on a 73-point run to fourth with an 83-pointer.
Eventually the session came to a close with Matty Hill atop of the order just three points ahead of last year’s round Manfeild winner, Dave Steedman. A point behind him were veterans Daynom Templeman, Gaz Whiter and ‘Fanga’ Dan Woolhouse.
Saturday will see the Link ECU D1NZ National Drifting Championship Pro Series field take on a top-24 battle tree. Hill will automatically go through to the top-16.
For more event information visit nzxms.co.nz and d1nz.com, for ticketing information visit iTicket.co.nz.
Pro Series qualifying results (provisional):
1. Matty Hill (AUS)
2. Dave Steedman
3. Daynom Templeman
4. Gaz Whier
5. ‘Fanga’ Dan Woolhouse
6. Jase Brown
7. Ben Jenkins
8. Ben Wilkinson
9. Cole Armstrong
10. Vincent Langhorn