Rotorua’s Ra Heyder finally got his hands on a Nissan Silvia S15, and in only his first event with it he has taken pole position.
The Central Drift Team pilot led the field in qualifying for round one of the Link ECU D1NZ National Drifting Championship Pro-Sport Series ahead of debutant James Steele.
Rain threatened to derail the first qualifying session at the Te Marua facility, however, dark clouds hung around. Fortunately the rain held off for the opening stanza.
Series newcomer Adam Whitehead opened his first ever D1NZ qualifying session in style when he spun out halfway through the first turn. That resulted in a zero score, which meant he’d need to get some points on the board in his second run.
Fourth out was Falken Tyres backed drifter John O’Gorman who leapt to the top of the order with a 59-point run. His run stood atop the order for the first 11 runs until one of the series’ favourites Tulley Puckey put his car to the top with a 68-point run.
Another series debutant, Ben White, of Beedub Drift made his way into the top-10 on his first attempt, but as the qualifying runs went on he got shuffled down to 16th eventually
The 2018 season of Pro-Sport attracted a lot of new faces for the first round, including that of Simon Lee from Tauranga in his V8-powered Nissan 300ZX. A 58-point run shifted him up to third in the order after his first run with a 20-19-19 score across line, angle and style.
Last out onto the track was Callum Neeson in his Evergreen Tyres Nissan Onevia powered by a Toyota 2JZ engine. The first round of runs wrapped up with Tully Puckey ahead of O’Gorman, Lee, Heyder and school teacher Kyle Jackways.
Whitehead returned to the circuit for his second attempt at setting a score in his Nissan Cefiro A31. This time Whitehead made it through cleanly to shift into eighth. Ninth placed driver Liam Burke surged to the lead with a run that impressed line judge Dan Mackie.
Jared Anderson was lucky to get away unscathed from a spin late in his second run. However, with two zero scores to his name he wouldn’t progress through to the top-24 battles on Sunday.
The new names continued to roll onto the grid. Jesse Greenslade from 16th position in the order jumped up to second place with a 64-point run in his Rocket Bunny Nissan Silvia S15.
John O’Gorman was pushed down to third by Greenslade, however, he managed to get the spot back with a score just two points better than Greenslade’s.
17th placed drifter Kurt Blackie was unable to improve on his second run after the big bumps through the big sweeper upset his car and caused him to make a big overcorrection.
16-year-old Liam Honnor just missed out on edging into the top-10 with a run just three-points off the front runners.
Liam Burke’s second run got him 69-points, with 27-points in the line department his strong suit. The solid performances continued as Heyder’s teammate Taylor James jumped up to fifth with a 61-point run.
James Steele in the WAGS Nissan Silvia S13 quickly usurped Burke’s score and became the first driver to jump into the 70-point bracket with a 73-pointer.
Former round winner Jackways couldn’t improve on his first run. A straight line cost him points and meant he couldn’t break the top-10 after the earlier performances by his rivals.
Having held top spot for the first half of the session, Tulley Puckey straight lined before half-spinning. That meant he didn’t improve on his initial score and had to settle for third for the time being.
Then came Heyder. An almost flawless run where he was rewarded with a 32 out of 35 for his line. That was followed by a flurry of action as he lit up his tyres at the start/finish line. In his first time behind the wheel of his Nissan Silvia S15, he leapt to the top with a 75-point chart topper.
Ultimately no one could top Heyder. The deciding factor for the Rotorua driver were his efforts through the technical midsection. A good exit followed by a strong switch and wide line got him 32-points alone in line.
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D1NZ Pro-Sport Series qualifying (provisional):
1. Ra Heyder – 75.0
2. James Stee – 73.0
3. Liam Burker – 69.0
4. Simon Lee – 68.0
5. Tully Puckey – 68.0
6. John O’Gorman – 66.0
7. Jesse Greenslade – 64.0
8. David Hunter – 61.0
9. Alex Simon – 61.0
10. Taylor James – 61.0