Three-time former D1NZ champion Gary ‘Gaz’ Whiter (Tectaloy Nissan S14 V8) is back on top of the Cody’s D1NZ National Drifting Championship leaderboard after top-scoring in qualifying and claiming his third round win of the season – as well as victory in the BP Triple Crown series-within-a-series – at the Christchurch round of the 2013/14 series on Sunday.
The big surprise for many at the meeting at the recently re-named Mike Pero Motorsport Park (nee Ruapuna), however, was the performance of V8 Supercar ace Shane Van Gisbergen. In only his second season contesting the Cody’s D1NZ championship the 24-year-old – who shares the BOC Gases/Speedstuff Ford Falcon V8 with good friend Shane Allen – qualified 12th but won all bar his final battle with Whiter to take second, his best result since his breakthrough third place at the opening Cody’s series round at Hampton Downs in November last year.
Making it an all V8 podium was Tauranga driver Drew Donovan (Milwaukee Tools Nissan S15 V8) who finished third for the second year in a row at the Christchurch round of the series.
Fourth overall was another V8-powered car, this time the Achilles Radial-backed Mazda RX7 V8 of Mount Maunganui round winner Andrew Redward, fifth the first of the turbocharged sixes in the form of the Autosure Warranties-backed 2JZ Toyota-powered Nissan Skyline R34 coupe of Curt Whittaker.
Heading into the Christchurch round Auckland-based international ‘Mad Mike’ Whiddett (Red Bull/Speedhunters Mazda RX7 & RX8) had a commanding lead in the series points standings but that evaporated in the heat of competition in Christchurch thanks to a broken gearbox in his number one car (the Madbul RX7) and a broken axle (n his second (the Badbul RX8).
Whiddett qualified eighth but after going One More Time was eliminated in his first (Top 32) battle with Tauranga driver Dave Steedman (Mimico Nissan S14) and is now second in the series points standings, with new leader Whiter on 442.5 points, Whiddett 412 and 2011/12 series title holder Curt Whittaker third with 359.
Best of the large contingent of local drivers to enter the Cody’s D1NZ series round was Phill Sutherland who qualified and finished sixth. Fellow Christchurch driver Chris Jackson remains the best placed South Island series regular, however.
Jackson qualified 10th, but finished 18th, slipping back (from ninth) to 11th in the overall series points standings.
There has also been a change at the top of the Pro-Am class points standings with series newcomer Tom Marshall (ATJ International Nissan S13) from Waipapa in the Far North losing his lead to category regular Vincent Langhorn (Nissan Laurel) after Langhorn claimed his second Pro-Am round win in a row on Sunday, this time from fellow Aucklander Gareth Grove (NZ Spill Response Nissan S14) and Taupo driver Rene Richmond (ILS Mazda RX7/8).
There was also a surprise – particularly considering the high-speed nature of the Ruapuna drift section – in qualifying when Hamilton-based series rookie Joel Paterson top-scored in his Toyata AE86, ahead of Langhorn and another class rookie from Hamilton, Jase Brown.
Langhorn now leads Pro-Am with 396 points, 13 more than Grove who has moved up from fifth to second with Auckland’s Joel Hedges (C’s Garage Nissan S13) third a further 19 points back.
The focus of the Cody’s D1NZ series is now on the Grand Final, which will be held under lights at Auckland’s Mount Smart stadium on Friday May 23 and Saturday May 24.