Cole Armstrong has one hand on the 2016-’17 Demon Energy D1NZ National Drifting Championship after winning the penultimate round of the Pro Series at Hampton Downs Motorsport Park.
Armstrong’s victory in his V Energy backed Nissan Skyline 250GT at Hampton Downs was the first on the freshly minted GT Radial Club Circuit, as the series made the move away from the two corner National Circuit.
“It’s cool man we’ve all been driving for years, I was stoked to have that final battle with Bruce,” Armstrong said.
“We’ve been in it since day one together and you know you’re going to have a good battle with him, really tight, really fast and really aggressive.”
Darren Kelly and Daynom Templeman were early exits. Kelly suffered an axle failure whilst pole sitter Templeman was knocked out in the top-24 battles after hitting Joel Counter.
D1NZ round two winner Dave Steedman was another early casualty in the top-24. After ‘Fanga’ Dan Woolhouse’ dropped a wheel off – taking out the sector ending flag – the pair went to a One-More-Time, but Woolhouse clawed the margin back to progress through.
Ben Wilkinson was a standout performer across the weekend. He charged hard on the rear of top-10 qualifier Nico Reid in their top-16 battle. Wilkinson had qualified lowin 23rd but wasn’t perturbed by the challenge as he looked strong against the former round winner.
The judges spent nearly 10 minutes deliberating their decision, but subsequently ruled a One-More-Time as both Wilkinson and Reid dropped a wheel off in their second pass.
Wilkinson again chased hard against Reid who tried his hardest to put up a smoke screen in his second run. Reid took his five-minute time out as water poured from his Nissan Silvia S15. Wilkinson was given a lifeline as Reid suffered a mechanical failure exiting turn two.
Armstrong cruised into the top-eight after winning his top-16 battle with Jaron Olivecrona. Manfeild based drifter Olivecrona struggled to keep pace with Armstrong and dropped a wheel off at turn two, which handed Armstrong the win.
Sporting a new Link ECU liveried Nissan Silvia S13, Stuart Baker pushed hard to beat round two winner Tom Marshall in their top-16 battle. Unfortunately, Baker’s straight line was compounded as he speared off at the final turn, ending his hopes of a round win.
Shane Allen put on one of the best chase runs against Bruce Tannock in his top-16 battle, but it all came undone as he dropped a wheel off at the final corner. Tannock was given the run through to the top-eight where he ended Joel Counter’s hot run of form.
Davies faced Woolhouse in the first of the top-eight battles with ‘Fanga’ on the chase. Woolhouse ran shallow in his chase, which Davies countered with a strong second run-Davies advanced to the top-four.
The second top-eight battle saw Armstrong face round three winner Tom Marshall. Tauranga local Armstrong leapt out ahead of Marshall in their first run and passed through to the top-four.
As the runs continued, Redward pulled a 10-car length lead on Wilkinson through the opening two turns, but dropped a wheel off as he exited the final turn. Wilkinson also faltered with a straight line exiting the final turn.
Redward hustled the back of Wilkinson’s Silvia S15 on the second run, which earned him the run through to the top-four-Wilkinson’s stellar run coming to an end.
Davies hopes of a win took a hit when he dropped a wheel off at the entry to turn one, which handed the advantage to rival Tannock. Davies threw his chances out the window in his chase run on Tannock as he speared off at the final corner.
In the final battle before the semi-final, Cole Armstrong faced off against Andrew Redward. The veterans ran side-by-side into turn one, but Redward stretched his legs over Armstrong as they exited turn one.
Redward was glued to Armstrong’s bumper through the second run heading into turn one, but lost momentum through turn two and three to give Armstrong the final battles entry.
In the battle for third Davies was handed the final podium place after Redward suffered an engine failure.
Cole Armstrong celebrates with trophy in hand after winning at Hampton Downs Motorsport Park. Photo / Simon ChapmanThe final battle against Tannock and Armstrong saw two old foes face off. Armstrong led first and was immediately able to gap Tannock. With the advantage towards Armstrong, the Tauranga local didn’t hold back in his chase, which saw Tannock go too deep into turn one.
With Tannock well wide of the apex, Armstrong flew past and screamed across the finish line to take his second win of the season.
The Demon Energy D1NZ National Drifting Championship heads to South Auckland’s Pukekohe Park over April 22-23