D1NZ ready for Pro Series showdown
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Round one of the 2016-'17 Demon Energy D1NZ National Drifting Championship is set to take place this weekend at perhaps the most unique venue the series has ever visited - Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin.
A 30-car grid will compete for Pro Series supremacy, with the long list of established names balanced out by a number of drivers graduating from the D1NZ's own feeder series.
Headlining the driver list are former champions 'Fanga Dan' Woolhouse and Darren Kelly. The pair of drivers approach the series opener with new-look machines underneath them.
Woolhouse has updated his Century Batteries Holden Commodore to VF specifications, while Kelly has traded his faithful four-door Nissan Skyline R34 for a Nissan R35 GT-R - gaining support from Nissan New Zealand in the process.
However neither Woolhouse nor Kelly were in the frame for the title last year; a title eventually won by Curt Whittaker.
The Nissan pilot and his Rattla Motorsport teammate Shane Allen are on the sidelines for this season, leaving the championship battle wide open.
Whittaker's closest rivals last season were South Auckland's Nico Reid and former circuit racer Daynom Templeman. Both return with the same proven packages underneath them, and will be as hungry as ever in the pursuit of a maiden title win.
There are two drivers in the field representing Australia; Michael Prosenik and Matty Hill. While Prosenik is a familiar face in the series, he will be taking over an unfamiliar car for the Dunedin event - the Toyotaz Galore GT86 formerly driven by Daigo Saito and Ryan Tuerck. Hill meanwhile will peddle the same Nissan Silvia S15 that he drove during last year's Hi-Tec Oils Trans-Tasman Drift Series.
Hill's weapon of choice is in fact one of a whopping 18 Nissan Silvias and 180SXs that will comprise the grid - the prolific range of chassis continuing to be competitive as the sport evolves. Among those utilizing the popular platform includes the ever improving Ben Wilkinson, returnee Jerry Zhu, series veteran Bruce Tannock, and former Pro Sport champion Troy Jenkins.
The success of drivers like Jenkins and Kelly has seen more competitors from the Pro Sport feeder series. A total of four drivers will make the step up for this season - Raymond Robertson, Andrew McClenaghan, Joel Paterson, and Bex Bennett.
Bennett is one of two women in the field, joining Jodie Verhulst who returns with her unique Toyota Supra 'JZ86'.
The opening event of the six-round calendar starts tomorrow, with the final battles to decide the Pro class set to take place under lights on December 3.
D1NZ Pro Entry List
#2 - Nico Reid - Nissan Silvia S15
#3 - Cole Armstrong - Nissan 250GT Skyline
#4 - Daynom Templeman - BMW E46
#5 - Daniel Woolhouse - Holden Commodore VF
#6 - David Steedman - Nissan Silvia S14
#18 - Adam Davies - Nissan 180SX
#7 - Darren Kelly - Nissan R35 GT-R
#8 - Drew Donovan - Nissan Silvia S15
#16 - Jodie Verhulst - Toyota Supra
#9 - Tom Marshall - Nissan Silvia S15
#12 - Joe Marshall - Nissan 180SX
#10 - Brad Smith - Nissan 350Z
#11 - Bruce Tannock - Nissan Silvia S13
#14 - Gareth Grove - Nissan Silvia S15
#15 - Dylan Woolhouse - Mazda RX-7
#17 - Michael Prosenik - Toyota GT86
#19 - Ben Wilkinson - Nissan Silvia S15
#20 - Stuart Baker - Nissan Silvia S13
#23 - Jaron Olivecrona - Nissan Silvia S14
#26 - Phil Sutherland - Nissan Silvia S14
#27 - Joel Counter - Nissan Silvia S14
#21 - Troy Jenkins - Nissan Silvia S15
#28 - Matty Hill - Nissan Silvia S15
#29 - Jerry Zhou - Nissan Silvia S15
#30 - Joel Patterson - Nissan Skyline R32
#32 - Bex Bennett - Nissan Skyline R32
#34 - Josh McMillan - Nissan Cefiro
#35 - Raymond Robertson - Nissan Silvia S14
#37 - Andrew McClenaghan - Nissan Silvia S13
#36 - Jake Hakaraia - Nissan Laurel