Previewing the tight five-way fight for the 2015–’16 D1NZ crown
The Demon Energy D1NZ National Drifting Championship returns to Pukekohe Park Raceway this weekend for the 2015-16 season finale, with five drivers all capable of winning the championship.
For most of the season, South Auckland's Nico Reid and NAC BMW pilot Daynom Templeman have led the charge; Templeman through consistency, Reid through four straight round wins.
"We planned to win this year, but I don't think anybody knew it was going to be four times -- let alone four times in a row," Reid, the current series leader, told Driven.
"We always aim to be at the top of the field, but I guess last year I just had car problems left right and centre. But we've got rid of all the problems, so there's no reason why we shouldn't be there.
"It's my job to be done now."
Despite having not claimed any wins this season, Templeman has been competitive throughout -- despite debuting a completely new platform in his E46 BMW M3.
Nico Reid. Photo / Matthew Hansen
"We were pleasantly surprised to come into the last round with a shot of winning the championship, it's great," he said.
"Our intention was always to build the car to be super competitive. We had all those years with the RX-7, and even though we were sort of competitive in that, it just wasn't quite up to the task; we have a car that finally does what I want it to do.
"It was great that it was competitive straight away, [but] we are probably a little bit ahead of where we expected to be."
After Reid incurred a points penalty regarding his win at Tauranga, Templeman took the lead of the championship and maintained it until the penultimate round at Mike Pero Motorsport Park in Christchurch, where he slipped from the lead to third behind Reid, and former champion Curt Whittaker.
Daynom Templeman. Photo / Matthew Hansen
In a season where two arguable underdog competitors have stood out, Whittaker is one of only two former champions who can take the crown, with "Fanga Dan" Woolhouse poised in fourth, ahead of fellow mathematical possibility Dave Steedman.
"We've been in this situation for a number of times now. We've done the maths before, thinking 'they've got to place here, and we've got to place here', but unfortunately I think it's out of my hands. I can only go and do what I can do," Whittaker said.
"You can't underestimate anyone. The likes of Daynom and Nico, they've been here and they've been doing it a while. They just haven't quite had the package or the luck that goes with it. So they've learnt the hard way. But coming into this season they've had a bit of luck and also they've obviously got the packages underneath them."
For the majority of the D1NZ field, Pukekohe is considered a homecoming, as a venue intrinsically connected to the sport's domestic roots and earliest days.
This is something true for each of the top-three drivers in the championship. For Whittaker, the circuit was where his relationship with the sport first began.
Curt Whittaker. Photo / Matthew Hansen
"It's where I learned to drift. It was the first track I ever got to drift on, so it's definitely home for me," Whittaker said.
"It's definitely home for me and it's one of those tracks where you either like it and enjoy it, or you're scared. It daunts a lot of people I think. [...] You're always going to drive ten tenths of what you've got anyway, so it's just a matter of finding that limit of what works for your car. You've got to be able trust what you've got underneath you."
Having competed at Pukekohe in the past, the dangers of the concrete aren't daunting for Templeman.
"I've done a lot of other forms of motor racing, and I've been off there a lot quicker in a lot of other cars -- not sideways, but in ground-effects cars. The speed entering it isn't really a concern to me," Templeman said.
"I think it is probably worth the hype. Everywhere else is a bit slower, and it should be quite a good spectacle. But with all the talk, it’s just like ‘let’s just get on with it’."
"I’m definitely not scared of concrete," adds Reid, "but it definitely separates the boys from the men. It definitely pushes the boundaries."
"It ain't my stomping ground, but I'm going to give it my all. And I know what you've got to do at Pukekohe, so let's hope that things fall in my favour."
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