'Ms Drift' hopes to wow home crowd
Verhulst hopes to fire at home for round two of D1NZ
Tauranga's Jodie Verhulst will be one of over 60 drivers preparing to tackle round two of the 2015–’16 Demon Energy D1NZ National Drifting championship, in front of her home crowd at ASB Baypark.
“Baypark has some pretty big risks involved. Every driver who has had an altercation with the walls knows how fast and easy it happens, it’s not a case of if but when you are going to hit them. This is a high-risk track with no room for error, definitely not for the faint hearted,” said Verhulst.
After the opening round of the series at Manfeild, Verhulst sits in ninth place of the pro championship — five spots behind her DMNZ Milwaukee Tools teammate, and partner, Drew Donovan.
"I think [...] Drew has got a lot more aggressiveness to his driving, and is willing to put his car on the line to get to the top. I really admire that about him and strive to get that aggression in my own driving. I am a little bit more mechanically sympathetic to my car."
But at home, and after a strong opening drive, the points margin between Verhulst and Donovan could well shrink— further helping the driver earn her 'Ms. Drift' moniker.
"[The sport] is still very much dominated by males but in no way does that mean that the support isn’t there for the few females within it.
"Females in motorsport these days are becoming more and more common which is great! Society has changed a lot from the days that female participation was frowned on, it is now encourage and the support received is amazing. More females need to get involved and get amounts the action.
"My brother never treated me like a girl, there were no excuses, I had to keep up or get left behind. I think this has helped me with my driving not to be intimidated and hold my own when I’m out there. I grew up with a petrol head brother and a mechanic father so there wasn’t a lot of chance of being anything different."
Verhulst was on form at round one in Manfeild. Photo / Supplied
But as the category goes from strength to strength and the competition increases, Verhulst's goal of victory becomes more difficult.
She goes up against the might of reigning champ Darren Kelly, current series leader and former champ 'Fanga Dan' Woolhouse, American Formula Drift star Ryan Tuerck who will make a guest appearance at Baypark in the Toyota's Galore 86, and a host of other big names.
Still, the 27-year-old will at least have a potent set-up underneath her to give her the best opportunity — Verhulst's LS2 V8–powered, Toyota 86–nosed Supra a finely-honed five-year labour of love.
"[The car] has been one tough cookie to setup with the chassis favouring grip over drifting, especially in the early days when I had a smaller engine package. Through many hours of testing and late nights the Supra has become a true weapon on the track and will continue to develop, as we get higher up in our racing.
"Team DMNZ does majority of the work in-house, opting to build rather than buy, we are just lucky to have the support of such an amazing crew behind us to make this possible. As you can imagine having two drift cars in the family can be very expensive to say the least!"
Verhulst and the rest of the travelling D1NZ category kick off round two on January 8–9 at Baypark's notorious, tight, concrete-lined course.