Former Demon Energy D1NZ National Drifting Championship title winner Darren Kelly has whipped the covers off his new car for the upcoming season — an immaculately prepared RB-powered Nissan R35 GT-R.
Revealed to a crowd of supporters and media at Vector Arena, the car is the first of its kind in New Zealand and represents a new benchmark for the series.
In what could almost be considered an even bigger coup, it is the first drift car in the history of the D1NZ series to receive factory backing — Nissan New Zealand collaborating with the former championship-winning team in a national first.
“It’s a dream come true,” said Kelly.
“It’s been a real hard road, obviously the whole way through building such a crazy car. We’ve had big ups, and big downs. It’s been pretty rough, but to see it come together in the last few weeks has been amazing.”
As drifting continues to grow in professionalism internationally, corporate support grows with it — underlined by Kelly's GT-R.
“It’s a step out of our normal sort of parameters,” said Nissan New Zealand General Manager John Manley.
“This year, Nissan New Zealand is actually investing a lot more in motorsport and this is a component of that.
“It’s bringing a different demographic and age group into it, but it’s still all about Nissan and it’s still all about performance and technology. It fits beautifully for us.”
Kelly isn't the first Kiwi drifter to attract factory backing, with ‘Mad Mike’ Whiddett gaining the support of Mazda after he decided to tackle the international drifting circuit.
“When Mike [Whiddett] did it, it was like ‘shoot, that might that might actually open a door to that line of sponsorship’,” said Kelly.
“Basically, I put it forward to them. We talked very briefly and within a matter of days the whole deal was signed and sealed. It obviously means big things for the future.”
The new car's first competitive run will take place at round one of the D1NZ series, at Dunedin's Forsyth Barr Stadium on December 2-3.