Christchurch drifter Phil Sutherland is perfectly poised to take the opening round of the 2016–’17 Demon Energy D1NZ National Drifting Championship by storm—as he looks to challenge the competition in his newly acquired Nissan Silvia S14.
Held at Dunedin’s Forsyth Barr Stadium over December 2–3, Sutherland is hopeful a number of developments over the offseason will put him in good stead for the first round of the series.
The biggest move for the Drains and Developments backed drifter will see him drop his Nissan Skyline R34 in favour of the ex-championship winning Nissan Silvia S14—driven by Gaz Whiter.
The V8-powered drift car won four titles between 2008 and 2014. When the opportunity came up to buy the championship winning car, Sutherland took it off Whiter’s hands.
“I rang him and brought it straight away because that was an opportunity not to be missed,” said Sutherland. “I hate to say it, but the V8 is easy. There’s so much torque and power, it’s just so different to drive.”
Two seasons ago, Sutherland crashed and rolled his Nissan Cefiro in style under lights at Mt Smart Stadium. He followed that effort up a year later at Tauranga’s Baypark Stadium when he slammed his Nissan Laurel sideways into the concrete wall. Both cars were written off.
Now, Sutherland says he hopes he can come out the other side of round one unscathed, but will relish the hope support.
“I’ve got unfinished business with concrete jungles. I’d be happy to get a clean round without writing the car off. But the hype of having it in my own island will just be awesome.”
Some of the success Whiter enjoyed in the S14 Sutherland only hopes he can too. Although he’s realistic about his goals for the season.
“I hope to be finishing in the top ten regularly, if not maybe a podium at some stage. That would be lovely.”
“We had a lot of trouble with the Skyline, and I’ve never had a good chance to win with anything. You need a championship car that keeps going and is reliable.”
Sutherland returned to New Zealand only last week, after competing in the World Time Attack Challenge at Sydney Motorsport Park. The annual event saw drifters and time attack racers from Europe, Asia, Australia, and New Zealand converge on the Sydney circuit.
Sutherland competed in the Just Car Insurance International Drift Challenge, where he competing alongside the likes of American Formula Drift champion Daigo Saito and Tanner Foust.
Off the back of his Australian expedition, he returned to New Zealand to compete in the Waimate 50. Already he’s found the car a dream to drive, as he took the overall victory and people’s choice at the Waimate event.
With his run ins with the concrete walls across the country, Sutherland said the support from his sponsors has been overwhelming over the years.
“I couldn’t do it without the support of the panel beaters, and Rapid Performance. You can’t shout enough about them. They’ve looked after me right through and quite close to Dunedin.”
Sutherland is just one of nearly 10 South Island drifters hoping hometown advantage will give them the edge over their North Island counterparts. With the opening round taking place at night under the roof of Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin’s first drift event is set to be a barnburner.
The first round of the Demon Energy D1NZ National Drifting Championship at Dunedin’s Forsyth Barr Stadium takes place over December 2–3. The event is supported by the Silver Fern Rally and NZ Supermoto Cup.