Taking in the D1NZ experience at Pukekohe
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I don't like wearing race-suits. They tend to make me resemble a sausage, exploded to human-sized proportions.
Yet, here I am; bursting at every seam after the mechanic who drew the shortest straw was forced to crane and strop me into this racing seat. Sorry bro.
On my right is Andrew Redward, and encasing us both is Andrew's car - a 1988 Mazda RX7 FC3S. We're at Pukekohe Park Raceway, where I'm about to be one of the first people to sample Pukekohe's newly resurfaced turn one at the wonderfully rounded figure of 200 kilometres per hour.
"Are you ready?" he asks.
"Yeah," I lie.
Seeing Redward's RX7 up close for the first time, on the surface, offers me no real comfort. When it was made, the Berlin Wall still stood, the late Nelson Mandela was still in jail, and I was still an idea on the life blueprints of my parents' collective mind.
And yet, hopping into it, a lot of those feelings are quickly arrested.
That's the story of drifting recent rise in a nut-shell - the image is still there, but once you peel away the skin you find professionalism and impeccable skill.
The man at the end of pit-lane stops us, as we have to wait for a series staffer to bring me a neck-brace. Redward turns off the engine. For the moment, we take in the flow of cars passing us by. All travelling at a rapid rate of knots. 'That's going to be me soon.' A few seconds later, and my neck-brace has arrived. It is bright pink. Lovely.
We're rolling, and almost immediately I can feel the wheel-spin as we exit pit-lane and the LS3 V8 under the bonnet roars into life. I had been determined to pay attention to Redward's input, but I was just too distracted - involuntarily electing to remain frozen like a deer in the headlights as we approached the turn one concrete. Moment of truth.
Okay, this time.
We hurtle towards turn one, Redward still a little tentative and testy on a circuit where drivers are still getting their eye in. He fakes to the right, before jagging to the left and initiating the drift.
Hit the clutch.
The Mazda flicks sideways with incredible immediacy, like magic. It's then held in position, as Redward's right foot is pressed firmly to the floor. His hands are dancing all over the place in a motion comparable only to what you see from professional drummers - darting from the steering wheel to the hand-brake, to the gear-knob and back in fractions of a second. All of it reactionary to what the driver sees and feels.
The smoke in here is purple. It's taken me three runs, but I've only just noticed that the smoke is purple - mainly due to its thick presence obstructing Redward's wizardry during the final seconds of the run.
"Want another lap?" he yells, over his howling, beast of a race-car.
I've never given someone else a thumbs-up so quickly