Nissan on top: Cole Armstrong conquers D1NZ series opener in Invercargill
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Tauranga's Cole Armstrong has won the opening round of the 2020 Valvoline D1NZ National Drifting Championship — having defeated Dave Steedman in an extended final battle.
As the day progressed, a top four consisting of Pro-series rookie Taylor James, Team DSR Mimico teammates Adam Davies and Steedman, and two-time champ Armstrong emerged.
Missing in action were some of the category's biggest names. 'Fanga Dan' Woolhouse and his Ford Mustang got knocked out by Steedman with an apparent mechanical during his lead run. Mag & Turbo Nissan pilot Bruce Tannock slid off track while battling Steedman in the top eight.
And the explosive pairing of Australian Jake Jones and Carl Thompson were edged by Armstrong and Michael Thorley, respectively. Perhaps the biggest casualty was returning driver Zak Pole. The Goodride Performance Tyres driver was out before the day had even begun, after cracking the RB28 engine block of his Nissan Silvia during yesterday's running.
When it came to turning the top four into a final two, it was an extended process. Steedman knocked out James following a clean pair of runs (James struggling with a slipping clutch), but the battle between Armstrong and Davies took a long time to be resolved. Judges were unable to split the pairing during initial battles, which forced a 'One More Time' tie-breaker battle that Armstrong emerged on top of.
It wasn't the first 'OMT' of the finals, though, as finalists Armstrong and Steedman lined up for the last showdown. Steedman's chase included a minor cone clip, with the following lead including a hesitant moment towards the end of the run. But his smooth lines and consistency ended up resulting in an OMT re-do.
The second OMT was much more clear cut, with each of the judges siding with Armstrong in the end. This was despite Armstrong competing in his older car; a four-door Nissan Skyline R34.
The D1NZ National Drifting Championship now travels north to Pukekohe for round two of the series in two weeks time, where they will compete alongside the Castrol Toyota Racing Series.