Drew Donovan takes first pole position in tightest qualifying to date

Only one point split newlywed Drew Donovan and D1NZ Pro Series points leader Darren Kelly in qualifying for the penultimate round of the 2018 season.
Manfeild Circuit Chris Amon hosted the second-to-last round of the Link ECU D1NZ National Drifting Championship. The Feilding round remains one of the longest running events in the 15-year history of the series.
Despite having missed the first round of the series in Wellington, Drew Donovan sits 10th in the standings. It’s the first time he’s taken pole position in the series, a feat he said has been a long time coming. The top qualifying position comes only two weeks after he married long-time partner Jodie Donovan (Verhulst).
“It’s not an easy thing to get anywhere near the top in qualifying because you’re up against a field of really talented guys and girls,” he said.
“I’ve kind of hand it as a plan obviously. You always want to go P1 every round, but I said it as this little goal at the start.
“If nothing else I just wanted to take that number one spot in qualifying and I’m pretty chuffed that I have.”
Earlier this season Donovan won on his return to the championship at his home round inside ASB Baypark Stadium. He said Saturday is going to be a big task to tackle if he wants to win his second round this year.
“You’ve got to take everything as it comes. Qualifying is done now, but the battles are a whole ‘nother challenge.
“I’m certainly not getting ahead of myself, but we couldn’t turn back after taking the win at home in Tauranga.”
The qualifying was punctuated by some of the tightest scores ever seen in D1NZ history. First through to 12th were split by just six and a half points.
Second place qualifier Darren Kelly blitzed the course on his first run and hit all the right points as he poured smoke from his car. An 85.5-point run sent him straight to the top to take provisional pole position.
However, his time at the top was short lived. Donovan’s first run put him just one point ahead and to the top where he stayed.
Team Jenkins Motorsport drifter Ben Jenkins threw a cat amongst the pigeons with one of his best runs of his recent career. The Aucklander launched to third equal with Andrew Redward. The judges were impressed by his aggressive switch that saw him score high in style.
The run was made even more impressive given the uphill battle they’d raced to get the car even running for qualifying following a clutch issue. He eventually slid to 11th following the second passes.
Ben’s brother Troy Jenkins got his first competitive run in the Toyotaz Galore GT86 at the second-to-last round of the series. He qualified 18th on 76-points.
Championship leader Cole Armstrong was wild in his first run. The reigning champion was nearly backwards through turn two, but he was marked down for a bad line and eventually ended the first round outside the top-24.
Fortunately for him a safe by strong second run netted him 12th.
After getting onto the podium in round three, Benjamin Wilkinson threw down a solid first run to go third with a smooth line that excelled in angle and style. His second run was even more impressive and shifted him up the order to third.
Daynom Templeman was surprisingly uncompetitive. He was lucky to proceed to the top 24 after a 72.5-point run got him 24th, just ahead of Stuart Baker.
By the end of the competition the judges said there was little to split the drivers on. Most excelled on angle, however, the line was what let many drivers down. Ultimately it was the first 10 metres of Donovan’s run that counted for the extra point that got him pole position.

The fourth round of the Link ECU D1NZ National Drifting Championship takes place at Manfeild Circuit Chris Amon over April 20–20. For more information visit or Tickets are available via

D1NZ Pro Series, qualifying results top 10: 
1. Drew Donovan – 86.5
2. Darren Kelly – 85.5
3. Ben Wilkinson – 84.0
4. Adam Davies – 82.5
5. Dave Steedman – 82.0
6. ‘Fanga’ Dan Woolhouse – 81.5
7. Gaz Whiter – 81.0
8. Andrew Redward – 80.5
9. Cody Pullen-Burry – 80.0
10. Matty Hill (AUS) – 80.0

2018 Link ECU D1NZ National Drifting Championship calendar:
Round 1: Wellington – Max Motors Family Speedway  – 12-13 January
Round 2: Tauranga – ASB Baypark Stadium – 16-17 February 
Round 3: Timaru – Levels Raceway – 9-10 March 
Round 4: Feilding – Manfeild Circuit Chris Amon – 20-21 April
Round 5: Auckland – Pukekohe Park – 12-13 May