There were testing times today at Pukekohe Park for Shane van Gisbergen as he got thrown a curveball by the weather in D1NZ practice.
The 2016 Virgin Australia Supercars Championship title winner cut his first dry laps around the South Auckland circuit on Friday morning, but quickly had to readapt.
This weekend van Gisbergen will contest the final round of the Link ECU D1NZ National Drifting Championship where over 60 drivers across the Pro and Pro-Sport field will compete for outright honours.
More accustomed to taking Pukekohe Park’s turn one using a traditional racing line, van Gisbergen this weekend will take the corner sideways at high speed. Friday gave the Aucklander his first opportunity to test out the VK56-powered MCA Suspension Nissan 370z.
“It was quite a shock to learn the first bit sideways,” van Gisbergen said.
“It took a while to build up the speed. The faster you go the easier it gets. Once I got up to 160, 170kph it was pretty cool. We got better and better and stepped the speed up, but we’re nowhere near the top guys yet.”
This Nissan 370z van Gisbergen will drive this weekend is prepared by Murray Coote and his son Josh, who occasionally drives the car too. The team are familiar faces in the Australian drifting and time attack scene.
In 2015 van Gisbergen drove for the team in their Nissan Silvia S13 at the annual World Time Attack Challenge. Since then he’s moved onto the 370z to drift in New Zealand.
Persistent rain in the afternoon meant the 29-year-old had to readjust to the track conditions. It came soon after van Gisbergen began to get into the grove and started to battle with other drivers.
“I was feeling more and more confident, but then the rain came so I had to start again. In the rain it was pretty easy, I’ve got way too much power.
“In the wet you hardly use 10 or 15 per cent throttle. Whereas in the dry you’re full gas the whole way. It’s a big difference.
“Hopefully it’s dry tomorrow and Sunday and we can get back into it again, but it’s slippery, very slippery in the wet. It’s pretty fun but in a battle it’s not the best. Hopefully it dries up when it counts.”
Despite the adverse conditions, van Gisbergen spent much of the afternoon completing tandem runs with both Pro and Pro-Sport competitors. It gave him the chance to learn the various lines against fast and slow rivals.
That, he said, was the most valuable part in relearning the circuit.
“The best thing is just following people and you just learn by following them.
“I kept lining up in the chase lane and leaving a big gap to watch what everyone does—good guys and bad. That’s where I learnt the most.”
The Link ECU D1NZ National Drifting Championship grand final takes place at Pukekohe Park over May 12-13. For more information visit D1NZ.com or NZXMS.co.nz. Tickets are available via iTicket.co.nz.
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