Drivers, judges, teams and officials overcome track breakage

  • Written by D1NZ Admin

The Link ECU D1NZ National Drifting Championship has been scene to some of the toughest conditions in New Zealand motorsport, but perhaps none as trying as those seen last weekend.


The D1NZ paddock was put to test come Saturday afternoon when a bizarre incident unfolded at Levels Raceway, Timaru.


During the top-four battles for the D1NZ Pro-Sport Series, fifth place qualifier Callum Neeson suffered a high-speed crash following a tyre debeading. He collided with the tyre wall at turn one of the drift section (turn five of the full circuit) and caused significant damage to his car.


He came to a sudden halt and an ambulance was sent immediately to the site of the crash as well as recovery crews. Neeson was checked over, he was sore, but otherwise fine.


An extensive cleanup was required, including the tyre wall being put back upright, track sweeping carried out, and Neeson’s car removed.


With a 5:00pm time-certain finish on the table, the team worked quickly to clear Neeson’s car. However, in the process of doing so one of the stabilising legs on a recovery vehicle was left down.


That meant when the vehicle left the circuit the leg dug into the grass and across half the width of the track surface. The right-hand side of the circuit was deemed undriveable by the MotorSport New Zealand Clerk of the Course.


With most of the Pro-Sport Series still yet to run and the Pro Series later on in the day, officials were left with two options—end the competition or work around it.


Quick thinking by the judges and officials led to a fast decision and the circuit was changed.


Cones were repositioned and the cars started from just behind the damaged part of the course, the cars initiated into what was formerly turn two of the drift section before a new final corner was added at turn nine of the full circuit (turn four of the judged course).


The circumstances were unlike any other seen in the history of D1NZ. An emergency drivers briefing was called for the remaining competitors to advise of the change. The drivers were given one sighting lap before getting into the competition.


D1NZ Category Manager Brendon White said with the extent of the damage they had few options to choose from.


“When building custom circuits and pushing racing cars to the limit of their capabilities we’re always going to experience challenges,” White said.


“But in the first time in 10 years a track was inadvertently damaged beyond any possible immediate repair.


“Following a fast response from judges, drivers, and the D1NZ crew, we managed to quickly think on our feet to establish a new section of the track.


“Thankfully Callum walked away unscathed from what was easily one of the biggest crashed in recent memory for the series. It’s a testament to the safety of the circuit and these professionally built and run cars.”

Photo: Tony Crossed


White and track officials have already assessed the damage, which will be repaired on Monday before a South Canterbury Car Club test day takes place later next week.


D1NZ Pro Series winner Darren Kelly said it was a challenge, but one the whole field had to work around in the end.


“It was pretty unexpected,” he said.


“We haven’t experienced that before. It’s something that you really don’t have a backup plan for, so for what they managed to get done and run a section like that, it’s pretty cool.


“That section there actually ended up being nicer to run and chase, so it was something that was different but cool at the same time.”


The Link ECU D1NZ National Drifting Championship moves to Feilding's Manfeild Circuit Chris Amon for the penultimate round of the calendar on April 20-21.



  • Written by D1NZ Admin
Nissan-backed drifter Darren Kelly overcame one of the wildest events in D1NZ history to take his first win of the 2018 season.


Levels Raceway in Timaru hosted the third round of the Link ECU D1NZ National Drifting Championship where one of the most bizarre incidents curtailed the day’s running.


A track layout change was forced mid-competition following a sizeable incident in the feeder category Pro-Sport Series.
During the process of retrieving Callum Neeson’s car a recovery vehicle damaged the circuit, which meant the start line and drift section had to be moved.


However, it wasn’t a deterrent for Kelly who overcame the added challenge to take the win. It was the first win in his GT-R, which he said has been a long time coming, since debuting it in late-2016.


“We’ve got the setup dialed in now, I think we’re pretty much on the money with it,” Kelly said.


“The ultimate goal now is to challenge for the championship and get another result like this. With the last two concrete rounds we knew we were going to struggle, but once we got onto the race track it's just full throttle again.


“We’ll keep doing what we’re doing now and hopefully get back on this top step.”


The top-16 battles were earmarked by one of the biggest upsets of the weekend when Carl Thompson knocked out pole sitter Gaz Whiter. The four-time champion got lost in Thompson’s smoke, which saw him make a mistake out of turn one and go wide into the dirt.


In a repeat of the round two final, Cole Armstrong battled Drew Donovan. Following Armstrong’s solid chase, Donovan made a mistake almost identical to that of Whiter’s. He went wide into turn two and speared off onto the dirt.


Darren Kelly got his first win in the top-16 after Ben Jenkins went off the track at the hairpin. But drama struck for Kelly when his gear shifter broke. He duly called his five-minutes and only made it back out on track with five seconds to spare. After a clean chase he progressed through.


Thompson’s first top-eight berth saw him up against Bruce Tannock. Neither had a mistake-free run, but the judges ruled in favour of Thompson.


The repeats continued for Armstrong, who faced off with van Gisbergen in the top-four. The pair ran door-to-door, but Armstrong was given the win.


The judges deducted points due to van Gisbergen’s shallow line to gain proximity, a severe bobble through the switch, and finally, a dirt drop on the final corner. The judges noted Armstrong went shallow at turn one but was stronger through the second sector especially on the last two clipping zones.


One of the messiest battles saw Kelly and Woolhouse face off. The pair both went wide on entry to turn one and suffered a dirt drop. Woolhouse went shallow through the switch while Kelly aced his line. Woolhouse maintained a good gap but made small errors from thereon. Woolhouse eventually ended with three dirt drops, however, the first fault was attributed to Kelly.


With the top-eight complete, the semifinals were set—Thompson to face Armstrong and Kelly against Wilkinson.


Thompson’s strong run through to the top-four came to an end against Armstrong. He couldn’t keep up with the round two runner-up, who aced his lead line. Thompson suffered a bobble on his chase run too, which resulted in a marking down of his score.


On the other side of the tree, Kelly faced off with Wilkinson in another exciting battle. Wilkinson was close to Kelly in his chase, but that came at the cost of his line, which the judges asked the drivers specifically not to do. Kelly had greater angle too and an early switch by Wilkinson cost him.


Kelly went through and came up against Armstrong in an all RB-powered final, while Wilkinson battled Thompson for third. Thompson made a mistake on his chase run that ultimately cost him his first chance of a podium, while Wilkinson was clean.


In the final, Kelly fought hard to get victory against Armstrong. The pair were close in the two battles, but Armstrong was shallow on his initiation and bobbled at the end. He dived to gain proximity, which resulted in a mark down.


Banging on his door, Armstrong egged Kelly on to stick his nose on the V Energy Skyline’s side. Ultimately it was Kelly who earned the win.


“When I went through the hairpin on my lead I was waving out the window and cheering him on, so he did the same,” Kelly said.


“When we went through there I was right on his door and he started banging on it saying, ‘get up here’.


“It’s awesome. You know you can commit 100 per cent with him and he’ll just drive as hard as he can so it’s always good. You know you can go as hard as you want.”


The Link ECU D1NZ National Drifting Championship moves to Manfeild Circuit Chris Amon for the penultimate round of the calendar on April 20-21. For more information visit or


D1NZ Pro Series overall standings:
1. Cole Armstrong: 218 points
2. Darren Kelly: 191 points
3. ‘Fanga’ Dan Woolhouse: 178 points
4. Daynom ‘Slim’ Templeman: 163 points
5. Matty Hill: 159 points
6. ‘Disco’ Dave Steedman: 157 points
7. Carl Thompson: 150 points
8. Benjamin Wilkinson: 142 points
9. Gaz Whiter: 140 points
10. Drew Donovan: 138 points
2018 D1NZ National Drifting Championship calendar:
Round 1: Wellington – Max Motors Wellington Family Speedway – 12-13 January 2018 (Day/Night Event)
Round 2: Tauranga – ASB Baypark Speedway – 16-17 February 2018 (Day/Night event)
Round 3: Timaru – Levels Raceway – 9-10 March 2018 
Round 4: Feilding – Manfeild Circuit Chris Amon – 20-21 April 2018
Round 5: Auckland – Pukekohe Park – 11-12 May 2018 – Grand Final


  • Written by D1NZ Admin


‘Fanga’ Dan Woolhouse’s first competitive outing in his Ford Mustang RTR Spec 5-D marked a significant moment in the former drift king’s career.



But it was a moment he’ll probably want to forget quickly. For the first time in his 12-yearlong drifting career, the 2006 champion spun on his first qualifying run.



However, it wasn’t helped by some of the trickiest conditions this season to date on a cold slippery Levels Raceway in Timaru.



“It’s the first time in 12 years of competing that I’ve had a spin in my first run,” he said.



“I’ve never spun in qualifying. It pissed down with rain in that second round of qualifying, so I was shitting my pants and just needed to bank something.



“It’s one wild machine that we’re trying to tame a little bit. It’s a beast.”



After his spin, Woolhouse managed to bank a 63-point run. That put him just outside the top-10 in 11th behind Benjamin Wilkinson and just half a point ahead of Australian Matty Hill.



Warmer conditions are predicted for Saturday’s battles. Drivers struggled during qualifying with drizzle that kept the circuit just damp enough to not get any grip into their tyres.



Made even more difficult for Woolhouse was the limited running before qualifying. Having missed the first practice session, Woolhouse managed to bank just four laps.



“It wasn’t ideal for what we needed with this new car, but we didn’t come here to go P1 and try to blow the doors off everyone. We came here to learn the car. If we get a result then we’re happy.



“I hope tomorrow we get some good battle time and dial the car in. It’s early days, it’s a beast of a car to drive and I’m still learning so it’s exciting too.  



“Bring on the battles tomorrow and have some fun! Hopefully the weather is more consistent and we can sit the car where we want it. Let’s go and have some fun.”



Woolhouse said he believes they’re no scratched the surface with the potential of the car. He said he’ll continue to work with his team to develop the car as they move forward to rounds four and five at Manfeild Circuit Chris Amon and Pukekohe Park respectively.



The third round of the Link ECU D1NZ National Drifting Championship takes place at Levels Raceway, Timaru over March 9-10.