Drifting: Adrenalin pumped up for weekend


A move to the Bay of Plenty has been good for McLaren Falls couple Drew Donovan and Jodie Verhulst.

When the pair, originally from the Far North, arrived in the Bay six years ago the move was simply about seeing more of the country.

But now 27-year-old Donovan and 24-year-old Verhulst run a thriving part-time business organising drift practice days around the North Island and this weekend both will be competing at the third round of the 2012/13 Cody's D1NZ National Drifting Championship at Baypark.

Donovan is in the main D1 Pro class and Verhulst in the Pro-Am.

Drifting is the fastest growing form of motorsport around the world at the moment, the flames of its popularity fanned by a storyline in Hollywood blockbuster The Fast & Furious, Tokyo Drift.

Neither Donovan nor Verhulst had any background in motorsport before they discovered drifting.

Donovan liked doing what at the time he called "powerslides" in his road car. But it was not until he went and watched an early round of the D1NZ Drift Championship that he realised there was a connection.

"It must have been around 2003 and it was only then that I joined the dots," he said. "Drifting was just like powersliding."

Keen to give it a go himself, Donovan sold his car, a Mazda RX7, and bought a Nissan S13 already set up for drifting.

The problem was where to practise.

The initial answer was a practice day at Ricoh Motorsport Park in Taupo organised by some drifters from Auckland. Donovan then put together a similar day at Taupo for himself and some friends and Drift Motorsport NZ was born.

"There were 12 of us and we shared the cost of hiring Taupo. Everyone had a good time, the people at the track were keen, and it grew from there," he says.

Now, a typical Drift Motorsport NZ practice day will see as many as 60 drifters, from absolute beginners to Cody's D1NZ championship regulars, spend a day learning the ropes or polishing their skills at Taupo, Manfeild or Hampton Downs.

It was at one of these days that Donovan suggested Verhulst have a go in the S13 herself and, like her partner, she was hooked.

"The buzz, the adrenaline rush, it was just incredible," she said. "So like Drew, I sold my road car, a Nissan Skyline, and bought a drift car, a Nissan Cefiro."

Such was Verhulst's rate of progress, that car soon made way for the one she will drive at Baypark this weekend, a turbocharged six-cylinder Toyota Supra.

Like Donovan's latest car, a Chevrolet V8-powered Nissan S15 - both finished in the matching blue-over-black of their business and sponsors Mag & Turbo Tauranga, Elf Lubricants and Gull petroleum - the Supra produces more than 400 horsepower and Verhulst admits it took her a while to come to grips with it.

But with seventh-place finishes in the Pro-Am class at both previous rounds of this season's D1NZ series, she heads into her home round not just as one of two female drivers contesting this season's Pro-Am class, but as a potential podium place-getter.

Donovan has found the going a little tougher in the D1NZ Pro class, lying 15th overall. Both, however, are keen to put on a special show for the local fans this weekend.

"Jodie and I have developed a massive group of friends and supporters since we've been down here and it's going to be fantastic to involve them directly in what we do for the first time."

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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