Three-time Cody's D1NZ Championship series winner Gary "Gaz" Whiter, started the 2013/14 drifting season last weekend with a flawless victory at Hampton Downs raceway. Fellow veteran and closest rival "Fanga" Dan Woolhouse was campaigning a fresh LS3 engine in his newly painted VZ Commodore.
Unfortunately limited hours driving the new powerplant proved to be Woolhouse's undoing when he made a few minor errors getting familiar with the set-up and handed Whiter the pole position heading into the Top 16.
After qualifying in first place, Whiter proceeded to be a clear crowd favourite, showing how comfortable he is behind the wheel of the Nissan Silvia he has driven throughout most of his D1NZ career.
As Whiter devoured his first two challengers on the way to the day's final, spectators were treated to a formidable challenge from D1NZ rookie, Jodi Verholst.
Verholst came close to knocking last season's championship holder Woolhouse out in his first battle of the day. After taking a questionable line on entry, D1NZ's only female driver showed why she has progressed into the Pro series, forcing the rear wheels of Woolhouse's Commodore to go off track as he pursued Verholst's Milwaukee Toyota Supra.
The judges called a re-run which Woolhouse won.
Verholst later commented she was "pretty chuffed" with her performance.
As the Top 16 filtered down to the Top Four, Whiter was paired with Andrew Redwood. With both drivers opting to power their mid-sized Japanese coupes with LS series small block V8s, this was technically a fair fight. After an aggressive chase, Redwood's Mazda RX7 looked like it might get in the way of Whiter's return to the top of the D1NZ podium. But Whiter continued his faultless journey toward the final battle to go head to head with drifting icon "Mad" Mike Whiddett.
Whiddett and his Red Bull/Speedhunters RX7 endured a hydraulic leak that deemed the Mazda's entire braking system useless during his Top 16 battles. Unable to remedy the problem on site, Whiddett was forced to reduce his speed in to the entry point, giving Whiter a considerable advantage.
This became evident as Whiter led Whiddett into the first finals run.
After demonstrating a near perfect entry, Whiddett was covered in a cloud of smoke the entire chase up until the moment his Mazda's rear wheels left the track on the final corner heading into the back straight. That left him not only with a nil score, but also a detached rear bumper. The second run went much the same for Whiddett, and Whiter claimed the win.
Winning this season's opener is a testament to the Whiter family and the team behind the Tectaloy Nissan Silvia. Considering the car was almost destroyed in what was technically a "backwards entry" into an unforgiving concrete barrier during a Tauranga event last year, the outcome was a fantastic reward for their efforts over the last year.