Seven years after his first triumph, Whangarei drift veteran "Fanga" Dan Woolhouse has seized his second Drift King title at round six of the Cody's D1NZ championship series.
Coming into the final round last weekend at Taupo raceway, and at the top of the D1NZ points table, this season's championship was Woolhouse's to loose. Although having a healthy 30-point buffer between his closest rival Mike Whiddett was a welcome advantage for the Castrol Edge team, the weekend started off shakily.
Less than halfway through the first lap of Saturday's practice session, the LS2 that powers Woolhouse's VZ Commodore had lubrication issues and was forced prematurely off the track. Closer inspection showed the LS2 having a cracked oil pump, forcing the Castrol Edge team to remove and repair the engine on the eve of the final. After a night successfully rebuilding the engine, the Holden then fell victim to a blown differential moments before qualifying was to get under way.
Despite the seemingly impervious obstacles faced by Woolhouse, after replacing the blown LS2 he went on to qualify in pole position a mere half a point ahead of Mike Whiddett who was behind the wheel of his world-famous Red Bull/Speedhunters sponsored Mazda RX7.
Unfortunately Whiddett was outclassed early on by rising star Zak Pole in his Bullet HD Nissan Skyline, even after a broken castor arm almost caused him to forfeit the battle after the first run. This upset ended what was to be the closest Whiddett has come to claiming his first "Drift King" title in a D1NZ championship.
Another early exit was Andrew Redwood who was having a positive season entering round six in third place, but ended up being knocked out by V8 Supercar regular Shane Allen before the top 16 battles even began. After the early dismissals of Whiddett and Redwood, defending champion Curt Whittaker was looking to cause upset in the last stages of the competition. Sitting in fourth position coming into the finals, the former Drift King had a podium finish in his sights. After the fate of Redwood saw him out in the top 32, it looked like Whittaker would be on the podium, but the question was in what placing. He was the only one who could stand in the way of Woolhouse and his second championship win.
Apart from a controversial decision over the top four battle between Gaz Whiter and Dan Woolhouse, both eventual finalists were taking out all of their respective top 16 opponents with what seemed like relative ease, the precedent was set high early on by the two top runners. After the crowd had settled from the judges pushing Woolhouse through to the finals over Gaz Whiter, the scene was set for the 2012/13 championship title fight.
As the two drivers lined up for the last time this season, the clouds draped the Taupo track in shadows, setting a dramatic mood. With Whittaker in his Toyota 2JZ powered R34 Nissan Skyline and Woolhouse in his normally aspirated LS2 Commodore, (with the exception of Whiddett's chaotic Peripheral ported 4 rotor) there couldn't have been a different matchup of power plants competing for the Drift King Showdown. After textbook chases by both drivers, "Fanga" Dan won the Cody's D1NZ Championship title of Drift King 2012/13 by what can be described as the narrowest of margins. Whiddett managed to hold off Whittaker taking his second placing and was deservedly proud of his efforts standing next to Woolhouse and Whittaker respectively as runner-up on the podium.
This season has birthed many future stars within the top tier of New Zealand drifting including the entertaining Hugo Mclean in his Grabatool/Hoonigan's Toyota AE86 and Nico Reid who pilots the crowd favourite Luxury Sports Nissan Silvia. Also deserving of a mention are Darren Kelly, Matt Lauder and Jodie Verhulst who all received podium finishes in the D1NZ Pro-Am title.
After the original venue, Pukekohe Raceway, denied the D1NZ team from carrying out any future drift events at Auckland's Motorsport track, the revised Taupo event was a perfect way to end what has been the best drifting New Zealand has seen on home soil. D1NZ, and more importantly drifting as a sport, is no longer revered as a fad or a hobby suited only to young car enthusiasts. It's a solid branch of our motorsport history, here to stay.