Gaz Whiter made a dramatic return to drifting to take out Mad Mike's Summer Bash at Hampton Downs on Saturday afternoon.
The four-time New Zealand drift champion won his last title in 2014. Since then the builder from Whangarei has taken some time out from the sport but he showed no signs of rust as he edged Nico Reid from South Auckland in an entertaining final battle.
"I'm pumped. It got my adrenalin going, that's for sure," says Whiter. "I've had meningitis so I've been laid up in bed for two weeks. I'm still feeling a bit under the weather but it's great to be back in the seat and to know that I can still compete with these guys. I stepped back from the sport a few years ago to concentrate on life but I've missed it. I love driving and this was such a great event to make my comeback."
Whiter dominated the Top 16 Shootout from start to finish, qualifying first in a Nissan Silvia S14 that he built himself in his shed. In the opening rounds he got the verdict over Drew Donovan and Daynom Templeman from the three judges and in the Final Four he showed off his incredible driving skills to stick door-to-door with 'Fanga' Dan Woolhouse.
On the other side of the draw, Nico Reid, driving a Nissan Silvia S15, nicknamed the Taniwha, was untroubled on his way to the final.
"It's been a mean event and to battle Gaz in the final was a bit special," says Reid. "He's a four-time national champion and a king of the sport and I enjoyed every minute of it. I stuck as close to him as I could when I was chasing him and I'm really happy with my drive. It was pedal to the metal all day."
Earlier in the day 'Fanga' Dan, Gaz Whiter and Cole Armstrong teamed up to take out the Triple Threat Team Drift event.
"We weren't meant to enter but we decided to get a team together at the last minute just for fun," says Woolhouse. "Me and Gaz have been driving against each other for 14 years and Cole is a good mate so it was a lot of fun."
The event organiser and New Zealand drifting legend, 'Mad Mike' Whiddett had a disappointing event on track, getting eliminated in the opening battle after mechanical problems. Off the track however he was delighted with the turnout for the first Summer Bash.
"We've had five days of torrential rain at Hampton Downs so for the weather to come good today and to get such great support is awesome," says Whiddett. "It's the first year for this event and hopefully we'll be back next year with an even bigger and better show."