Auckland's Darren Kelly has taken out the first round of the 2019 D1NZ Drifting Championship Series in Tauranga despite technical issues with his brake lights during practice and qualifying.

Driving the Nissan R35 GTR, the 2015 New Zealand champion battled through a poor qualifying performance to reach the final, defeating Daynom Templeman at the custom concrete-lined course at Trustpower Baypark Stadium.

Kelly said the weekend was a tough one.

"The car has been on form, but we had issues. We got a bit hurt in qualifying for an error with our brake light coming on and sticking on, that really hurt us qualifying 13th, but we got all the way to the final," Kelly said.

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"We had an epic battle against Daynom and managed to take on the win, so an epic start to the season."

A happy Darren Kelly after winning the national drifting champs. Photo / PHOTOGRAPHY INMOTION/Greg Henderson
A happy Darren Kelly after winning the national drifting champs. Photo / PHOTOGRAPHY INMOTION/Greg Henderson

Kelly's win means he will lead the series points heading into the next round of the five-part national drifting tour, which now moves to Max Motors Speedway in Wellington on February 15 and 16.

Templeman took second place in his Zic Motor Oils E46 BMW, with Australian international Matty Hill rounding out the podium in third.

Michael Thorley, driving his ENZED backed Nissan C33 Laurel, took out the top spot in qualifying for the Pro-Sport restricted class, and converted his pole position into a decisive round victory after defeating Taylor James in his Nissan S14 Silvia.

- Supplied content
2019 D1NZ Pro-Championship points after Round 1:
Darren Kelly 103
Daynom Templeman 83
Matty Hill 70
David Steedman 66
Drew Donovan 53