Tauranga's Cole Armstrong made the perfect start to his 2016-'17 campaign in the opening round one of the Demon Energy D1NZ National Drifting Championship, as he took the first Pro Series win at Dunedin's Forsyth Barr Stadium.
Driving his RB-powered Nissan Skyline 250GT, Armstrong fought off tough challenges from the Australian guest driver Matty Hill, and former D1NZ Pro Series champion Darren Kelly. The victory made him the first drifter to win the indoor Southern Hemisphere first.
"I'm pretty stoked with how this event has turned out," said Armstrong following his victory.
"Brendon and the D1NZ crew have definitely created something awesome here to have the first Southern Hemisphere indoor drift event. To take it out I'm over the moon!"
For second place finisher Drew Donovan, it was a dramatic and action packed evening for himself, Jodie Verhulst, and the DMNZ Milwaukee team.
In the battle between Donovan and South Island favourite Phil Sutherland, a re-run was forced after discovering Donovan's tail lights weren't functioning-an impediment of the technical rulebook. Donovan was initially given the win based on his first run, but later the decision was made to battle again as the judges cited the tail light issue.
On the rerun, Sutherland and Donovan battled hard and fast, as Donovan latched onto the back of Sutherland's Silvia S14. On the chase, Sutherland mirrorer Donovan and the decision was made for another one-more-time. In the final run, Donovan finally prevailed as Sutherland dropped off the back of the V8-powered Silvia S15 in the final sector.
Meanwhile, teammate and partner Verhulst clashed with Joe Marshall in their first run. Marshall straight lined out of the second sweeper, which gave Verhulst nowhere to go. The Tauranga based drifter collided with the back of Marshall's car, which handed Verhulst the win. However, she was later knocked out in the top-eight by Nico Reid.
In the remaining top-16 battles-Nico Reid defeated Joel Counter, Darren Kelly won over Australian Matty Hill, Cole Armstrong won over David Steedman, 'Fanga' Dan Woolhouse fought off Stuart Baker in a one-more-time battle, and Daynom Templeman took the last win in the top-16.
For Donovan, the action began to spice up in the top-eight. His record of one-more-time runs continued to rise, as he and Prosenik went for another run in the first of the top-eight runs. Prosenik made amends for his mistakes in the first run with one of his cleanest of the night.
However, the drama continued to unfold. The start between Prosenik and Donovan was embroiled in confusion as the pair baulked off the line. Prosenik fell back, as he reacted to Donovan's slow getaway. Due to the confusion, the judges intervened and ordered a one-more-time.
The judges couldn't separate the pair once again, and the battle went down to sudden-death having done two reruns. After all the drama, top qualifier Prosenik this time lost out to Donovan.
The battle of the heavyweights saw former champions Darren Kelly and 'Fanga' Dan Woolhouse go up against each other. Kelly prevailed over the Holden Commodore drifter, who'd had a hard night battling the walls and competition.
With the top-four battle tree decided, Darren Kelly came up against Cole Armstrong, whilst Drew Donovan lined up alongside Nico Reid.
Reid made sure Donovan knew he wanted to be in the final, as he looked to rub shoulder-to-shoulder. He came too close, though, and straight lined after making slight contact with Donovan.
With Donovan into the final, Armstrong and Kelly went head-to-head for the last spot. The pair hounded each other, but the judges deemed Armstrong to be the victor after a small mistake from Kelly.
What came next in the final was one of the closest finals in the history of D1NZ. Many believed the battle would go to a one-more-time, after Donovan and Armstrong ran the closest they'd been all night. However, the judges ruled Donovan ran a shallow line in his pursuit, to hand Armstrong victory at the season opener.
"I knew Drew was definitely on me, it's one of those things where you can look in your mirror and be like 'he's on me!'
"But you've just got to put that behind you, do the line, and hey I was lucky enough to come out on top. I definitely thought it was a one-more-time, it was so close! I'm pretty stoked with how everything's turned out."
The 2016-'17 Demon Energy D1NZ National Drifting Championship moves to Fielding's Manfeild Circuit Chris Amon 6-7 Januar 2017, where Armstrong will hope to hold his championship lead over his nearest rivals.