Hawke's Bay drifter Dylan Woolhouse describes Japan's world No 1 Daigo Saito as "the Michael Schumacher" of the sport.
That's a fair description too. In recent years Saito has captured "Drift King" Championship titles in Japan's D1GP and the planet's biggest drift series, Formula Drift in the United States.
Saito, who drives a Toyotaz Galore-backed custom-built Toyota GT86 All Star car, will join Woolhouse and more than 50 other starters in this weekend's third round of the Demon Energy Drinks D1NZ National Drifting Championship in Taupo.
"This is a huge opportunity for younger drivers like me. Essentially Daigo is like the Michael Schumacher of the sport. If I got on the track at the same time as him ... that would be something else," Woolhouse, 24, said as he made final adjustments on his supercharged 6.0 litre V8 engine-powered 2002 Nissan last night.
Despite the presence of Saito and the fact Woolhouse is in his first season in the Pro Championship class after two seasons in the Development Series, he will aim for a podium finish.
"The Taupo circuit is awesome, fast and flowing. Putting cars sideways at 160km/h is a rush and we do it there. I have also claimed two podiums at another national drift event, Battle Mania, in Taupo, so we have good results there."
In the Bay Park-hosted first round of the championship Woolhouse finished 16th and in the Manfeild-hosted second round he was 22nd.
A former world-ranked clay target shooter, Woolhouse got the drifting bug after watching his Northland-based cousin and two-time national champion Dan "Fanga" Woolhouse compete.
"I've always enjoyed watching drifting. My cousin 'Fanga Dan' was definitely an inspiration, along with a season pit crewing for Mac Kwok, another ex-Hawke's Bay D1NZ competitor. It got to a point where I really just wanted to have a go too.
"I love drifting because it is so different to any other motorsport. Every lap is different and it's pushing your car to beyond the limit, the rush is amazing. Trying to keep a car out of control but in control at the same time ... that is a true test of skill for the drivers," Woolhouse explained.
This weekend will be the third meeting for Woolhouse's newly built car and he is likely to go through 30 brand new tyres.
"My team and I have built this car to what it is today, without the help of them it would not be possible.
"Multiple all-night missions in the shed to get her fixed or ready go down nearly every week."
After the Taupo round Woolhouse will compete at Hampton Downs, Christchurch and Pukekohe. The store manager at Hunting and Fishing in Napier also wants to compete in Australia within the next 12 months.
Woolhouse encouraged anybody considering taking up the sport to give it a go.
"Keep it off the roads. There are always tracks available," he added.
Drifting is a driving technique where the driver intentionally oversteers, causing loss of traction in the rear wheels or all tyres, while maintaining control from entry to exit of a corner.
A car is drifting when the rear slip angle is greater than the front slip angle, to such an extent that often the front wheels are pointing in the opposite direction to the turn (eg. car is turning left, wheels are pointed right or vice versa, also known as opposite lock or counter-steering).
Professional drifting competitions like this weekend's are judged according to the speed, angle, showmanship and line taken through a corner or set of corners.
It gets more intense when judges ask competitors to slide the car past specific clipping points on the track with only millimeters clearance and another car chasing door to door, all while maintaining the drift.