Four-time champion Gaz Whiter has made an emphatic return to Pukekohe Park, after pipping the top Link ECU D1NZ National Drifting Championship title contenders in a damp qualifying session.

In qualifying's early phase, championship leaders Cole Armstrong and Darren Kelly led the qualifying points tally. That was until Gaz Whiter laid down his first run; a 64.0 made impressive via clean and consistent lines and a top speed that was some 20km/h quicker than anyone elses.

"[The weather] pretty much stuffed everyone up I'd say," said Whiter.

"The entry was slippery and then as soon as you got a few metres around the sweeper it gripped up. It was a really challenging track to drive. I'm just happy to have the car in one piece."

Provisionally, Kelly and Armstrong qualified second and third on a 63.0 and 62.0 respectively. Carl Thompson and Vincent Langhorn ended the session an impressive fourth (59.0) and fifth (58.5).

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The session had begun in wet conditions with plenty of standing water. But, as the session went on the showers stopped and more sunshine would emerge through the clouds.

Defending Pukekohe and overall series champion, Cole Armstrong. Photo / Matthew Hansen
Defending Pukekohe and overall series champion, Cole Armstrong. Photo / Matthew Hansen

The improving conditions saw speeds rise and confidence grow, but Whiter's high-commitment first run couldn't be bettered.

Several drivers encountered problems in the tricky conditions. Jodie Donovan was unlucky to emerge with two zero ratings after spinning on both of her runs, with Manfeild winner Adam Davies and Tom Marshall meeting the same fate.

Whiter too had a half spin on his second run; denying him an opportunity to better his 64.0 benchmark.

"I went for a fast run in the second run and took too much speed around the sweeper. I thought I'd made it, but I cooked it. I was too excited," he said.

Among the surprises was Daynom Templeman; campaigning his old 2JZ-powered Mazda RX-7 after his usual BMW E46 had an engine failure on Friday. Templeman was impressive, qualifying in seventh behind Jaron Olivecrona.

Just missing out on a top-10 berth is 'Fanga Dan' Woolhouse and Shane van Gisbergen, who wound up 13th and 14th respectively.

Qualifying results

1. Gaz Whiter — 64.0 points
2. Darren Kelly —63.0 points
3. Cole Armstrong — 62.0 points
4. Carl Thompson — 59.0 points
5. Vincent Langhorn — 58.5 points
6. Jaron Olivecrona — 57.5 points
7. Daynom Templeman — 57.0 points
8. Matty Hill — 55.5 points
9. David Steedman — 55.0 points
10. Ben Wilkinson — 55.0 points
11. Cody Pullen-Burry — 54.5 points
12. Jase Brown — 54.0 points
13. Daniel Woolhouse — 54.0 points
14. Shane van Gisbergen — 53.5 points
15. Drew Donovan — 53.0 points
16. Troy Jenkins — 51.5 points
17. Stuart Baker — 48.0 points
18. Ben Jenkins — 46.5 points
19. Bruce Tannock — 44.0 points
20. Joel Paterson — 40.0 points
21. Adam Davies — 0.0 points
22. Tom Marshall — 0.0 points
23. George Myburg — 0.0 points
24. Phil Sutherland — 0.0 points
25. Jodie Donovan — 0.0 points