A split-second difference was the only thing separating Northland's Gaz Whiter from winning the Mad Mike Summer Bash drifting event at Hampton Downs on Saturday.
The national event consisted of drivers going head-to-head with one driver acting as the lead and the other, the chaser. The chaser would attempt to mimic the leader's movements and be as close as possible. Judges then scored both drivers and whoever won progressed into the next round.
Whiter made it through to the final after finishing fifth in the qualifying races on Friday, and a small mistake on the start line gave his opponent Andrew Redward the crown.
"I just made an error when I gave him too much room at the start line and he had a little gap and I couldn't make it up," Whiter said.
While he was disappointed he couldn't take the top spot, he was happy to beat more than 40 other drivers who competed.
"It was a bit of a bummer, but the cars are so fast you can't make up ground because their top speed is amazingly fast. If you start with a gap, you can't really fix it unless they make a mistake."
In his journey to the final, Whiter beat Northland compatriot Daniel 'Fanga Dan' Woolhouse in the quarter-final and then the event's namesake, Mad Mike, in the semifinal.
"It's always good battling [Dan] because we've driven together our whole career, 15+ years," he said.
"He's getting better and better, he just made a mistake out front so he just went too deep on the first corner and that was his mistake so we were able to win because of that."
Whiter said he had known the Auckland-based Redward for a long time, having attending his wedding and from around the drifting circuit.
"Most of the top guys know each other pretty well and we all push each other pretty hard so you've got to work together in the drifting community to bring the level up."
He said the competition was high with New Zealand's best drivers on show, which gave the thousands of spectators a good day out.
"It's always good when you've got a good crowd. You can even hear them over the engine if you're doing something good.
"You're just trying to put on a good show so you've got to do crazy stuff to get people to watch."
As well as the head-to-head format, the event had a three-car race with both Whiter and Dan involved, as well as time attacks and a historic Mazda race car brought in from Japan for the event.
Whiter said the next step for him was finding a sponsor which could help him attend events more regularly.
If we can't find any coin, we'll just do events like this. It's hard without a big budget and I've been doing it for too long to start dipping into my own funds."
He said these events were a huge financial commitment because a driver could easily go through 30 tyres which cost about $300 each.
"An event can easily cost $10,000 and that's if nothing major goes wrong. If you a blow a motor that's $50,000 gone.
"I'm just a builder but I was lucky to get into it early but I would imagine it's very difficult to get into it now because of the level of car you need and what it costs to keep up with the top guys."