Kaitaia's Liam Burke has won the national drifting title in Auckland, " a wicked result for this kid considering its a 'backyard operation' up against some other very well financed professional teams," according to Ian Moss.
Tokoroa's Taylor James was six points back in the 2020 Valvoline D1NZ Pro Drift King series, third going to Warkworth's Carl Thompson.
The 28-year-old was crowned on Saturday after finishing second in the final leg of the series at Pukekohe, a good enough result to secure the overall title.
It was another feather in his cap in only his second year on the pro circuit, and his fourth year of competing in the series.
Having grown up racing moto-x bikes competitively with the Northland Dirtbike Club (when it was based at Sandhills Road, Ahipara shortly after the turn of the century), Burke left school and moved to Whangārei to work, completing a motor mechanic apprenticeship at Kamo firm Chequered Flag Automotive, which specialises in performance cars. He went on to become head mechanic in the pit crew for Fanga Dan Woolhouse, one of the company's high-profile sponsored drifters.
He entered the national series in 2017 and quickly rose up the ranks, winning the lower-tier pro sport class in 2018, before making the step up to the pro class last year, where he finished the 11th overall.
He returned to this year's series with a vengeance, and claimed the title despite missing the first round in Timaru due to time and distance issues.
Burke joined the circuit for the second and third legs at Pukekohe and Bay Park (Mount Maunganui), before the Covid-19, placing second at both venues, results that shot him up the standings despite not having competed in Timaru. He went on to win the 4th round at ASB Stadium last month, the first time a D1NZ round had been contested indoors, which gave him serious title credentials.
In the 5th round at Pukekohe on Saturday, after qualifying 9th on pole, Burke went on to win an important top 8 battle, which included an OMT (One More Time)m, exacting revenge for the loss suffered to high-flying Northland counterpart and friend Woolhouse in Round 2 earlier in the year.
The Far North drifter's title bid was helped when series frontrunner Taylor James was dramatically eliminated in his top 8 battle against Troy Jenkins. That opened the door to snatch the title, but only if he could make the final.
Burke went on to dispatch Troy Jenkins in the ensuing top 4 battle, propelling him into the final, where he faced four-time drift champion Gaz Whiter. He went into that final round still unsure that he had won the championship, and had a great battle with Whiter, both drivers hitting 204km/h through the fastest drift corner in the world on their first run, with Whiter in the lead. The cars collided at more than 190km/h on the front straight in the Burke-led second run but both managed to make the treacherous first corner and complete their drifts.
Once the dust had settled, Whiter was the winner while Burke was told he had clinched the overall title.
The championship-winning run was plagued by mechanical issues, however. Burke, who normally arrives at each round with a well-prepared car, had to take the gearbox out three times during the practice round sessions on Friday, but having older brother Codey - like Liam an accomplished mechanic - in his pit crew boosted his confidence and focus.
And while the series was affected by the Covid outbreak, Burke and his D1NZ stablemates were able to hone their driving skills online.
The series win gives him the chance to compete in Australia and Japan later this year, although both trips will depend upon the lifting of travel restrictions.
Meanwhile Whangārei driver Scotty Dinsdale, competing in the Pro Sport series, won the Pukekohe event and secured second place overall in the Pro Sport D1NZ 2020.