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Hometown-hero Cole Armstrong takes out D1NZ round three in Tauranga

22 January 2015

NZ Performance Car editor Marcus Gibson made the trip down to Tauranga’s Baypark Speedway on January 17–18 to check out round three of D1NZ

Tauranga’s Baypark Speedway pits are usually filled on a Saturday night with speedway cars battling it out in the adjacent quarter-mile dirt oval, but for one weekend each summer the Demon Energy D1NZ National Drifting Championship instead transforms the pits into a battlefield. The concrete-lined Baypark is one of two custom tracks this season, and is unique as it is the only left-hand-entry and concrete-surfaced venue.

The two-day event played out in perfect weather conditions that offered plenty of traction, as the surfaced rubbered up on day one.

Hometown-hero Cole Armstrong sat atop the bunch with a first-run score of 88.5 thanks to a wild and exciting run, followed by Rockstar Energy’s Joe Kukutai, who seemed to pull off manoeuvres unmatched by anyone else.

Cole’s road to the final would not be an easy one. He had to face Bruce Tannock, Shane Van Gisbergen, Curt Whittaker, and Darren Kelly before facing off against returning round-winner Andrew Redward in the final. Andrew had defeated Dave Steedman, Daynom Templeman, and Gaz Whiter, to set up a battle between Gaz Whiter and Darren Kelly for third and fourth. Gaz took the win after Darren made some mistakes, running too shallow on his chase lap.

It was then time to crown a round winner in front of the packed Tauranga crowd, but the dream battle was cut short when Andrew’s Club Auto FC RX-7 sheared an axle. He later explained to NZPC, “We blew the half shaft, it was not the best way to end the final battle, especially after lasting all day and happening then, it was a real bummer.”

The team didn’t throw the towel in straight away though, taking the allotted five minutes to swap the axle over. “We got the spare in with about 50 seconds to go, but went to put the nut on the end of the hub and the threads were crossed, so we couldn’t get it done in time,” Andrew explained.

He was unable to make the grid, which handed Cole his first D1NZ round win, driving his new V Energy 350GT.

The car had not missed a beat all weekend, after a frustrating debut this season when a few teething issues plagued the Dodge Nascar engine, as Cole explained, “We have gone to injection, these engines usually have a carb on there. We had a trigger mount that was suffering vibration at high rpm and shutting the motor down on us. The boys from E&H Motors sorted that problem, and then at Drift Shifters I did an oil change and thought 13 litres would be ample, but it needed another two, so we were having oil-pressure surges. Something so simple, but so bad that it could have wrecked the car. We think we have all the gremlins sorted and the car is now on song. It’s got oodles of lock, Richard from Green Brothers corner-weighted the car and found out that it was on bump stops, so he modified all the pick-up points, and now we have great drive out of the car. You have to get the balance between drive, grip, and power, and I think we have finally got that. We still think there is much more that we can get out of this car, but we are just so happy that it’s working so well, and that we have finally got the result.”

All was not lost for Redward, who walked away from round three now leading the championship, and 2.5 points clear of Darren Kelly.

Heading into the second half of the season it looks as if it will be a tight championship finish, with plenty of drivers still in the running to take the 2014–’15 DK title. The D1NZ circus now moves to Hampton Downs Motorsport Park for round four on February 20–21.

Check out the audio link to hear Cole give more information on his Skyline set-up and a gallery of the round below.