In a refreshed season opener that saw the D1NZ National Drifting Championship Pro-Sport class run separately from the Pros and hosted at the Drift Matsuri Spring Break, Waiuku drifter Russell Vare claimed a seemingly unlikely win to kick off his 2019–’20 campaign.
Going down at Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park, Taupo, Vare nearly didn’t make the round after setbacks meant that he was left without a comp car and was forced to step into the driver’s seat of the Matthew Brown–owned Nissan Silvia S15. The pair qualified 9th and 10th respectively in the 20-car field.
The shocks hit straight away as series veteran Calvin Clark, who had qualified 16th, knocked out top qualifier Adam Whitehead in the Top 16 battles. Clark went on to battle Vare in the Top 8 but was duly taken out. Ra Heyder sent Jared Andersen home in the Top 16 on the opposite side of the tree, and then Tully Puckey in the Top 8 after the S14 pilot went off the track.
Cefiro ace Eddie Hayman was bested by Jamie Carr, who went on to defeat series favourite Scott Dinsdale. Adam Camplin beat D1NZ returnee Joe Kukutai followed by Andy Donoghue, who spun his new LS-powered S14 on the lead run.
Rounding out the Top 4, Vare was pitted against Camplin, while Heyder took on Carr. With a super-close battle being thrown down, Heyder got one up on Carr to make it through to the final, while Vare took the win over Camplin, setting up a Heyder v. Vare final. The pair proved inseparable in the first battle, leading to the calling of a one-more-time. Vare was awarded the win after a mistake from Heyder forced Vare to take evasive action.
Vare paid tribute to Matthew Brown for the borrowed car, making for a comeback of sorts after crashing out of the final round last season.
“I’m pretty humbled, to be honest,” said Vare. “Matt lent me his car and gave me tyres and fuel. I didn’t think I’d be standing here in first place, especially after borrowing a car I’ve never driven. This car is absolutely amazing.”
The D1NZ National Drifting Championship heads to Teretonga Park next for the Pro Class opener over 24–25 January 2020. For all information and ticketing, visit d1nz.com.
D1NZ National Drifting Championship dates
Round 1: 24–25 January 2020 — Teretonga Park, Invercargill (Pro class only)
Round 2: 8–9 February 2020 — Pukekohe Park Raceway, Auckland
Round 3: 28–29 February 2020 — Trustpower Baypark Stadium, Tauranga
Round 4: 27–28 March 2020 — Hampton Downs Motorsport Park, Te Kauwhata
Round 5: 8–9 May 2020 — Pukekohe Park Raceway, Auckland