Reigning New Zealand Drift King, Darren Kelly, remains positive ahead of the final two rounds of the 2015/16 Demon Energy DINZ National Drifting Championship series, despite a run of setbacks which sees he and his Hi-Tec Oils-backed RB30-powered R34 Nissan Skyline back in 11th place in the points standings ahead of this weekend’s penultimate contest in Christchurch.
“I had people tell me that defending a title was harder than winning one,” said Aucklander Kelly this week. ‘Now I’m thinking they might be right!”
However, though he heads south with just 160 points, only 95 points separate him from current leader Daynom Templeman and there are only 45 points between Kelly and seventh placed Drew Donovan.
“The level at the top just keeps getting higher,” says Kelly, “but most of the other guys have had something go wrong at some stage as well, so all I need is my luck to change and I’ll be back in the battle, for a podium place at the very least.”
Pro level drifting places huge demands on a car and Kelly says he doesn’t seem to have been able to catch a break this year.
At the first round at Manfeild a rose joint in the suspension broke. Then at the second, at Baypark, he and his crew were left with car damage to repair before the battles even started when a bent steering lock caused him to spin in front of a closely following Cole Armstrong and the pair collided.
Then, at the most recent round at Hampton Downs, the Kelly Skyline twice lost power at a crucial time in his battles with the driver now leading the points standings, Daynom Templeman.
Combine these issues with what Darren still sees as a hard judging call at round three at Taupo and you can understand why he wonders when his luck will turn?
“It’s not as if any of them are biggies ,” he says. “I’d never heard of a rose joint breaking until mine did. But it’s little things like that, things you can’t control, which have hurt us so far this year.”
With that in mind the Hi-Tec Oils Skyline has been stripped and rebuilt ahead of this weekend’s ‘Easter Royal Rumble’ in Christchurch, and the Demon Energy D1NZ final at Pukekohe in April.
“We’ve checked and re-checked everything under the car and we’ve just ungraded the turbo,” Kelly says.
“I’m still 100% confident in my driving so if we can get back some of the reliability we enjoyed last year we’ll be good to go. A podium at Christchurch would help us a lot.”
Series points after Rnd 4 of 6
1. Daynom Templeman 255 points
2. Nico Reid 245
3. Daniel Woolhouse 232
4. Curt Whittaker 231
5. Cole Armstrong 349
6. Dave Steedman 229
7. Drew Donovan 205
8. Tom Marshall 176
9. Bruce Tannock 175
10. Shane Allen 172
11. Darren Kelly 160