Back In The Game

November 17th, 2013

Ups and Downs

November 6th, 2013

A few weeks ago I spent the afternoon at C’s Garage taking some photos of their newly finished 2013/14 competition cars. Not long after that my house was broken into and my laptop and camera were stolen. Like an idiot I had not backed up this most recent set of photos and now I only have what I had already uploaded to Flickr – which are the few photos you see below. It’s a gut-wrenching thing to come home to, your house a total mess with shit thrown everywhere by some lowlife scum who couldn’t put the effort in to work hard and buy these things for himself. He could be reading this given that this page was one of those bookmarked on my laptop. If you are – fuck you.

This experience has reminded me to be more vigilant with my backups. I feel for Joel & Adam as they went to a lot of effort moving the cars around for me and we got some cool shots. I’ll have to make up for it as I cover their debut campaigns in the upcoming 2013/14 D1NZ Season. On a lighter note though, their cars are amazing! Joel’s S13 is the same car he has been using for the last few years while Adam’s S14 is a completely new build which has occupied every spare moment of his time over the last 24 months. All the best for the upcoming season boys!

The 2012/13 D1NZ Season saw the rise of Zak Pole – an Auckland man with little sponsorship backing but the desire to drift in an R33 Skyline. I met Zak a couple of years ago when he was putting the finishing touches on his Skyline and had been doing a bit of grip racing. He later tried drifting at a couple of open days and looked to pick it up quickly.

Zak was enjoying drifting so much that he decided to enter D1NZ’s Pro-Am competition towards the end of the 2011/2012 season. He did very well at his first event, placing 3rd. It was obvious he belonged in the Pro category and was invited to join the big boys the following year. The six round series which finished last month saw Zak grow hugely; both as a driver, as a personality and as a brand. He become the underdog in most battles and had the crowd rooting for him whenever he was paired up against one of the incumbents. It was amazing to watch from the infield as he graduated from Pro-Am to the famed podium steps of D1NZ Pro in just 12 short months. I recently caught up with Zak to discuss the season, his car and his plans. This is his story.

Manfeild – Round One: Qualified 13th, finished 18th
We went into Round 1 with the same suspension setup we had been running for quite a while which I knew wasn’t perfect but would be ok. The major change though, was the new RB30DET engine. It had only been installed and tuned two days before the event and I totally underestimated the torque tit produced. I had 18 245/40/18’s Achilles ATR street tires which the car drove like ice on. The car lacked grip and forward drive and I just couldn’t hold speed and line without backing off. We finished way back in 18th for that event, but was a good learning curve and introduction into D1NZ!

Whangarei – Round Two: Qualified 9th, finished 7th
For Round 2 I changed from 8kg rear springs to 6kg and ran a slightly wider tyre (265/35/18) which seemed to help a lot. The car felt fast and it was up to me to drive it. I felt quite at home on the track and was able to put the car where it needed to go. We broke a selector fork but luckily had a spare RB25DET gearbox so that got me back in action. Coming up against Mad Mike for the first time was quite scary, but I managed to beat him which was a real boost. We took 7th place here. The torque of RB30 really helps on these slower tracks.

Tauranga – Round Three: Qualified 6th, finished 7th
This event was a real buzz, such a cool atmosphere and the track was lots of fun. Being a very similar setup to Whangarei I felt really comfortable out on track. The concrete walls were unforgiving though and I did hit the wall at full speed once which caused some damage to the rear but we pulled that out pretty quickly with a strop and a 4×4. The car felt good all event and we took 7th wasn’t too bad, but still really chasing that podium!

Hampton Downs – Round Four: Qualified 7th, finished 7th
Hampton Downs is my home track, but unfortunately the most boring track for drift competitions due to it having just one ‘switch’ – drifting is all about switches!! By Round 4 the car was pretty well setup and I was able to do the whole section in 4th gear with a 4.3 diff ratio. This meant that it was really easy to drive and put less strain on the drivetrain which stopped me worrying about broken gearboxes. I fought my way up to 7th position but lost my battle which would have put me in the top four. I began wondering what I was doing wrong, and realized what I was lacking – grip. The Skyline is very light in the rear which resulted in a lack of drive and grip once again. Cole Armstrong has a similar car and engine package and was running Achilles 123’s. It looked like had so much more drive over the section and I put this down to the tire choice. I was happy with 7th place though, but still not quite on that podium!

Christchurch – Round Five: Qualified 11th, finished 13th
Christchurch was a real drivers track. 2-3 laps to a set of tires, tonnes of fast flowing switches with plenty of smoke and real vibe about the place. This is easily the best drift section in New Zealand and I cant wait to go back. Unfortunately steering modifications before the round meant we had a tonne of lock, but minor issues were quickly exaggerated making the car extremely hard to drive. We tried to fix these but couldn’t so I just had to persevere as it was. The steering had almost ¼ of a turn of free play and did what it wanted a lot of the time. I felt like I was steering a dead car. Nonetheless, this was the first event running the Achilles 123′s and these helped me to have some intense battles with Mad Mike which I ended up loosing on a re-run. While I was disappointed with the outcome it made for some awesome viewing. This event made me more determined to get the car right and feeling tight as I had been fighting little issues all season which kept raring their heads at the wrong time. We took 13th place at this event but went away knowing we were heading in the right direction.

Taupo – Round Six: Qualified 15th, finished 3rd, finished 7th overall
I spent some time at Taupo three weeks prior to Round 6 so I felt confident heading into the final round. I had made some steering modifications which finally fixed the sloppy steering and the car just felt perfect. I had a good car, a good team, enough tires and no excuses from not getting on that podium. The pressure was on me to get the job done. Some intense top 16 battles again with Mad Mike really got my heart pounding and I knew that I had to outdrive one of the worlds best. I beat Mad Mike for the second time which really boosted the teams moral and mine as a driver. I felt at this point that even if I lost in the top 8 or top 4 I didn’t really care, I just wanted to tick that one off the list and make it 2:1. Unfortunately when driving back to pits to change tires I snapped a rose joint in the castor arm so we called five minutes and gave the car a guess alignment which worked but wasn’t quite the same. We finally got on the podium in 3rd place after beating Shane van Gisgbergen and Gaz Whiter on another OMT which was a great way to end the season and hopefully a sign of things to come.

Plans for next season involve finding sponsors who can help us continue to perform at the top and visit that illusive podium a few more time. I would also like to travel overseas next year and gain experience driving with the world’s best. The car will undergo some big changes too as we increase the power output to around 700hp. We are also working on a custom one-off full body kit which is being designed by SPI Composites, some new steering components thanks to SHRED Motorsport and TDP Ireland and new wheels thanks to The Bling Company. Chubb Racing will be cutting the front and rear off the car and replacing it with tube frame to remove some weight. We will also be updating the livery and sponsorship signage along with a new ECU and complete rewire to work with E85 or Avgas, still undecided.

I’d like to thank all involved on the journey to the top; DriftDirect, Rollei Actioncams, Mike & Karen Pole, Vaughn Cronin, Choppers Autobody Shop, GDS Automotive, Henderson Automotive, Dodson Performance & Andy Wakelin, Mjellma Hoxha, Jayden @ Beaurepaires, D1NZ and all staff involved, Team DMNZ for the grassroots days, Oversteer TV, The Bling Company, Ray @ Chubb Racing, Benny Mack, Jacob Toms, Brendan White, S-Chassis Forum, Nick Bourke, StayClassy, Race Colours, Luxury Sports and Drift Max, SPI Composites, Hayden Bell-booth, SHRED Motorsport, all media personal and Nico Reid and his crew for helping us out with Tires on the final round!

Follow Zak’s progress at www.zpdrift.com and his Facebook page for updates as we head towards Round 1. I will also be catching up with Zak another couple of times before the season starts to document the build and ongoing story of the 2012/13 D1NZ Rookie of the Year.