Carl Thompson has earmarked himself as the man to beat in the Valvoline D1NZ National Drifting Championship at Teretonga Park, scoring top spot in qualifying.
Driving his V8-powered Nissan Silvia S15, Thompson recorded a 90.5 in his first run to secure top spot in the Top 16 battle tree.
Cole Armstrong lay second on an 87.5 driving his Nissan Skyline R34 back up car with Jesse Greenslade further afield on an 82-point run, also driving a Nissan Silvia S15.
Nissan locked out the top four with Bruce Tannock only one point away from Greenslade with an 81-point effort in his Nissan Silvia S13.
Series veteran and fan favourite ‘Fanga’ Dan Woolhouse was 10 points adrift of the pole position effort with 80 points. Earlier in practice, he suffered a high-sped off at the first turn, lucky not to roll his Ford Mustang.
Daynom Templeman was sixth, also on 80 points, in his BMW E46 M3. The sole international driver, Jake ‘Drift Squid’ Jones, was seventh in the category-run Toyota 86. The Australian returns to the series after an extended hiatus.
Pro-Sport Series graduate Taylor James (Nissan Silvia S14) was eighth, Troy Jenkins (Toyota 86) in ninth and Kurt Blackie (Toyota 86) the last of the top 10 runners.
Zak Pole was a notable omission from the Top 16 battle tree. His Nissan Silvia S15 suffered an engine failure in practice, which meant he couldn’t partake in qualifying.
Team DSR duo Dave Adam Davies (Nissan 180SX) and Dave Steedman (Nissan Silvia S14) both had wild rides through the deep gravel in practice, fortunate not to suffer much more than cosmetic damage to their cars. They ended up 11th and 12th respectively.
South Island driver Bradley Knight (Nissan Skyline R33) managed to qualify 13th ahead of Jaron Olivecrona, who is running a new Hartley Engineering-built twin-turbocharged V12-powered Nissan Silvia S14. Ben Jenkins (Toyota 86) and Michael Thorley (Nissan 180SX) rounded out the Top 16.
The Top 16 battles get underway at 4:00 pm local time.