Saturday, Mar 10 08:16pm
AUTHOR: Matthew Hansen

Darren Kelly scores maiden D1NZ round victory with Nissan R35 GT-R

Former champion Darren Kelly has broken his victory drought in the Link ECU D1NZ National Drifting Championship — winning round three of the 2018 series today at Levels Raceway in Timaru. 


It's Kelly's first round win with backing from Nissan New Zealand, and his first win in the team's newly built Nissan R35 GT-R, which he debuted in last year's season. 


Kelly's road to the final started with a by, then battles against Ben Jenkins and 'Fanga Dan' Woolhouse respectively — Woolhouse debuting his Formula Drift–spec Ford Mustang RTR 5-D. 


This brought Kelly into a top four consisting of Cole Armstrong, and the impressive giant-killing duo of Ben Wilkinson and Carl Thompson. 


Kelly faced off against Wilkinson, beating the Pak'N'Save S15 after a pair of very close runs. Armstrong meanwhile took on Thompson, appearing to pip him on proximity while also making less adjustments.


This created a Kelly/Armstrong final — a replay of a memorable battle that went down at ASB Baypark last month. On his road to the final, Armstrong had endured another exciting battle with Shane van Gisbergen, as well as a repeat of his Tauranga finals dice with Drew Donovan. 


Kelly's lead run was near impossible to split, with both drivers looking smooth and Armstrong mirroring the R35's movements almost perfectly. Armstrong's lead was similarly tight; Kelly ranging up to the V Energy Skyline's rear bumper at the end of the course's opening phase, and Armstrong waving his hand out of the window as they crossed the finish point.


Judges deliberated shortly after, crowing Kelly the victor. Kelly is now the third different round winner in as many events, while Armstrong's championship charge continues to be consistent. In the playoff for third place between Thompson and Wilkinson, the latter came out on top. 


Round four of the series takes place at Manfeild Circuit Chris Amon next month, on April 20.