Saturday, May 12 08:15pm
AUTHOR: Simon Chapman

Title deciding top-four battle between leading duo on the cards

Link ECU D1NZ National Drifting Championship leaders Darren Kelly and Cole Armstrong could know their fate by the top-four stage come Sunday afternoon.


Having qualified second and third respectively behind pole sitter Gaz Whiter, the pair line up on the same side of the battle tree going into the top-16.


All going to plan, the pair will face off in the top-four if they can pass their rivals in the top-16 and top-eight battles.


It’s a challenge the stablemates are ready to tackle if it comes down to the top-four.


“It’s so awesome at the moment, we’re both first and second in the points,” Armstrong said.


“We’re looking forward to it. It’s been one hell of a year and season and we’re doing it in the old girl. It’s going to be pretty cool. May the better man win!”


For Kelly, he’s not getting too far ahead of himself as he looks at the prospect of facing off against the likes of front runners Drew Donovan and Daynom Templeman potentially.  


“It’s going to be pretty close if we both go through beyond the top-eight,” Kelly said.


“It’s cool to have the challenge. No one wants to win it by turning up to the round, qualifying, then you’ve got it. It’s cool to keep it interesting right to the end.


“It’s definitely going to be interesting with the rain thrown in. It’s going to be a pretty different experience tomorrow.”


Mathematically the top nine drivers are within range of winning, however, there would need to be some dramatic failures for that to happen.


Kelly, Armstrong and Australian Matty Hill are the most likely drivers to have a chance of winning. For Hill to win he’ll need Kelly and Armstrong to get knocked out early on, then he’d need to finish on the podium or win.


The equation is relatively simple for the leading duo. Armstrong needs to beat Kelly in the top four then win the final battle. If Armstrong wins against Kelly in the top-four but loses in the final then Kelly will win by the slimmest of margins.


Conversely, if Kelly beats Armstrong in the top-four then the title is his.


“That’s where I have to take him out, it’s the only place,” Armstrong said of the top-four battle.  


“If I don’t, it is what it is, but if I do beat him and go into the final and don’t win he still will win. It’s so close.”


Despite having not taken a win all season, Armstrong is within range of taking back-to-back Pro Series titles. The D1NZ veteran last year won in his Nissan 250GT, but this year moved back into his ‘work horse’ Nissan Skyline R34 that he first began drifting competitively in.  


“Bring on tomorrow, it’s going to be cool!”


Kelly and Armstrong took the chance in Saturday afternoon’s final practice session to battle each other. The pair battled four times with each getting two lead and two chase runs.


The Link ECU D1NZ National Drifting Championship final takes place at Pukekohe Park over May 12-13. For more information visit D1NZ.com or NZXMS.co.nz. Tickets are available by iTicket.co.nz.


D1NZ Pro Series round five qualifying, results:

1. Gaz Whiter – 64.0

2. Darren Kelly – 63.0

3. Cole Armstrong – 62.0

4. Carl Thompson – 59.0

5. Vincent Langhorn – 58.5

6. Jaron Olivecrona – 57.5

7. Daynom Templeman – 57.0

8. Matty Hill (AUS) – 55.5

9. David Steedman – 55.0

10. Ben Wilkinson – 55.0