What a finish was witnessed at the D1NZ (Drifting) National final with Team Dilusi driver Curt Whittaker claiming the crown in front of an estimated 5000 fans at Hampton Downs over Easter weekend.
Whittaker entered the event sitting in second place on points after a major engine failure at round 5. This meant that he had to qualify well and finish in the top spot for this final round, to give himself a chance at knocking off 'Mad Mike' Whiddett in the Redbull RX7 and fend off the Northland challenge from 3 x Champion Gaz Whiter and 'Fanga' Dan Woolhouse.
With 6 drivers all having a mathematical chance of winning, the atmosphere was tense on Friday during practice, the usual smiles still present but a clear edge on the faces of those looking to claim the crown. Whittaker would spend the day as most expected, hitting consistent line after line as he is re-known for, only to give his crew a massive scare by hitting the wall in the days last session after a brief rain shower turned the track into a greasy mess. Fortunately the strong family team rallied and were able to make repairs by late evening, meaning Whittaker could continue his title hunt
Saturday morning would dawn without a hint of the projected storm, and it was straight down to business for the D1NZ pro drivers. Whittaker laid down a string of solid runs to put himself in 4th qualifying position and grab valuable points in this, the closest D1NZ season ever. Whittaker would account for Sky Zhao in the top 16 before the massive challenge of Dargavilles, Gaz Whiter loomed in the top 8, with Whittaker triumphant and gaining a massive confidence boost. Accounting for Jason Sellers in the top 4, it would then be a head to head battle for both the round and season wins against Castrol Edge driver 'Fanga Dan' Woolhouse from Whangarei.
Woolhouse would lead the first run with Whittaker laying down one of the closest chase runs of the season, entering the judged section right on the Commodores bumper, only to have Woolhouse return the favour on the very next run, resulting in a one more time call for the battle. Unbelievably, the pair would run again as the Judges were unable to separate them, forcing a final 'sudden death' match where a result was compulsory. This time it would be Whittaker who gained the upper hand, resulting in an eruption of joy from the crowd as it became clear the title was headed for the Whittaker family trophy cabinet.
In his acceptance speech, Curt remained the humble man he is known to be, thanking his Family and Friends, Team Dilusi and all of his sponsors for their support, before inviting his partner to the podium to be a part of the celebration photos.
A short bit of R & R will now be on the cards before the new Drift King turns his focus to participating in demonstration runs at the ITM 400 in Hamilton next week.