Tauranga’s ASB Baypark Stadium will come alive over February 24-25 when the sound of the Demon Energy D1NZ National Drifting Championship echoes throughout the portside city.
One drifter looking to make some noise is local man Ben Belcher who will make his series return at the third round of the series. Belcher lives in Maketu, just half an hour from ASB Baypark Stadium in Mount Maunganui.
He said watching the American Formula Drift Series, which competes on banked NASCAR oval stadium circuits, gave him more incentive to compete in his local event.
“There’s no way I’m missing this event, it’s the first of it’s kind in New Zealand,” said Belcher.
“I’ve always watched it on Formula Drift with the guys hitting those big banked walls and thought ‘far out, that’d be wicked!’ That’s the ultimate goal. So when the guys from D1NZ said come do this, I wasn’t missing out on it.”
In recent years the D1NZ National Drifting Championship saw a decline in rotary powered drift cars. The likes of the Toyota JZ, Chevrolet LS, and Nissan RB are a popular choice for most in the series, however, the Mazda Rotary engine has since become a rare sight in D1NZ.
Belcher’s return to the series means he’ll be the only drifter at ASB Baypark Stadium competing in a rotary powered 13B Mazda RX-7.
Whilst he doesn’t believe he’ll be competing at the top of the bracket, he’s keen to show his hometown supporters his skills and fill the stadium with the rotary noise.
“I just want to put on a show for the locals. Because it’s the only rotary engine in a Mazda shell it brings another level of entertainment.
“It’s not easy to drive either. Having to try and pedal it around that wall especially when I’m realistically 200 horsepower down, it’s not going to be easy. But that’s part of the fun of it.
“The crowd will definitely hear it too. It’ll be screaming at 9,000 rpm the whole way around that wall and clutch kicking it aswell. It’s going to be sound amazing in that stadium.”
Despite being down on power, Belcher said he’s aiming to go out there and have some fun but make it through to the top-16.
“If I can get my top-16 i’ll be happy, but anything more than that and it’ll be an extra bonus. I find that if you go into an event not hoping for too much then you go in more relaxed and do better, and come out a lot happier as well.”
The third round of the Demon Energy D1NZ National Drifting Championship takes place over February 24-25 at ASB Baypark Stadium, with tickets available on the gate or through iTicket.co.nz.