Published on October 11th, 2017 | by Jos Roder


Honeywell Garrett Drift Challenge Preview + Predictions

The team behind the Yokohama World Time Attack Challenge should be commended for the quality field they pull together for the Honeywell Garrett Drift Challenge each year, in an event that is  the largest annually held in Australia.

In fact it was estimated close to 11,000 people were sitting on the bank of the natural ampitheatre watching the action as the sun set over Sydney Motorsport Park last year, including yours truly.

The great thing about this event for spectator’s is that you can see the entire course from an elevated position and being under lights, provides an added dynamic to the vibe of the event. The layout is suited to horsepower, with a high speed entry through turn 16 before a switchback into 17, which is the only tech part of the course and the location where line, transition time and speed determine your flow making your way into the final corner. Low powered cars particularly really have to work hard to get this section right.

Practice and Qualifying will take place on Friday afternoon and evening, with the main event taking place on Saturday evening. If you are attending WTAC, your ticket includes entry to the Drift Challenge which is a great addition and fun way to finish off each day at the track. And if the Time Attack component is washed out (fingers crossed it’s not) the good news is the drifting takes place rain, hail or shine!

For 2017, the 32 drivers chosen are as strong as ever and read as a who’s who of the Australian, New Zealand and in fact, world drift scene. From arguably the world’s best drifter in Japanese gun Daigo Saito, to legend Mad Mike Whiddett, multiple Australian Drift champions and D1NZ champions, it really is a feast for drift nerds like us!

Last year Drift Life did some calculations and determined (among other interesting facts) there was over 21,000hp total being unleashed, with an average hp figure of 700, and half the field running V8’s so expect some similiar numbers this year and yep, there is going to be some tyres destroyed over the weekend, we can say that much.

Purely for a bit of fun, we are going to give you our picks to make the ‘Great 8’ as they say in yankee land, plus a few other special mentions.

Darren Kelly (NZ)

Darren Kelly was the 2014 D1NZ Champion and has came across the ditch with his crazy RWD converted R-35 GTR supported by Nissan NZ.

The VR38 engine has been swapped out for a 3.4L RB straight six running a  GTX3584RS turbo which makes all the horsepowers, and runs all of the other trick parts you can imagine.

Darren is a great driver and combined with what is a modern chassis that is setup well and providing big grip, the combo will be well suited to the SMP layout so Darren gets our vote.

Rob Whyte (Aus)

Rob Whyte’s 370Z is in my view, one of the best sounding cars in Australia, and I’m not even a V8 guy! The engine itself is a Team Penske Mopar/Dodge NASCAR engine tuned to 825hp of instant, high revving power and oh boy, its’s great to hear in real life. The modification list is impressive to say the least, with an extremely high level of build quality and only the best components.

After 9 months of retirement, Rob is having a comeback tour of sorts and back for a crack at the Drift Challenge with renewed backing from a previous sponsor in Monster Energy.

With a vast amount of experience and the best car for the job under him, Rob will be at the pointy end this year.

Mad Mike (NZ)

Mike is the closest thing to a household name for Drifting around the world and with long time Red Bull sponsorship, has seen drifting take him around the world, from formula Drift in the U.S with his rotary powered MX-5 to crazy promotional video shoots all across the world. This year, he is bringing his rebuilt RX8 over for a play in Sydney.

I included Mike in this top 8 as he always has his bum in the driving seat and practice is ultimately what gets you over the line in pressure cooker situations. He is an extremely experienced campaigner and has spent a lot of time learning to compete in smoke over in the U.S, which is a skill in and of itself and one he will need this weekend under lights.

Mike and his team have learnt quite a lot over the years with vehicle setup, so there is no doubt Mike’s car will be fast through the course during the competition. Plus it wil no doubt sound amazing!

Michael Rosenblatt (Aus)

Michael is the current Drift Challenge champion, running the tried and tested Nulon supported V8 powered R32 Skyline.

Based on last year’s dominating form alone, it’s hard to go past Rodenblatt for the Top 8 and there is a strong chance he will make the final again this year.

There’s not much more to say! Michael may have the shortest odds if drift gambling existed!

Daigo Saito (Japan)

Where do you start with an introduction to Daigo Saito. An absolute monster behind the wheel (suiting his sponsorship with Monster Energy) Daigo has become champion in the most prestigious drift competitions in the world, including D1GP and Formula Drift and has a fleet of exotic drift machinery that always break the interwebs when they are unveiled.

After debuting just a basic old Lamborghini Murcielago drift spec machine for the 2016 Drift Challenge event…as you do, Daigo decided to get serious this year and compete in his FD winning 1200hp Lexus.

As they say, no Daigo, no party and he is an awesome addition for the event and for Aussies to see this chase master compete locally.

Beau Yates (Aus)

The OG Aussie drifter Beau Yates is due for a big one. This could be it. He is in my Top 8 for 2017.

Beau was drifting from the ‘good old days’, and recognising his talent, has enjoyed support from Toyota for much of his career.

Originally well known for his amazing AE86 drift car (which is steeped in history and a car he still owns) Beau has more recently upgraded to the new generation FT-86.

After pushing the FA20 to the limit, it was the bullet proof 2JZ (no shit!) that got the nod to take Beau’s new build to the next level and get on an even playing field with the other heavy hitters running mega power setups.

Beau keeps his eye in with seat time in the NSW based Hi-Tec Oils drift series so will be on point come Friday and Saturday evening in Sydney.

Cole Armstrong (NZ)

Cole Armstrong is the current D1NZ champion and impressed with his consistency all year in his G35 Skyline, powered by an RB32 donk.

In between D1NZ events, Cole has been drifting overseas this year as part of the D1GP China series so what’s one more overseas event!  no doubt Cole is looking forward to the challenge.

Cole is bringing his well known R34 4 door Skyline over, sporting a new liverie thanks to an Evergreen tyre sponsorship deal.

Cole certainly has the experience to perform under the pressure at SMP and again the longer wheelbase will allow for a good package come competition time.

Michael Prosenik (Aus)

Michael is a seasoned drift competitor, having just taken out the King of Asia drift championship last year, competing against some of the worlds best. This adds to his long list of acheivements across Australia and New Zealand competing.

Michael’s S13 has had a 6 month overhaul and runs a serious spec Dewar Engines naturally aspirated LS V8, after deciding the supercharged LS engine wasn’t to his liking.

Michael has had a rough run at this event over the last few years, but certainly has the car and talent to pull off a strong performance this weekend.I think his luck will change.

Honourable Mentions

What about Shane van Gisbergen, what about Jake Jones, what about Luke Fink, what about, what about…… I had to pick 8 and that is my list! However, I am extremely excited to see everyone compete, but I’ll just touch on a few of the names mentioned above.

For Jake Jones it will be his competition debut in the e-famous RBM3 which we can confirm will have a fresh new look, after running plain in white since it’s debut late last year.

Jake has recently taken out the Chinese Drift Championship and we wish him luck for his first competitive outing for his long term project. This is another car that sounds amazing!

Former Australian Drift Champion and highyl regarded driver across the world, Luke Fink will be driving his personal Toyota AE86, running a 270kw SR20 package, knuckles and some other basics.  As always, we think Luke will be one of the most exciting drivers in the field, we just hope the freshly built car proves reliable and Luke can tame the short wheelbase through the challenging and power hungry course. If anyone can do it though, he can!

Shane van Gisbergen is one of the best things to happen to drift for Australia and New Zealand in being able to draw in the mainstream motorsport crowd. A Supercars Champion and all round absolute gun of a driver, it may only be Shane’s lack of seat time in tandem battles that may be his undoing, but with so much talent, that might be still a big call! Either way, we love seeing him drive and his genuine passion for all motorsport.

The full Drift Challenge line-up can be viewed HERE (Via WTAC) and tickets are still available HERE.

Those that are keen for a few beers at home, can watch the Livestream for free! Wooo!! Stay tuned to the Drift Life Facebook page and we will share the Link or Lunk for you New Zealanders!

Who do you think is going to win? Let us know in the comments!

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About the Author

Jos Roder

is the owner of Drift Life and delves deeper into drifting culture. Jos started drifting more than 10 years ago after discovering a sport existed that captured his favourite motoring endeavour, going sideways! Jos works full-time in the automotive/motorsport field as a PR Manager and Advanced Driving Instructor and currently owns a JDM S15 Nissan Silvia for drift/track/hillclimb duties.

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