Armstrong hunting maiden title

To win a championship – you've got to be reliable.

That's what Tauranga drifter Cole Armstrong believes will make or break his hopes of winning the 2016/17 Demon Energy D1NZ National Drifting Championship at Pukekohe Park this weekend.

With an X-point advantage over his only series rival Tom Marshall, Armstrong says winning the title would be unreal and something him and his team have always aspired to do.

“Where a championship could take us is unknown, but I've got a few things in the pipeline once we get that number one on the back.”

Crucial to Armstrong's challenge will be getting used to the Pukekohe Park circuit, which sees drivers traditionally reach 200km/h before hitting the judged drift course at turn one.

For the past two years the series has taken on Pukekohe, but miserable weather hasn't given fans their needed dose of smoky sideways action. However, this weekend looks set to be fully dry.

A veteran of the series, Armstrong knows experience will be on his side, especially coming into the final as the defending winner at Pukekohe Park from the 2015/16 season.

But limited track time will make the challenge tougher though, and every time drifters return to Pukekohe it's a new experience, he says.

“Realistically we only go there once a year, so it's not like we get a lot of driving and testing in the off season. It's all still like new every time you go there, but we've got a game plan and know how I need to drive.

“It should be sweet, but I don't think it's a big thing. I went there the first time I ever drifted and I got a second in competition—you just never know.”

Armstrong on his way to victory at Hampton Downs Motorsport Park

Regardless of the weather, Armstrong is confident he can be competitive in whatever conditions are thrown at him.

“We've got a few set ups for the car whether it's wet or dry. Having that bit of knowledge is a huge thing being able to chuck a set up straight at it and know that it'll win.

“That's a bit of an advantage in that respect. At the moment the weather looks like it's going to be beautiful, so we can finally have the third year turn out some sunshine for us.”

One telling aspect of the team's success so far this season has been their extraordinary reliability. The added effort put into the car for their title bid means they have every chance of taking the series out as long as the car stays together.

Armstrong says they've put a lot more time and effort into the car, and a bit more money too, to make it reliable which has paid off this year.

“I feel like we deserve it. I've been hunting this now for seven or eight years. Hopefully it pays off. If I stay cool calm and collected then my driving will do the talking for me. I don't need to talk it up or show off, then hopefully we can come out on top.

“Our goal is number one this season, so we're just gonna keep nailing it.”

The Demon Energy D1NZ National Drifting Championship heads to South Auckland's Pukekohe Park over April 22-23 for the season's grand final.

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The Cole Armstrong Drift crew celebrate after their second win of the season