The sentiment might have been with hometown heroes 'Fanga' Dan Woolhouse (Castrol Edge Holden Commodore) and three-time D1NZ champion Gaz Whiter (Tectaloy Nissan S14), but it was Aucklander 'Mad' Mike Whiddett (Red Bull Need For Speed Mazda RX7) who won the penultimate round of the 2011/12 Cody's D1NZ National Drifting Championship in Northland over the weekend.
The crowd-pleasing Whiddett was at his exhuberant best on the fast, flowing Northgate Business Park course at Ruakaka near Marsden Point on Saturday, making light of the damp, muggy weather and constantly changing road surface conditions to beat Woolhouse and Darren Benjamin (Matt's Computer Services 2JZ Nissan Laurel) to the top spot in qualifying in the morning, and Whiter and Woolhouse to round victory in the afternoon.
"That's what we set out to do," said Whiddett as he was surrounded by fans after the podium ceremony, "qualify number one and finish number one. Awesome!"
The round win is Whiddett's second this year, the high-profile East Auckland-based international first tasting Cody's 2011/12 D1NZ National Drifting Championship victory at the opening round at Manfeild in October last year.
It came after a bye in the Top 16, and wins over Andrew Redward (Nankang Nissan S14) in the Top 8 and eventual third placegetter Gaz Whiter in the Top 4.
Whiter was in similarly barn-storming form after dispatching Taranaki driver Steve Sole (who had to borrow a Nissan S13 off Pro-Am driver Jacob Hakaraia when his own Steve Sole Customs' Toyota Mk 11 had oil pump issues) and new Driftcorp signing Robbee Nelson (Koba Batteries Nissan S15) to get to the Top 4.
His first battle with Whiddett was also a classic - the pair touching as they entered the high-speed first turn - and the judges ordering a One More Time when they couldn't split the pair on points.
To add to the drama Whiter's car then holed a radiator on the way to the start of that run forcing a short delay as he returned to the pits for the hole to be crimped.
Once the car was back in action the pair again matched each other for line, angle and smoke but this time the judges decided Whiddett had the edge with Whiter dispatched to battle young Auckland driver Nico Reid (GT Refinishers Nissan S15) for third place and Whiddett advancing to the final against Woolhouse.
That unleashed another set of epic battles with young gun Reid giving as good as he got until the nod - and final step on the podium - went to Whiter with fourth place Reid's best result in his first year in the premier D1 category, and Stratford's Darren Benjamin (Matt's Computer Services 2JZ Nissan Laurel) the best of the rest in fifth.
Woolhouse's own run to the final started with a clear win over Aucklander Sky Zhou (D-Spec Nissan S15) in the Top 16, an entertaining scrap with Hugo McLean (Grab-A-Tool 13B Toyota AE86) in the Top 8 then a hard battle - which like that of Whiter and Whiddett had to be repeated before a winner emerged - against Nico Reid before he could face Whiddett.
In typical never-say-die style Woolhouse also gave it his all in the final showdown, but Whiddett earned the higher score, and with it the round win.
"Yeah, when it comes down to it, we should really have changed the gearing because with Mikey we ran out of legs down the straight," Woolhouse admitted afterwards."I didn't with anyone else but I did with Mike and he just got a little jump on me at the start. But hey, it's all good, Mike and I are always pushing our limits and that's what we were doing today."
And where was Pukekohe and Mt Smart winner and series points leader heading into the Northland round, Curt Whittaker (Team Dilusi 2JZ Nissan Skyline R34)? Or points runner-up Cole Armstrong (V Energy Drink Nissan Skyline R34)?
Both suffered mechanical dramas, Whittaker blowing a hole in the side of his car's Toyota 2JZ engine block in practice on Saturday morning and Armstrong blowing a back-up gearbox in Friday then snapping a selector in his number one unit on his second qualifying run on Sunday.
Quick work by his crew got Armstrong's car going again however the Tauranga driver lost his Top 16 battle against Darren Benjamin when he (Armstrong) spun.
Whittaker, meanwhile, was forced to park his newly-liveried Team Dilusi Skyline and accept an offer from Pro-Am winner Cam Vernon to use Vernon's Gull-backed Nissan Skyline R32.
That kept him in the running, however he lost to Nico Reid when the pair met in the Top 16.
Whittaker was full of praise for Vernon's generosity afterwards and accepted the engine blow as 'one of those things that happen.'
"That's motor racing," he said as his crew packed up after the final battle. "It's a shame that it happened when it happened but, hey, we've had two good seasons out of it (the engine) and up until now it has been really good to us."
With the final round of the 2011/12 Cody's D1NZ National Drifting Championship less than a month away Whittaker and his crew certainly have their work cut out sourcing, fitting and tuning a new engine. But Whittaker says he will be at Hampton Downs come hell or high water.
"One way or another we will definitely be there," he said.
As will the man who loaned him his car, Pro-Am standout Cam Vernon. Vernon, from Pukekohe, claimed his third Pro-Am series win in a row on Friday, beating Matamata's William Foster (Bennett Motorsport Toyota AE85) and series rookie Zak Pole (VIP Labs Nissan Skyline R33).
Vernon had a scare in qualifying when a stone dislodged his car's power steering belt, sending him skidding off the track, but he fought back to top Pro-Am qualifying and go through his battles unbeaten.
Cody's D1NZ National Drifting Championship series organiser Brendon White said that he was very pleased with the way the event panned out and is hopeful of a return to Northland - and preferably the Northgate Business Park venue - next year with a long-term goal of a permanent facility taking shape for the championship in Northland.
The focus of organizer and drivers alike is now the grand final of the 2011/12 Cody's D1NZ National Drifting Championship which will be held at the Hampton Downs motor racing circuit in the northern Waikato on Easter Friday and Saturday April 6, 7.