Block storms to NZRC lead after day one
American driver Ken Block holds a comfortable lead after the end of leg one of Rally Whangarei, the opening round of the 2015 Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship.
Block and co-driver Alex Gelsomino powered their Hoonigan Racing Division Ford Fiesta to stage wins on both of the Friday night super special stages plus four stage wins from the eight stages today to hold an overnight lead of one minute 19.7 seconds.
The pace setter early on was Alex Kelsey in his ‘Mad Creation 2’, firing a warning shot to his rivals by opening up a 20 second lead after four special stages. But a wrong turn in a junction and then clutch failure meant the Coromandel driver was forced to retire.
The battle for top New Zealand driver was then left to be fought out by Ben Hunt/Tony Rawstorn in the Subaru and David Holder/Rob Scott in their Subaru. Hunt set the early pace but Holder fought back in the afternoon. In the end, Holder took the honours by virtue of Hunt receiving a 10 second penalty for lateness leaving the service park. The pair are separated by just 1.3 seconds going into leg two. Fourth and fifth are held by Phil Campbell/Venita Fabbro and Matt Summerfield/Nicole Summerfield respectively.
Max Bayley and Donna Elder take an unchallenged lead in the two-wheel drive competition with an impressive drive in their Ford Fiesta R2, setting a pace that would see him as the fastest two-wheel drive car overall and also rounding out the top ten.
The Historic challenge saw Marcus van Klink and Dave Neill set the early pace in their Mazda RX-7, while the expected challenge from former outright national champion Brian Stokes along with wife Anne never eventuated when the exhaust and then steering broke on their Ford Escort RS1800. That left Andy Martin/Matt Hayward to hold down the runner up spot in their Mazda RX-3.
The Gull Rally Challenge, which runs over the opening day of two-day events, saw Kingsley and Waverly Jones wrap-up the four-wheel drive class in their Mitsubishi Evo, leading home the similar cars of Tyler Radovan/Tony Kenrick and Jonathan Shapley/Kane Mallasch. The two-wheel drive Challenge was taken out by the Toyota Starlet of Justin Glavish/Michele Brunt, beating home the Toyota MR-2 of Jeff Torkington/Rodney James.
The action continues tomorrow with a further six stages south of Whangarei.
A major talking point for the day was the high level of attrition with 12 of the 32 championship starters failing to reach the finish of the opening day, while plenty of others struck trouble.
1. Ken Block/Alex Gelsomino 1hr42:52.2
2. David Holder/Rob Scott 1hr44:11.9
3. Ben Hunt/Tony Rawstorn 1hr44:13.2
4. Phil Campbell/Venita Fabbro 1hr45:36.0
5. Matt Summerfield/Nicole Summerfield 1hr45:56