Hunt extends championship lead at dramatic Rally Canterbury
Auckland’s Ben Hunt has extended his lead in the Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship with a maximum haul of points at the third round, Lone Star Rally Canterbury. Hunt and co-driver Tony Rawstorn guided their a commanding lead in the opening two special stages held on Saturday night, allowing him to maintain his advantage on Sunday’s eight stages.
“It’s a perfect result for us, the Winger Subaru performed perfectly and we ended up not using up too many Dunlop tyres, so it doesn’t get much better really. Now we just need a couple more solid points hauls moving forward,” said Hunt.
Hunt and all the other teams faced varied conditions, with the Ashley Forest based stages producing large amounts of dust while the stages in the Okuku forest saw competitors facing the challenge of snow and ice.
Second place and an equally impressive drive came from Timaru’s Darren Galbraith with Christchurch co-driver Rocky Hudson. The pair, who also won the Gull Rally Challenge, sat third overnight in their Mitsubishi Evo 6, then capitalised on gearbox problems for Tauranga’s Phil Campbell/Venita Fabbro, who still survived to finish third despite completing the final two stages with only two gears.
Making a return to the four-wheel drive class podium and fourth overall was Dunedin’s Emma Gilmour with Brisbane-based co-driver Anthony McLaughlin in their Suzuki Swift Maxi, leading home Graham Featherstone/Dave Devonport in their Mitsubishi Evo 7.
The two-wheel drive battle went the way of Max Bayley and Malcolm Peden in their Ford Fiesta R2, who finished a commendable sixth overall, just ahead of the four-wheel drive Fiesta of Dave Strong/Bruce McKenzie and the Subaru Impreza of Lance Williams/Crunch Bennett, who dropped out of podium contention when a rock broke a wheel rim.
The Historic class went the way of local competitors Marcus van Klink/Dave Neill in their Mazda RX-7, ahead of fellow Cantabrian Tony Gosling with co-driver Blair Read in their Ford Escort RS1800, both rounding out the top ten overall placings. Third in the class went to Andy Martin and Matt Hayward in their Mazda RX-3 after Brian & Anne Stokes retired in their Ford Escort on the opening stage.
Other drivers to make the finish after problems on the event included Brian Green/Fleur Pedersen, Tyler Radovan/Tony Kenrick and Richard Bateman/Sharisse Guckert.
The rally took its toll on several top runners, with local heros Matt and Nicole Summerfield coming unstuck in the night stages along with Andrew Hawkeswood/Jeff Cress, while Hugh Spence/Tim Eddington retired with CV Joint failure.
Hunt now takes a 12 point lead in the championship over Campbell while Featherstone moves into third place, holding off Williams and fifth equal Green and van Klink. Bayley holds the lead in the two-wheel drive Category, while van Klink leads the Historics and Radovan moves into the lead of the Gull Rally Challenge.
The series now moves back to the North Island for the Fuchs Rally Gisborne on June 27, which sees the NZRC return to famous stages including the legendary Motu.
2015 Brian Green Property Group NZ Rally Championship points after 3 rounds of 6.
1. Ben Hunt (Nelson- Subaru) 96 points
2. Phil Campbell (Tauranga – Mitsubishi) 84
3. Graeme Featherson (Te Aroha – Mitsubishi) 56
4. Lance Williams (Te Aroha – Subaru) 46
5. Brian Green (Palmerston North – Mitsubishi) 45