Podium honours at stake during season finale
One of the biggest battles at the final round of the Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship driven by VINZ will be the battle for the remaining championship podium positions. While Richard and Sara Mason have the championship win sealed, a total of six competitors are fighting for the two remaining podium spots, and will have to overcome one of the most challenging events on the calendar to earn that spot, the GoPro Daybreaker Rally.
Based out of Palmerston North, the event offers crews a rude awakening as they leave the start at Palmfeild Motors from 3.50am, completing two stages under the cover of darkness before the opening service in Taihape. In total, teams will cover just shy of 200km of special stages in one day, providing the longest day of rallying in New Zealand this year.
Favourites to take out the two podium spots will be David Holder and Ben Hunt, who currently sit second and third respectively.
David Holder / John Kennard / Stadium Cars Evo 8 – 76 points: For Holder, the event sees him pair with a new co-driver in John Kennard, who is more regularly seen alongside Hayden Paddon in the World Rally Championship. With plenty of work done to ensure the Stadium Cars Mitsubishi is reliable, Holder has just one goal for the event.
“I’m there to win, I don’t go to lose! I prefer to go there with a purpose rather than looking for a consistent run. Given that John (Kennard) is in the car and I’ve got heaps to learn, that will come into it too but I’m there to get second for the year. I’m looking forward to the fact that everyone will be there and be trying, no-one will have the excuse of taking it easy, they will all be there to win. It’s going to come down to who makes the little mistake, or the big mistake, but more than likely a little mistake will be costly for whoever it is.”
Ben Hunt / Tony Rawstorn / WInger Subaru Impreza – 73 points: Hunt, who heads into the round just three points behind Holder, however is not as concerned. “We’re not going to do anything different, we’ll let everyone do it to themselves,” says Hunt.
“We won this event last year and it would be awesome to do that again, but every rally so far this year we’ve had problems or punctures. It would be great just to have a clean run and see where we end up.”
Matt Summerfield / Nicole Summerfield / Castrol Subaru – 57 points: Matt Summerfield sits in fourth 19 points behind Holder so all things being equal, is unlikely to catch the pair in front of him. But this is rallying and anything can and frequently does happen, so the Rangiora driver is by no means out of the running and over the course of the season has set some impressive times, including coming home second at Whangarei.
“The rally is a challenge enough without worrying about what everyone else is doing! I’d like to beat Dave, I think the cars are pretty similar. Our cars probably not near enough to Ben’s or Lance’s. I’ve already started adjusting the body clock to get ready for the event.”
Lance Williams / Crunch Bennett / Possum Bourne Motorsport Pirelli Subaru – 51 points: Summerfield’s fellow Junior competitor Lance Williams has put in a strong performance all season and sits only six points behind Summerfield, but has a point to prove at the series finale after a performance that was certainly not up to his usual standard on the Coromandel.
“We had a bit of a shocker at Coromandel so really we want to go to Daybreaker and remind everyone that we’re not slow! Plus we’d like to push our way past Matt and see where we end up,” says the Te Aroha 20-year old.
Graham Featherstone / Chris Davison / River Meadows Evo 7 – 48 points: Another Te Aroha resident, Graham Featherstone, has been the quiet achiever of the 2014 season, with two fourth place finishes building up to a maiden podium finish on the Coromandel. Despite not scoring points at either of the South Island rounds, Featherstone is still a mathematical chance of second place in the championship such is his ability to keep out of trouble and place near the front of the field.
“Really the podium is a bit of a long shot but I’d really like to get back inside the top five, I think that would be a good reward for our improvement this year,” says the Te Aroha Farmer.
Phil Campbell / Venita Fabbro / The Roofing Store Evo 9 – 45 points: Another with a mathematical chance of a podium championship position is the latest driver to join the NZRC round winners club, Phil Campbell. Like Holder and Hunt, Campbell learned his trade in a Ford Fiesta and after rear diff problems in the Wairarapa, Campbell has been on rally winning speed. In fact, as well as Goldrush victory, Campbell also won his home rally, the non-championship Tauranga Clubmans Rally, and a recent hillclimb, so is in strong form.
“I think it will be a pretty tall ask (to take third place in the championship) but after our last few good results we’ve been pushing pretty hard and we think we can get another strong result.”
NZRC TV presenter and rallying expert Glenn Inkster is a previous winner of the Daybreaker event and is expecting the battle to be intense with more than just championship placings to motivate competitors.
“These guys are not only going to be looking to secure themselves a podium spot for the year but a good result at the final round will also fill them with confidence across the off-season.”
This battle is set to go down to the wire and with the likes of Richard Mason and Andrew Hawkeswood able to take points that could potentially help or ruin the hopes of any competitor, along with the traditional Daybreaker sting in the tail of Ridge Road, none of the drivers will be counting any chickens until the arrive back at The Square in Palmerston North for the rally finish.
For further information on The GoPro Daybreaker Rally including spectator map, itinerary and full entry list visit www.daybreaker.co.nz