Tough battle at Otago but Anderson still leads
The fast roads used in the Otago Rally proved a handicap for defending Open two-wheel-drive rally champion Hamish Anderson but the Christchurch driver still leads the New Zealand championship series after the opening two rounds.
Anderson, round one winner in Whangarei, struggled to out-drive his closest rival, finding the 1600cc powerplant of his older Toyota Levin no match for the modern two-litre engine of Toyota’s latest 86 model, driven by Brent Taylor. And a puncture on the final day deflated his challenge, Anderson and co-driver Sarah Brennan settling for the runner-up spot to ensure they maintained their series lead.
“Our rally started okay on the first day when we held a brief class lead but once we hit the longer, faster roads in South Otago we just couldn’t keep up. I was driving as fast as I could – probably overdriving a bit – but our car simply didn’t have the legs of Brent’s car,” said Anderson.
At the end of the first day, Anderson had dropped almost a minute to his rival but more drama was to strike after the finish when he was struck down with a stomach ailment and confined to bed.
The final day started with a more positive note when Anderson won the Power Stage – the second stage of the day – by 1.2 seconds and gained an extra championship point for his effort.
The Christchurch duo were much more competitive with Taylor on the second day and were within striking distance to Taylor before the start of the longest stage of the day, Terrace Range at just over 40kms.
“When the road headed into the forestry section there was a very tight section where they had cut fallen trees from the roadside – just enough for a car to pass through – and I clipped the rear tyre on the exit and that gave us a puncture about 10kms from the finish line,” said Anderson.
“I drove out on the puncture to minimise our time loss – rather than stop and change it – but we still lost nearly a minute so then it was game over. We just used old tyres for the final few stages and drove on to the finish of the rally to secure second-place points.”
Although the pair were runner-up for the weekend in the national series, they won their class in the Mainland Rally Series. In that series, they compete against cars with the same engine capacity – 1600cc, while in the national series the engine capacity is open. Anderson and Brennan next compete at their home Canterbury Rally, which is the third round of the Brain Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship early in June.
The Otago Rally also marked the first anniversary for the pair as a regular team and Anderson is full of praise for the job of his co-driver. “Sarah did an awesome job over the weekend. Her calling of the notes was spot-on and it’s great to see how much improvement she’s made in the past twelve months. I’m very happy with her work inside the car. It’s a great partnership,” he added.
After two rounds, Anderson holds a 34 point lead over Taylor.
The Anderson rally team are supported by Goodyear, Rally Tyres NZ Ltd, Mammoth Web, Autolign, Dunlop, P J Repairs, Beaurepaires and Inflatablez: The Cube Event Tent and Gull.