The dominance of Hayden Paddon at last weekend’s Rally South Canterbury was expected, but not so the incredible rate of attrition that spread throughout the field.
Unusually, five of the top 10 seeded drivers retired from the 10-stage rally, while nine of the top 20 failed to make it to the finish.
In a one-day rally, that’s a high percentage of DNFs, and ensured that the leaderboard after stage 10 wasn’t what many people would have predicted pre-event.
When your rally turns to poo on the very first stage, you need take any positive you can, and that’s exactly what Robbie Stokes did.
Hoping to show his pace on home ground, the young gun suffered mechanical failure on stage one, but not before setting a split time a second faster than Paddon.
It may have only been after 3.42km, and even a missed gear could have seen Paddon drop at least that time, but it’s something for Stokes to hang his hat on amidst the disappointment.
Not so Emma Gilmour though, who’s wretched luck continued with gearbox failure on stage two.
That’s now six retirements from the past seven New Zealand Rally Championship rounds for Gilmour, who must really think she’s broken a mirror, run over a black cat, been cursed by a Voodoo, or all of the above!
The rally’s most unusual retirement, however, was that of Josh Marston, who “did a Tommi Makinen” and hit a cow on stage three.
“The cow came from the grass on the right hand side onto the road and was heading across in front, so I aimed to try and go behind it, but at the last minute it turned and headed down the road,” Marston said.
He’d been doing 150km/h when he saw the cow, and estimates the impact was at around 80km/h, which did major damage to his Holden Barina AP4.
His team now have a busy month getting the car repaired for the championship’s next round, Rally Hawkes Bay.
With carnage happening all around, Paddon did what he usually does and took a win by over three minutes.
“It was a good day with no major issues. Everything went smoothly and we really enjoyed it,” he said.
“As a whole, we ticked all the boxes and are now just five points away from winning the championship.”
Subaru’s Ben Hunt was only twice outside the top two fastest stage times on his way to second place, nearly three minutes clear of Regan Ross in third place in his Ford Fiesta R5.
Ninth place went to veteran Todd Bawden in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 6, but news has since emerged that he’ll have a brand new Ford Fiesta R5 for the next round four weeks’ time.
Add Bawden’s new R5 to the returning Jack Hawkeswood (Mazda 2 AP4) and Dylan Turner (Audi AP4), and the pace is likely to go up another notch again.
Now all that’s needed is for more drivers to actually make it to the finish, and the battle for the podium will be well and truly on.