Mount Maunganui’s David Holder has taken the overnight lead in round two of the Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship, the International Rally of Whangarei, after one of the most action packed legs in recent memory. Holder and co-driver Jason Farmer (Stadium Finance Mitsubishi) hold a lead of just over a minute over Emma Gilmour/Anthony McLoughlin (Vantage Suzuki Swift) with Dylan Turner and Rob Scott third overall in the LJ Hooker Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9.
Two short super special stages kicked off the action on Friday night around the Pohe Island reserve and while WRC star Hayden Paddon and Rotorua young gun Sloan Cox took a stage win a piece on the spectator friendly stage, there was drama for front runners Matt Summerfield and Michael Young, both retiring with mechanical failures and taking time penalties into the remaining eight special stages on Saturday.
The first stage of Saturday saw Paddon assert his expected dominance over the field, but when a driveline issue caused him to retire at the end of special stage four, the event was blown wide open and it was Cox who picked up the pieces to move into the lead while others faced dramas around him.
Further drama hit when defending national champions Ben Hunt and Tony Rawstorn left the road in special stage six. After being airlifted to hospital as a precaution, Hunt was diagnosed with three broken ribs but both competitors were able to walk away.
Other drivers to strike problems across the day were Lance Williams, Shannon Chambers, Carl Davies and Barry Varcoe, each with off road excursions, while mechanical dramas hit Glenn Inkster, Grant Blackberry, Brian Green, Lee Robson, Jono Walker, Tyler Radovan, Tony Gosling, Andy Martin and Matt Adams.
The afternoon saw Holder begin his charge as he set a string of top two stage times, but it was Cox who held the advantage until the day’s final special stage, when gear selection issues cost close to three agonising minutes. That left Holder to take top bonus points for the leg win.
“After a rollercoaster day where we all had our own issues, it’s pretty exciting to come out on top,” says Holder. “But the job is only half done, we have to back it up tomorrow.”
Behind the podium place getters, the ever consistent Graham Featherstone sits only 7.7 seconds behind Turner while Richard Baddock rounds out the top five. Andrew Hawkeswood, Cox, Phil Campbell, Kingsley Jones and Clint Cunningham rounded out the top ten.
The Gull Rally Challenge, contested across the opening day only, was taken out by the husband and wife team of Kingsley and Waverley Jones, heading home the returning Wayne Pittams/Heater Wise and Warwick Redfern/Ron Bartels, while Jeff Torkington/Rodney James took out two-wheel drive honours in the class.
Max Bayley and Lisa Hudson lead the FIA two-wheel drive class after a strong run in his Ford Fiesta, sitting outright just behind Historic leader Marcus van Klink’s Mazda RX-7. In the Historic class, van Klink and co-driver Dave Neill lead Jeff Judd/Grant Marra’s Ford Escort RS1800. The open two wheel drive class sees Anthony Jones/Noel Moloney (Ford Escort) leading Dave Strong/Bruce McKenzie (Honda Civic), while Dylan Thomson/Amy Hudson (Ford Fiesta) lead Jack and Brenda Williamson in the race for the final podium position.
Tomorrow sees a six further high-speed special stages before the ceremonial finish at the Quayside Town Basin from 3pm.