The Rally of South Canterbury certainly served up a variety of surprises and Subaru’s Ben Hunt side-stepped them all to bring his Subaru WRX STI across the finish line in second.
Following his runner-up result with co-driver Tony Rawstorn at the International Rally of Whangarei last month, this third round placing has seen Hunt leapfrog up the 2021 Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship standings to second.
Today’s 10-stage rally, held on South Canterbury’s lightning-fast gravel roads packed many incidents into its 158km of special stages. They started at the frosty, cold beginning where the 17km rally opener caught out several front-runners. Three of the top 12 seeded drivers ran into trouble just as the day got underway.
Auckland-based Hunt took it easy on the opening two stages.
“If you got offline, it was slippery in the odd place,” he says.
Stage two’s slippery, muddy conditions, with the downhill pine-needle laden sections caused him to “ease off but I eased off a bit too much,” he says, of when Auckland’s Raana Horan put some time on him.
Hunt then went on the charge finishing second behind ex-WRC driver Hayden Paddon in special stages three to seven. In these mid-rally stages, his South Canterbury Rally and overall championship rival Josh Marston hit a cow and was forced to retire.
Hunt and Rawstorn soldiered on and clocked the winning time in SS8, where the day got shaken up for Horan. As Hunt closed the gap to him, his Skoda Fabia R5 went off the road after the flying finish line ending up in a fence near the river. Keeping his head down, Hunt added a final two second-fastest times to his tally at the day’s end.
Finishing behind Paddon, and a convincing 2mins:53.3secs in front of Regan Ross, Hunt’s chances of a runner-up finish in the championship have improved markedly.
“The Subaru ran faultlessly all day in an event where many drivers had mechanicals. We’re stoked to move up into second in the NZRC and will keep pushing in the final two rounds,” Hunt says.
The penultimate Rally Hawkes Bay will be held next month with the NZRC wrapping up in the Coromandel in September.