Nelson Subaru driver Ben Hunt has strengthened his chances of a first national rally title after taking his third successive round win at the Mahindra Gold Rush Rally of Coromandel. Hunt lead from start to finish over the nine special stages and 132 kilometres of competition on the twisting roads of the Coromandel Peninsula to win the fifth round of the 2015 Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship by 37.8 seconds over his closest rival, Tauranga Mitsubishi driver Phil Campbell.
Hunt and co-driver Tony Rawstorn now head to the final round of the championship at Wairarapa on 3rd October with a 24 point margin over Campbell. “This is a great result for our team and exactly what we needed for the championship. I don’t think we will be getting much sleep before Rally Wairarapa so we can make sure the car is 100% reliable for the final,” commented Hunt at the rally finish.
Whilst Hunt and co-driver Tony Rawstorn had a clear run out front to victory with five out of nine stage wins a major battle for the remaining podium places was taking place behind. Rotorua Mitsubishi driver Sloan Cox initially held second until over heating issues slowed his progress. Auckland’s Dylan Turner and Malcolm Read were running as high as third until a clutch issued stopped his car on stage four.
Campbell and co-driver Venita Fabbro moved into second with a strong run over the two longest stages of the event at Tapu-Coroglen (22km’s) and the challenging Castlerock (24km’s) tests to move into second, the positon they would hold until rally end. Fellow Tauranga Mitsubishi driver David Holder who was returning to the championship for the first time since rolling out of round one at Rally Whangarei, chased Campbell hard taking the final podium placing only 6.9 seconds behind at rally end.
Rangiora brother and sister pairing Matt and Nicole Summerfield had relatively trouble free event to finish fourth while Lance Williams celebrated his 21st birthday on the day with a spectacular run to the fifth overall with co-driver Crunch Bennett. Timaru Mitsubishi driver Darren Galbraith and co-driver Rocky Hudson finished sixth overall and secured honours in the Gull Rally Challenge 4WD category ahead of Auckland’s Todd Bawden who showed he has lost none of his pace returning to the championship for the first time in 10 years to finish a very credible seventh overall. The top ten finishers were rounded out by consistent Te Aroha driver Graham Featherstone, Palmerston North’s Brian Green and Blenheim’s Richard Bateman.
The challenging Coromandel roads provided plenty of drama for a number of crews with local hope Alex Kelsey slowed with an offroad excursion. Dunedin’s Emma Gilmour set a number of top three stage times but was slowed for 15 minutes in stage four with a failed master switch on her Suzuki Swift. Shannon Chambers was running as high as seventh overall during the debut of his spectacular Volkswagen Polo when it was sidelined with a mechanical issue only three stages from the finish. Leading 2WD contender Max Bayley had a rare offroad excursion end his rally on stage five.
The BNT Historic Category was a battle between the potent Mazda RX7 of class leader Marcus Van Klink and the Ford Escort RS1800 of Tony Gosling with the pair trading stage times until a diff failure on Van Klinks Mazda sidelined his run. Christchurch driver Gosling and co-driver Blair Read taking the Classic round win and 13th overall ahead of Tauranga’s Andy Martin and Matt Heywood’s Mazda RX3. Van Klink still holds the Classic championship points heading to the final at Wairarapa.
The Gull Rally Challenge 2WD was dominated by Tauranga Ford Escort pairing of Anthony Jones and Noel Maloney who also finished 12th overall. A giant killing performance once again from Justin Glavish and Michele Brunt in their tiny Toyota Starlet to finish second in class, with Kaikouras Regan and Nigel Ross rounding out the class podium.
Drivers and crews now have a six week break to prepare for the championship finale at the Daybreaker Rally Wairarapa on Saturday 3rd October.
2015 Brian Green Property Group NZ Rally Championship points after 5 rounds of 6.
1. Ben Hunt (Nelson- Subaru) 130 points
2. Phil Campbell (Tauranga – Mitsubishi) 106
3. Lance Williams (Te Aroha – Subaru) 88
4. Matt Summerfield (Rangiora – Subaru) 84
5. Graham Featherstone (Te Aroha – Mitsubishi) 73