It was four seasons in one day at the Trusthouse Racetech Daybreaker Rally Wairarapa, making for tricky conditions and markedly different special stage tests. But as the rain and mud cleared to a sunny and dusty afternoon, it was the Summerfield siblings who reigned supreme.
Making the most of their road position, Matt and Nicole Summerfield took their opportunity on the first run of the 31km long Ridge Road stage, blitzing the rest of the field by 30 seconds and establishing a 24 second lead over David Holder. It then became a battle between these two for line honours, and a nail biting finish.
With Summerfield maintaining a wafer thin 0.7 second lead over Holder after the penultimate stage, it was to be all or nothing on the last high speed test of North Road. Despite Summerfield setting a reasonable time, it was still a nervous wait at the end. Then the pressure was relieved as news came through that Holder had spun. In fact it was a very high speed spin on one of the fastest parts of the road, and Holder looses 25 seconds in the process.
A fine drive under pressure sees the Summerfields take their first win at a national championship event. For Holder it is his second event back after a huge crash in the first rally of the season. His impressive turn of speed here shows what might have been.
Defending rally champion Richard Mason had looked to upset the front runners in a one off appearance for this season, using an older car. And initially he was doing just that as he slotted into 3rd overall, behind Holder and ahead of Lance Williams. That was until suspected electrical issues stopped him dead in his tracks in stage 4, allowing Williams through.
Then Williams falters on the very next stage with a minor off-road excursion that results in both time loss and panel damage.
The afternoon then sees an impressive drive from Emma Gilmour in her Suzuki Swift Maxi. A string of top times on the Wairarapa roads, including a stage win, sees her take the final podium spot comfortably.
Summerfield, Holder and Gilmour make for a new group of drivers on the podium at the Daybreaker Rally Wairarapa, although for Gilmour she did achieve second at this event in 2012.
In the Malcolm Stewart Classic Rally, the field was dominated by Marcus van Klink in his Group B RX7. Leading from the first stage he extended his lead over the Escort RS1800 mounted Regan Ross on almost every stage. This despite the removal of the left front corner of the RX7 when van Klink tangled with the scenery.
Pre-event expectations had been that Tony Gosling and Andy Martin would also have been in the mix for the classic rally, and after Stage 1 it was shaping up to be a 4 way battle. However Stage 2 changed all that. Gosling finally completed the test after using his co-driver’s shoe laces as an improvised throttle cable, but the ensuing 20 minute time loss saw them at the back of the field.
The time loss for Martin wasn’t so severe, but 10 minutes stuck off the road had the same effect.
As Ross chased van Klink these two cleared away from the rest of the field, and in the end that left a substantial margin to Bruce Herbert in his Lancer. Herbert though ran his own rally, and consistency brought a fine third, again with a substantial margin to Andrew Keighley in 4th.
Van Klink’s pace also saw him the fastest of the two wheel drive competitors. With Anthony Jones in his Escort second, sitting between van Klink and Ross. A special mention goes to Justin Glavish and the mighty 1300cc Toyota Starlet he pilots. 16th overall, 4th two wheel drive, and just 14 seconds behind Ross. A fine effort indeed.
As was commented on at the prizegiving, it was a rally of two halves. Both the tight and technical roads of the Manawatu, traditionally used by the Daybreaker Rally and the more open and flowing roads of the Wairarapa used by Rally Wairarapa. This was always going to provide a challenge for the drivers, but when you add the weather into the mix, the contrasts made the event even more challenging.
With the challenges, a battle down to the wire, and a new look to the winner’s podium, the 2015 edition of the Trusthouse Racetech Daybreaker Rally Wairarapa was one to remember.