Young stars Ari Pettigrew and Samantha Gray had a strong debut in their BMW 318Ti at the New Zealand Rally Championships opening round, Otago Rally, in category 3 (open 2wd).
The pairing were untouchable on the Saturday with just under a 1:30 lead on competitors. He shocked with his record-breaking pace and a clean sweep of stage wins in 2wd throughout the day. Opening nearly a minute lead in the first stages.
Though he’s not new to the national championship, following a troublesome season in category two, Pettigrew was surprised by his pace.
“We knew we could contend for a class lead, but both Sam and I were overwhelmed when looking at the results following the morning. The car was handling great, our new 6 cylinder power was fantastic and it showed in the times”.
While it was a strong opening day for the team, day two shared a high attrition and the BMW was not without its troubles. Following another great opening stage, the car ultimately lost a wheel in Special Stage 11. The fix dented their commanding lead, causing a drop to second in Category 3 and losing a chance at a win on class debut.
“When we lost the wheel, I had no chance to sit there and consider our loss. The repair had to be done, so I leaped out the car and fixed it. With my previous disappointments over the years, I am not immune to drama. Honestly, it was great to just finish.”
Moving forward Ari would like to contest the full championship. He is on the hunt for sponsors to help him achieve his first national title.
“Obviously budgets are tight, but Sam and I are hopeful we can contest the full series and take the fight to rival competitors. After the weekend I have confidence in the car, Sam and I work well, leading the championship we are ready to take on round two”.
The next round is Rally of Whangarei in under a months’ time, running both north and south of the city on the 15th/16th of May.