TOP PLACES A FAMILY AFFAIR, AND BOP DRIVERS LINE UP QUINELLA IN CHAMPIONSHIP
Brendan Reeves has joined a select group of Australian rally drivers in achieving victory on New Zealand gravel.
Driving the first generation of Force Motorsport’s Mazda2 AP4 spec cars in a one-off appearance, Victorian Reeves and his co-driving sister Rhianon Gelsomino impressively won at Saturday’s Mahindra Goldrush Rally of Coromandel, last in the NZ Rally Championship season.
Previous Australian successes in New Zealand events included Bruce Hodgson winning the 1971 Heatway Rally in a Mark II Lotus Cortina and more recently Asia-Pacific successes at Whangarei for Cody Crocker and Chris Atkinson and an Otago Classic Rally victory for Neal Bates.
Reeves had talked down his chances pre-event but took the opening Ernslaw Forest stage near Whitianga ahead of Force Motorsport team-mate Andrew Hawkeswood (Auckland) in the newer generation Mazda2.
As the rally zig-zagged across the peninsula roads, Reeves posted five more fastest times in the 10-stage event — he was beaten on only two of the gravel stages — to finish just over a minute ahead of Rangiora’s Matt and Nicole Summerfield (another brother and sister crew) in a Subaru Impreza WRX.
Auckland’s Dylan Turner (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo9) completed the podium just 2.5s behind the Summerfield siblings while Skoda Fabia driver Glenn Inkster (Auckland) fought back after a third stage time loss with an engine misfire to finish 7.3s further back in fourth place.
Hawkeswood was fifth, and Mt Maunganui’s David Holder (Lancer Evo8) — who secured the national title in the penultimate round — completed the top six.
Championship interest in the final round centred on the chase for runner-up, which was thrown further open when second-placed Emma Gilmour (Dunedin) was forced to withdraw her Suzuki Swift with engine problems.
After a day-long battle, second place went to Rotorua’s Sloan Cox (Lancer Evo10). Cox was seventh yesterday and completed the season one point ahead of Hawkeswood. Cox also managed to edge ahead of Te Aroha’s Lance Williams (Subaru Impreza R4) to clinch the NZ Junior (under-25) Championship two points.
For 2015 champion Ben Hunt (Auckland) a frustrating title defence ended early with an electrical issue in his Subaru Impreza WRX STI. The other leading retirement was Kaiapoi’s Marcus van Klink (Mazda RX7) who had already clinched the Historic class title.