The New Zealand Rally Championship action returns to South Island roads this weekend for the third round of the series in Canterbury.
The Sunday June 5 Lone Star Rally of Canterbury is a single day event and follows the two-day Otago and Whangarei events. The rally route comprises 171km of special stages in North Canterbury’s Ashley and Okuku Forests, with 271km of touring. There are no night stages included in this years event.
The seeding list is headed by Rally Whangarei winner and series leader David Holder (Mt Maunganui).
The Mitsubishi Lancer Evo driver has 64 points after two rallies and enjoys a handy leading margin as second placed Hayden Paddon is not expected to return to NZRC competition again this year.
Championship leaders David Holder and Jason Farmer celebrate their first NZRC victory at Rally Whangarei. GREG HENDERSON PHOTOGRAPHY
Chasing Holder are Christchurch driver Richard Baddock (Subaru Impreza) in third on 36 points and in a tight battle with defending champion Ben Hunt (Subaru Impreza) on 33 and Kaiapoi’s Marcus van Klink on 31, who continues to play a leading role in the title race with his Historic class Mazda RX7.
For Hunt the five weeks since the Whangarei event have involved a complete rebuild of his new Subaru WRX STi R4 car following a crash that saw him roll into a ditch and also left him with fractured ribs.
‘‘We really need to finish the next three rallies high up in the field, so we will be pushing for fast, consistent results while also continuing the Subaru’s development,’’ said Hunt.
Another driver gunning for a top result this weekend is Dunedin’s Emma Gilmour, who is currently sixth in the title chase on 28 points. In recent rallies Gilmour has been third and then second and now she wants to take one more step up the podium and claim a win in her Vantage Windows and Doors Suzuki Swift Maxi.
Ben Hunt resumes his NZ Rally Championship title defence after crashing out of the latest round at Whangarei. PHOTO GEOFF RIDDER
‘‘We had a great run at the last round, the International Rally of Whangarei, with the Suzuki running faultlessly, said Gilmour.
‘‘It was helpful having Hayden Paddon competing for the first two rounds and soaking up some of the top points from Otago and Whangarei. Now we need to make our move and get some more points notched up if we want to try for the overall title,’’ Gilmour said.
Last year Gilmour finished third in her class at the Canterbury Rally. She battled changeable conditions that saw some stages coated in dust and others with snow and ice.
‘‘I imagine this year’s Canterbury Rally will be much the same with a real mixture of conditions. I enjoy the forestry stages, although they can be slippery. The team has been improving the Suzuki in the slower to average speed stages so we will be targeting a win next Sunday,’’ she said.
Gilmour is seeded fifth with the top-10 starters completed by Rotorua’s Sloan Cox (Lancer EvoX), Rangiora’s Matt Summerfield (Subaru), Tauranga’s Phil Campbell (Lancer Evo9), South Auckland’s Andrew Hawkeswood (Mazda2) and Te Aroha’s Lance Williams (Subaru).
Seeded 11th and making a return to the New Zealand Rally Championship is former champ Chris West (Timaru) driving the newly developed Mitsubishi Mirage Evo. The Rally of Canterbury starts with official opening ceremony at Joe's Garage in Rangiora at 7:40am on Sunday and finishes at about 5pm at the Lone Star restaurant in Manchester St, Christchurch after nine special stages.