NZ Rally Championship battle continues in the Coromandel
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New Zealand rally champion David Holder but hasn’t given up on hopes of defending his title this year.
With three rallies remaining the 2016 champ sits eighth in the championship standings — all of his points earned from victory at the April season opener at Otago when he drove Hayden Paddon’s Hyundai i20 AP4 car.
Holder and co-driver Jason Farmer (Hamilton) are set for a one-off drive in a Subaru Impreza in this Saturday’s Mahindra Goldrush Rally of Coromandel, the fourth round of the New Zealand Rally Championship. He’s hoping to score enough points to stay in the title race.
‘‘I’m driving a ‘97 model GC8 Subaru Impreza but it’s running a 34mm restrictor so it can still compete in category 1 and get us some points,’’ said Holder.
‘‘It’s going to be a big ask against the modern cars but we’ll give a good nudge like always.
‘‘We’re a bit out the back door in the championship having missed Canterbury and half of Whangarei so this weekend is about getting some seat time and scoring some points.
‘‘Then if everything goes to plan we’ll have an announcement about another car for the last two rounds.’’
Holder has 41 points in the title chase trailing series leader Matt Summerfield (Rangiora) by 36 points.
‘‘It’s a big gap but there are four days of rallying still to go, so anything can happen,’’ said Holder.
‘‘Mainly this weekend is about seat time because I haven’t driven a rally car since the first day at Whangarei and I’ll be a bit rusty.’’
Saturday’s Coromandel event is just the third gravel rally event to be held on North Island roads this year and has attracted a strong 78-car entry for seven stages on the challenging peninsula roads.
Fresh from WRC Rally Germany tarmac competition last weekend Hayden Paddon is the top-seed in his Hyundai i20 AP4 car. The event also sees him re-united with long-time co-driver John Kennard who recently stepped aside from WRC co-driving duty.
Last year’s Coromandel winner Brendan Reeves returns from Australia for another outing. This time the Australian is at the wheel of a new Mazda2 AP4 car recently completed by Andrew Hawkeswood’s Force Motorsport squad.
The driver with his eye on his full season rivals rather the two internationals is third seeded Summerfield (Subaru Impreza) who leads the NZRC standings after three rounds with a 10-point margin over Balclutha’s Rhys Gardner (Mazda2 AP4).
Fourth seeded Hawkeswood in another Mazda2, followed by Holder, Auckland-based 2015 champion Ben Hunt (Subaru) and Rotorua’s Sloan Cox (Mitsubishi) are next in the seeding order.
The rally starts from the Mercury Bay Sports Park in Whitianga at 7am on Saturday and heads north to the Kennedy Bay stage which has been lengthened this year to 35.27km, It starts north of Colville and loops clockwise around the upper peninsula racing through Waikawau and Kennedy Bay to finish near Coromandel Town. The stage starts at 8.18am.
After a refuel zone the rally heads south to the first run across the Tapu-Coroglen Rd (22.22km) which starts at 9.56am and the first car arrives at the Whitianga service park at 10.46am.
The second loop of stages starts with a westerly run across the 309 Rd (11.50km) starting at 11.19am and then repeats the Tapu-Coroglen stage at 12.17pm.
The second visit to the service park is at 1.07pm before the crews head out on the final loop with the second 309 Rd stage at 1.40pm, a repeat run through Kennedy Bay at 2.33pm and the chance to settle any remaining split-second battles on the 1.05km tarmac super stage at the Whitianga Waterways.
The final stage starts at 4.23pm before the ceremonial finish at Blacksmith Lane, Whitianga at 5pm.
2017 NZ Rally Championship standings (after round 3 of 6):
1 Matt Summerfield (Rangiora) Subaru Impreza WRX STI, 77pts
2 Rhys Gardner (Balclutha) Mazda2 AP4, 67pts
3 Andrew Hawkeswood (Auckland) Mazda2 AP4, 63pts
4 Graham Featherstone (Te Aroha) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo7, 51pts
5 Ben Hunt (Auckland) Subaru WRX STI, 50pts
6 Dylan Turner (Auckland) Audi S1 AP4, 47pts