Stressful finish to Westland Rally
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The rally lead of 24.5 seconds he’d built up over nine special stages proved vital to Matt Summerfield’s victory in the season-opening Westland Rally on Saturday.
The 2017 New Zealand Rally Championship runner-up from Rangiora had a stressful finish to the event with his Subaru Impreza overheating which led to him being two minutes late at the final time control.
“The engine was pretty sad. We were two minutes late checking into the last control and collected a 20secs penalty so we won the rally by only 4.5secs,” said Summerfield.
But the small margin after 111km of competition was just enough to end the winning streak of Timaru’s Richard Galbraith (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo8) who had won the previous three editions of the Westland event.
His fastest time on stage two allowed Summerfield to take the rally lead and he edged clear on the fast Westland roads.
“The roads were in perfect condition and the pace was really fast. I think there was a new record on every stage,” said Summerfield, who won five of the nine stages.
Galbraith finished second and Christchurch driver Jeff Judd — who had won the opening stage — was third overall in his Subaru Impreza.
Three stage wins revealed the pace of Brad Harris (Lancer Evo6) and he climbed up the order from 22nd position after stage one to finish in fourth place. Harris had dropped more than a minute with a jammed throttle in the opening stage.
Summerfield shared his success with 13-year-old co-driver Jared Hudson. The son of top-line rally Christchurch co-drivers Rocky and Lisa Hudson, the teen edged his father, who was co-driving for Galbraith, in the event.
“You wouldn’t think he was only 13,” said Summerfield.
“He was calm and unfazed the entire rally and he did a great job. You can tell he’s been around the sport his whole life.”
It’s believed Hudson may have set a world record for being the youngest co-driver to achieve an outright rally win.
Summerfield is finalising his plans for a 2018 New Zealand Rally Championship campaign and is hopeful of being on the start line for Rally Otago which opens the national championship on April 14-15.
Another NZRC team using the Westland event as an early season shakedown was the Holden Barina AP4 duo of Josh Marston (Christchurch) and team-mate Greg Murphy.
Marston had a steady run to finish fifth while Murphy retired after stage seven with an electrical problem while running in 12th position.
A close battle in the lower half of the top-10 saw the three leading two-wheel-drive crews separated by 26secs.
Kaiapoi’s Marcus van Klink (Mazda RX8) was eighth overall and took the 2WD honours ahead of the Ford Escort RS1800s driven by Graham Ferguson (Greymouth) and Regan Ross (Kaikoura).
The Westland Rally was the first round of seven in the South Island’s Mainland Rally Series.