Summerfields shine through in Rally Whangarei
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In the midst of the category's influx of new-generation vehicles, it was an older Group-N spec machine that won the second round of the Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship over the weekend at the International Rally of Whangarei.
The win was collected by Matt Summerfield and co-driver Nicole Summerfield after a rally packed with twists and turns among many of the more fancied Kiwi entries.
Dylan Turner and co-driver Malcolm Read took second in their newly built Audi S1 AP4, ahead of Darren Galbraith and co-driver Rocky Hudson in a Mitsubishi Evo.
"I'm just so rapt. To claw it back was pretty cool, and on those roads ... how could you not have a crack?" said Matt Summerfield on the podium.
"There were five of us with not much gap, and some of those other guys had dramas. We kept plugging away at it, and to get this result is massive."
Mechanical issues at the end of Saturday's proceedings meant repair work for the Summerfield Ralli-Sport team on Sunday morning, as well as a 50-second penalty for being late to the morning's first stage. But they were able to bounce back and win by more than one minute.
"The boys did an awesome job replacing the exhaust manifold. They did a mega job keeping the car going," said Matt.
But the Summerfields weren't the only duo to encounter problems in a rally punctuated by treacherous wet weather on the Saturday. Early leader Andrew Hawkeswood, Holden's Josh Marston, former champions Ben Hunt and David Holder, and Suzuki's Emma Gilmour all had their rallies stunted by mechanical issues.
Others who crashed out included Greg Murphy and Sloan Cox. Cox looked set to lead the rally on Saturday night until he and co-driver Sarah Coatsworth slid down a bank.
Murphy, who was debuting the second Penny Homes Holden Rally Team AP4-spec Barina next to Marston, had a promising start despite visibility issues but came to a halt on special stage seven after his Barina went into a ditch.
"We had no technical issues and the MRF tyres provided just what we needed. I was building confidence with every kilometre," said Murphy. "We were going swimmingly in stage seven until we got a bit wide and went off. It was a rookie error, but did enough damage to the radiator.
"A lot of people offered to help us rebuild the car overnight but, without a replacement radiator, we really wanted to fix the car properly back in the RDL Performance workshop."
The third round of the championship, the Lone Star Canterbury Rally, is on June 3-4.