Todd Bawden and Paul (Barge) Burborough have got their 2022 rally season back on track with a 3rd place Finish in their ONLINE CONTRACTORS Ford Fiesta R5 MkII at the Far North Rally in the Bay of islands last Saturday.
However achieving that podium result has been anything but straightforward for the Hamilton businessmen and their Team Online Racing, after a harrowing and character-building couple of months where unexpected technical issues led firstly to a serious transmission failure at the International Rally of Whangarei.
Then they had a high-speed rollover during a rallysprint/test session which caused superficial, but significant, panel damage just days before the car was due to leave for Timaru and
the NZRC South Canterbury Rally. “Following our solid debut run to 6th at Otago, we were feeling confident of a repeat performance going to Whangarei, but the gearbox problem sidelined us before
we’d had a chance to even get warmed up,” said a frustrated Todd. “Then, completely out of the blue, the jammed throttle at the rallysprint was one of the scariest moments I’ve ever had in a rally or even a race car.”
“We did the recce in the Fiesta and the throttle was stuck at 4,000 RPM,” Todd explained. “So we jumped in the road car and carried on and when we started the rally car again it was idling at 2,500 RPM and we thought it was OK so we took off in Launch Mode and got into the stage.
It has a lot of power and as we were going down a straight I said to Barge that it didn’t feel quite right. We got to the end of the straight and the Back turned around on me and it just took off.We left the road at 140kph and it flipped twice – just touched the ground once and then landed on its wheels. It certainly could have been a whole lot bigger..”
So the race to get the car repaired was on BIG Time as the crash happened on the Sunday and it had to be on its way south before dawn on the following Wednesday morning. An unbelievable effort by all the ONLINE RACING Team had the car on the inter-island ferry just 72 hours after the incident right on schedule on the Wednesday afternoon.
Unfortunately South Canterbury proved the old adage of things happening in Threes as Todd and Barge fell foul of cold tyres in the frosty conditions on the second early morning stage just out of Waimate.
“We were right on it in the super-fast short opening stage,” said Barge, “but a k [kilometre] into Stage 2 we got a bit out of shape and had a spin.
“We both felt it was going to be pretty innocuous and mostly annoying with the lost time at worst, but unfortunately the car decided otherwise and toppled over onto it’s roof in the middle of the road. “In hindsight getting the car back onto it’s wheels probably did more damage than the actual rollover, but that’s not uncommon when the priority is to get the road clear for the following competitors.
“We were still able to drive the car out of the stage at a reasonable pace, but the windscreen was badly broken, so Todd’s view was too severely compromised if we had tried to carry on any further.
“After the awesome effort the guys put in to get us down south, we were much more upset for them than we were for ourselves,” concluded an understandably disappointed Barge.
So it was back to their Hamilton base to strip and rebuild the car for a second time in a month, but at least this time they had 10 days instead of just 3 to get ready for the Far North Rally…
“We were determined to ‘Get Back on the Horse’ as quickly as possible and as ONLINE STABILISERS was also an associate event sponsor, it was important we do everything we could to be there,” said Todd.
Once again the ONLINE RACING Team was pressed back into hours of effort as parts were either acquired or beaten back into shape to get FORDR5 restored to its usual pristine condition. “AWS Graphics and Red Star Signs did an amazing job designing and fitting its new clothes in a matter of hours, so securing a podium finish was the least Barge and I could do for everyone to go some small way to say ‘Thanks’ for everyone’s efforts in getting us back out there so quickly,” Todd said.
“So once again we were on our way to a rally on schedule and this time in total agreement that, with this being a non-championship rally, we would treat it as an 8 stage risk-free test session to get back to being comfortable in the car and to make sure everything was working as it should.
“However it was only once back behind the wheel in the opening stage that I realised just how much these three incidents had affected my [driving] confidence and, as our first couple of stage times show, we were way off the pace of our usual closest rivals.
“I started to come right as the morning stages progressed and by the finish we were much closer to our normal pace, and grabbing 3rd Place in the last stage was very satisfying and a great pressure release.
“So now we can turn our attention to another bay rally, this time based in Napier on July 23rd , feeling a lot better and a lot more relaxed, happy in the knowledge that all the Team has to do over the next two weeks is clean it, give it an oil change and send it..,” concluded a much relieved Todd.
The next rally is Round 4 of the NZRC Rally Hawkes Bay on Saturday July 23rd.
Rally Results and Series Points, along with comprehensive LIVE Results are available on www.chrissport.co.nz or by scanning the ChrisSport QRCode here:
TEAM ONLINE RACING would like to thank ONLINE CONTRACTORS, WINGER MOTORS,
SALSA BAR AND GRILL PORT DOUGLAS and SRS HAMILTON for their ongoing support in making this project possible.