Subaru driver Ben Hunt had a successful start to his New Zealand Rally Championship (NZRC) season finishing second to American super star Ken Block in the Rally of Whangarei today.
Block is not eligible for points in the New Zealand series however, which means Auckland-based Hunt is an early leader in the six-round Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship.
The top result helped erase bad memories of competing at the Whangarei Rally – which was also the first round last year – when he blew an engine in stage four.
“To be leading the championship early on puts us in good stead going into the Otago Rally next month [May 9 – 10]. Hopefully we can just consolidate for the rest of the rounds and can be the title holders at the end of the season,” Hunt says.
He and co-driver Tony Rawstorn piloted their Subaru Impreza WRX STi to an impressive 14 top three results over the 16 stages. These included a storming run of six consecutive second places to Block on the final six stages.
Day one did not start as well, after Hunt was low fuel at the end of stage two and a misfire developed. It continued throughout the day despite his team’s best efforts, where they frantically tried to find the fault at the lunch time service. As they did their utmost to locate it, Hunt was penalised 10 seconds for leaving the service park late.
The second day ran smoothly and Hunt was thrilled to find his total time was only 1min: 33 secs behind overall event winner, international young gun Pontus Tidemand of Sweden in the Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) category. Hunt was also encouraged to find himself more than four minutes ahead of 2014 Whangarei rally winner India’s Gaurav Gill, who was second in the APRC this weekend.
At the end of the 282.2km of fast flowing rural roads in the Northland and Whangarei regions, Matt Summerfield (Rangiora) and Phil Campbell (Tauranga) were second and third respectively in the national rally series. A podium result evaporated on the penultimate stage for Mt Maunganui’s David Holder and Rob Scott when their Mitsubishi Evo left the road.
Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship points
1 Ben Hunt 42
2 Matt Summerfield 31
3 Phil Campbell 25
4 Dylan Turner 20
5 Graham Featherstone 18
Ben Hunt’s 2015 Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship calendar
Round 1: International Rally of Whangarei 17-19 April,
Round 2: DriveSouth Rally of Otago 9-10 May,
Round 3: Autosport Canterbury Rally 30-31 May,
Round 4: Gisborne Rally 27 June,
Round 5: Mahindra Gold Rush Rally of Coromandel 22 August,
Round 6: Trusthouse Racetech Rally Wairarapa 3 October.