The 2014 Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship driven by VINZ is set for its final showdown at the GoPro Daybreaker Rally this weekend. The sixth and final round of the National Rally championship will take place over 196 kilometres of gravel roads in the Manawatu and Taihape districts with a battle for the final championship podium positions still alive.
It will be an early start for crews with the first car departing the Rally Start at Palmfield Motors in Palmerston North at 3.50am on Saturday morning. Two early morning stages take the rally north through daybreak to the first service and breakfast at Taihape. Further stages to the west and south of Taihape are contested as the event heads back towards Palmerston North, including the longest test at Pakihikura (42.8kms), whilst the final stage at 24 kms is the infamous Ridge Road providing a challenging finale to the national rally championship. Survivors and winners of the GoPro Daybreaker Rally will arrive back into Palmerston North from 4.25pm for the rally finish at The Square, nearly 13 hours later.
Heading the field are the already crowned 2014 champions Richard and Sara Mason. The Masterton pairing secured the championship with victory at the first four championship rounds. A potential clean sweep of round victories was halted at round five on the Coromandel when broken suspension side-lined the pair while leading the event. The Masons and their BNT Subaru will be looking to bounce back from that result and take victory at the Daybreaker.
Following the Masons is a six way fight for the remaining championship podium positions. Tauranga Mitsubishi driver David Holder heads Nelson Subaru driver Ben Hunt by only three points, Canterbury Subaru driver Matt Summerfield is a further 16 points in arrears, while Te Arohas Lance Williams, Graham Featherstone and Tauranga’s Phil Campbell are further back but still within reach of the championship podium if those in front stumble on the Manawatu stages. The battle between Holder and Hunt will be a feature of the GoPro Daybreaker Rally, both young drivers having scored multiple podium finishers throughout the season.
Holder has turned many heads in his debut season at the top level of New Zealand Rallying, briefly leading the opening round before stringing together four consecutive podium finishes that see him currently occupying the runner up spot in the championship standings. Holder will have the experience of World Rally Championship co-driver John Kennard, the regular co-driver to New Zealand’s WRC star Hayden Paddon, for the season finale.
“To be totally honest, I’m a little nervous about it. The first time John and I will sit together will be in the dark and there is plenty to play for,” says Holder. “But they don’t get much better than John and having the opportunity to learn from him is exciting and no doubt will be beneficial moving forwards. I can’t wait to see what things we can improve on in recce and how the notes will roll out.”
Ben Hunt will have regular co-driver Tony Rawstorn alongside in their Subaru Impreza. The Nelson pair secured their first National Rally win at last year’s Daybreaker Rally and have demonstrated front running pace all season, but had their championship chase impacted by niggling issues including a puncture that ultimately cost a podium placing at the last round. “We’re not going to do anything different, we’ll let everyone do it to themselves,” says Hunt. “We won this event last year and it would be awesome to do that again, but every rally so far this year we’ve had problems or punctures. It would be great just to have a clean run and see where we end up.”
Holder and Hunt won’t have it all their own way though with Summerfield, Williams, Featherstone and Campbell all having demonstrated outright pace and achieving podium finishes during the season to date.
A field of 42 entries will line-up at the start of the GoPro Daybreaker Rally at the early hour of 3.50am on Saturday morning from Palmfield Motors in Palmerston North with the first special stage at 5.05am. A total of 196 kilometres of competition is covered before the victory celebrations will be held from 4.25pm at The Square in Palmerston North.
The GoPro Daybreaker Rally provides great spectator viewing opportunities with a number of spectator vantage points. A rally map is available free to download from the event website www.daybreaker.co.nz. Spectators are reminded to follow the instructions of marshals and ensure they stand well clear of the road’s edge – inside the taped off viewing areas.
The 2014 Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship driven by VINZ is contested over 6 rounds across the nation – Rally of Whangarei, 11-13 April; Rally of Otago, 10-11 May; Canterbury Rally, 01-02 June; Rally Wairarapa, 28 June; Rally Coromandel, 23 August; Daybreaker Rally (Manawatu), 27 September.
2014 Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship driven by VINZ – Points after round 5 of 6
1. Richard Mason (Masterton – Subaru Impreza) 144
2. David Holder (Tauranga – Mitsubishi Lancer) 76
3. Ben Hunt (Nelson – Subaru Impreza) 73
4. Matt Summerfield (Rangiora – Subaru Impreza) 57
5. Lance Williams (Te Aroha – Subaru Impreza) 51
6. Graeme Featherstone (Te Aroha – Mitsubishi) 48
7. Phil Campbell (Tauranga – Mitsubishi) 45
8. Andrew Hawkeswood (Auckland – Mazda 2) 25
9=. Matt Jansen (Christchurch – Subaru Impreza) 18
9=. Richard Baddock (Christchurch – Subaru) 18