Round two of the Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship was contested over the weekend at the ENEOS International Rally of Whangarei. A two day event Stephen Barker calls his home rally.
Suffering a mechanical DNF in the opening round in Dunedin, Barker found himself at the bottom of the championship table. Eager to fight back with a good performance in search of points.
After two passes around the opening Pohe Island spectator stage in the dark on Friday night Barker found himself sitting in third position. But it was Saturdays opening loop of stages, where he showed his speed. Moving straight into the lead winning 3 out of 4 stages, only an overshoot at an intersection in stage 4 preventing him from making it a clean sweep.
“We needed maximum points in the power stage, so I gave it everything from the start. But I mucked up a junction, overshooting and stalling the car. We had to settle for third and three points” Barker says.
After the lunch time service break in the Whangarei township Barker set about maintaining his position through the repeat loop of stages. Taking another stage win before eventually losing time and the lead when tyre wear became an issue. Finishing just 6.4 seconds behind the day one winner Ben Hunt.
“I decided to go back out again in the afternoon with a 14 second lead on a medium and hard combination of tyres. I knew we were in trouble when we fell one second behind Ben (Hunt) with the last stage to go. It should have been hards all round. I drove as hard as I could but, in the end, I got stuck in the dust of the car in front limping out of the stage.”
A conservative approach to the Sunday morning stages saw Barker maintain the buffer to third position until a small mistake on stage 14. The 22 kilometre Waipu Caves test is known for being tricky and technical, catching out several cars. Including the Mitsubishi EVO 9 of Barker, who made light contact with a bank early in the stage. Forcing him into retirement with rear suspension damage.
A disappointing end following a break through result on day one, leaves the team stranded near the bottom of the championship points table with budget restraints becoming a factor.
“It’s not the way I wanted to start the season. We’ve fallen to far behind now to push for the title. Looking to the future, getting event experience and more seat time is important. But we have struggled to fund it to this point, we will fix the car and then decide what the next move is”, Barker explained.
Round three takes place on the 2nd June in the Canterbury region of Rangiora. Although eager to be on the start line, Barker’s entry looks uncertain.
The team would like to acknowledge the supporters of their campaign. Online Stabilisers, GHL Temp Fence, Wrigley Concrete, Bakerboys Nursery, Manukau Auto Centre, Ingham Mitsubishi, Winmax Brakes, Waikato Mobile Windscreens, Dunlop, Pickerill Auto Electrical, Rallydrive NZ