As the 2014 epay Silver Fern Rally heads towards Christchurch tomorrow it is a Cantabrian leading the way with Jeff Judd/Mark Smith in front from Vince Bristow/Dean Mitchell of the UK with another Cantabrian, first day leaders Brent Rawstron/Ian McKee, third. All three drive Ford Escort’s.
Rawstron had a 17 second lead overnight after the first day’s stages in Marlborough but Judd won the opening stage on the second day to move into the lead and held it all day to arrive in Westport for an overnight stop with over a minute in hand over Bristow. Rawstron hung onto third place with Frank Cunningham of Galway, Ireland fourth ahead of Simon Tysoe of the UK and David Hills of Australia in sixth place.
After making a temporary withdrawal yesterday Canterbury based German Peter Scharmach again had problems today forcing his retirement while Graham Samuel of the UK suffered gearbox problems in his Ford Escort.
Two-time National Champion, Brian Stokes of Waikuku, stopped in the final stage today after running inside the top ten throughout. Judd won three of today’s stages, while internationals Cunningham and Bristow shared one each. Judd remarked at the day’s finish line that he had taken it “pretty steady” throughout the day.
Meanwhile in the Challenge Section of the event overnight leader Brent Taylor/Chris Ramsay of Cambridge succumbed to rear suspension problems in their Toyota FT86 this morning. That started a see-saw battle for the lead with Auckland pairing Dave Strong/Rob Scott (Honda Civic Type R) taking over but one stage later another Auckland duo, Chris Woedenberg/Veronica Ordish (Toyota Corolla AE86) took the lead off Strong. However Strong/Scott grabbed the advantage back on the final stage of the day, after Woedenberg did not emerge from the stage, to hold the overnight lead from Charlie Evans and Sue O’Neil of Hamilton in a Honda Integra with former four time National Rally Champion Bruce Herbert/Jim Hey third after winning the final stage in his Mitsubishi.
Strong’s co-driver Rob Scott said the day’s stages did not suit the front wheel drive Honda and others were going quicker but striking problems. One of the Challenge frontrunners from yesterday, Garry Adcock of Nelson punctured today and dropped down the order but charged back with a good stage win in the penultimate stage of the day.
Today’s final stage honoured Royce Watson, the former Chief Scrutineer of the event who died in a rally accident last year. Watson grew up in the Murchison area where the stage took place. Tomorrow the cars depart from Westport at 7.00am and compete over four high speed Special Stages before a Service Park at Arthurs Pass at 12.50pm. After lunch there are stages at Cairn Ridge and the Ashley Gorge before the cars arrive at the Palms Mall in Christchurch at 5.20pm.