It was another day of exciting drama on the 2014 epay Silver Fern Rally today.
With just two days of rally action remaining the cars are showing plenty of signs of wear and tear but at the moment there is no stopping Canterbury’s Jeff Judd/Mark Smith in their Ford Escort. They maintained a good pace today and arrived in Invercargill tonight with a 54.9 second buffer over second placed crew Vince Bristow/Dean Mitchell of the UK in another Escort.
The cars left Dunedin this morning and competed over five Special Stages before arriving in Invercargill this evening. The drivers had seen slight flurries of snow on the Dansey’s Pass stage on Wednesday but snow played a bigger part today when the longest stage of the rally, the 105 kilometre Goldfields Trail Stage in Otago, was cancelled after snow fell in the area overnight.
However the rest of the day saw Judd continue to lead the Historic Trophy although as he did yesterday former dual National Rally Champion Brian Stokes of Waikuku was prominent, winning three of the five stages in his Ford Escort. Problems earlier in the event have dropped Stokes out of contention but his speed over the last two days has been impressive despite gearbox and drivetrain issues.
Simon Tysoe/Craig Dolman of the UK continue to hold third place ahead of Australian entrants John Spencer/Tony Best (Nissan 240RS) followed by Shane Murland/John Benton of Paraparaumu and David Hills/Paul Bennett of Australia.
Once again there was plenty of intrigue today. Bristow had a gearbox rebuilt overnight while Keith Stewart of Palmerston North and John Coker of Karaka both encountered problems early on Day 6. UK driver Richard Arrowsmith, who became unwell yesterday, did not run today but should rejoin tomorrow while Murland had a gearbox change at the midday Service Park and John Spencer had a bonnet fly up during a stage. In the final stage of the day Hamilton’s Gary Smith ground to a halt. While it was an eventful day there were also plenty more positive comments from the drivers about the quality of the rally stages.
In the Challenge Section Dave Strong/Rob Scott of Auckland in their Honda Civic R made a large gain today when second placed Garry Adcock/Mark Dalton of Nelson struck electrical problems in their BMW M3 CSL forcing them to withdraw. Just a short time prior to the issue Adcock had commented “the car is going beaut”, an indication of how quickly things can change in a marathon rally. While Strong already had a healthy buffer the demise of Adcock left him with a margin of more than 16 minutes to Dunedin pair, Brodie Thompson/Rob McConachie in a Ford Escort. They too had an exciting day, clobbering a fence post in one stage but escaping with a dent in the door. Dermot Martin/Barrie Gibb of Christchurch in a Ford Fiesta moved into third place after Adcock pulled out but they came to a halt in the final stage leaving third place to Jacob Scannell/Chris Lancaster of the UK in a Suzuki Swift. Brent Taylor of Cambridge and Bruce Herbert of Palmerston North shared the stage wins today but have both suffered numerous problems earlier in the rally dropping them down the order.
Twelve cars in the Silver Frond section joined the rally this morning with Deane Buist/Andrew Bulman of Christchurch winning every stage in their Ford Escort, ending the day with a lead of over four and a half minutes despite a bent steering arm. Ashton Wood/Fred Merkin of Upper Moutere hold second place while Deborah Kibble/Heather Johnston of Waimate were holding third until they stopped in the day’s final stage handing the spot to Highlands Motorsport Park owner Tony Quinn and his Gore based co-driver Andrew Graves. Invercargill 18-year-old George Keast made a great start to the Silver Frond this morning before overheating issues sidelined him. James Hewlett had a throttle stick full on in his Ford Escort but recovered to continue on. “It’s something that gets your attention,” he said later.
Tomorrow the event leaves Invercargill at 8.00am and takes in three Special Stages at Longwood, Twinlaw and Hokonui before a Service Park in Richmond Street Gore at 11.50am. Three more Special Stages follow after lunch before the cars arrive at the Waterfront Park in Wanaka at 5.05pm.
The 2014 epay Silver Fern Rally finishes in Beach Street, Queenstown at 3.15pm on Saturday.
Spectators wishing to follow the rally can find maps on the event website www.silverfernrally.co.nz