After a disappointing start to the NZRC for Robbie and Amy Stokes, the siblings hit back strong at last weekends International Rally of Whangarei.
A horrific crash on SS5 at Otago involving the pair’s Ford Fiesta R2 leaving the road, rolling and landing in a pond, set back their championship hopes drastically. However, a convincing win in Whangarei has set up Stokes for a comeback over the remainder of the season.
Thanks to the support of fellow Cantabrian competitor Hayden Spatcher, Stokes was able to lease a right hand drive Ford Fiesta R2 to use at the International Rally of Whangarei. “Due to the short turn around between events and the extensive damage to our car we realised we needed another car if we were to make it to Whangarei. Hayden was kind enough to oﬀer us is R2 which was great as it is very similar to our own car” said Stokes.
Robbie and Amy headed north with determination to finish the event as they wanted to redeem themselves after an early exit from the rally after the first stage last year. They couldn’t have asked for a better start claiming first 2WD outright in the two runs through Pohe Island on Friday night.
Saturday wasn’t smooth sailing for Stokes; after posting the second fastest 2WD time in the power stage Robbie had to drive the second two stages of the morning loop with a brake issue. Despite the issue he still held a comfortable lead over closest Cat 2 rival, Mike Sheehan. The team had the brake issue sorted at the lunch time service allowing for a clean run through the afternoon loop.
By the end of the day Robbie and Amy had built up over a minute lead in Category 2 and were sitting 4th 2WD.
“Saturday was all about driving smart for us. We knew we had some issues on the car that meant we couldn’t push as hard as we would have liked, but it wasn’t worth risking another DNF” commented Robbie. This tactic clearly paid oﬀ and meant he could drive confidently on Sunday.
The pair really enjoyed the Sunday stages and were very pleased to bring home their maiden Cat 2 win for the whole Stokes Motorsport team and their supporters. “It has been overwhelming how many people have supported us over the past few weeks. Especially, our team and family. We wouldn’t be here without them and their encouragement, so this win is for them” said Amy.
The final results reflected the promising and maturing pace Stokes is beginning to show. Finishing 11th overall in NZRC, 4th 2WD and 1st Category 2. Robbie and Amy also secured a class win in the Top Half Rally Series and sit 7th overall.
The race is still on to get the original Stokes Motorsport Ford Fiesta R2 race-ready for the Canterbury Rally in June, where the duo will aim to once again take maximum points in hopes of keeping their championship chances alive.