After our DNF at Otago with a blown engine we only had three weeks up our sleeve to fit the new engine ready for Whangarei. A big thanks to Brad McFarlane for helping with this job.
This was our second rally up at Whangarei and special stage 1 was a lot more enjoyable not being the first car to start! Unfortunately there were two stopped cars on course on stage 2 which we had to navigate around. It was awesome to see so many spectators turn out on such a perfect evening. We are often asked how effective our light bar is on the roof and whether there is any reflection from the bonnet – the answer is that it gives us excellent lighting and due to the bonnet being so small, there are no reflection problems at all. With the night stages under our belt, we couldn’t wait to get back on the road on Saturday.
Saturday was warm and balmy but also dusty and we knew the roads were going to chew up the front tyres. We settled into stage 3 and we were going well. However things got a bit more complicated during the morning: at the start of stage 4 our communications malfunctioned and we had to rig up a temporary solution using a touring headset. This meant that communication was only one way – from co-driver to driver (excellent in that there is no backchat from the driver!). On stage 4 a corner was called a little late – went like “5L …pause … tightens to 3” and the consequence was we slid into a fence. We managed to back out but soon after had warning lights flashing on the dash. This was not a good feeling given we had blown an engine three weeks earlier! We pushed on through the stage and were relieved to establish the problem was a result of damaging the manifold/exhaust. Our apologies to the control crews who had to put up with the noise of our car as we passed through! Our service crew did a fantastic job of getting all repairs completed in the 20 minute service after stage 6. Big thanks to Emma Gilmour’s team for soldering the coms cable for us.
Our afternoon went well although the light was fading as we came through (Helena) stage 10. As our evening service on Saturday was in the dark, we were pleased to have our service area directly opposite Eco Light’s as they had massive big night lights. We were disappointed that Jeff Torkington and Rodney James in car 61 weren’t coming back for Sunday as we enjoyed battling them during the day.
On Sunday we had absolutely no issues – it was total fun and although we had a lack of tread, the Swift pushed on. The car is currently running with 125 hp at the wheels and this means we have to carry as much speed as we can into the corners as we are severely disadvantaged on the straights. Data logging confirmed its maximum speed for the weekend was 175 km/h. We were really pleased to make big improvements on our stage times from last year and obviously rapt to finish the rally.
Our service team of five were extremely slick and managed everything we threw at them, without a hitch – We couldn’t have done it without them.
It was great to catch up with Bryn Smith and Mat Adams and special thanks to Rocky Hudson for his support, particularly on Friday night.
We definitely weren’t quick enough getting the champagne open on the podium – we had planned to do Jonesy and Noel over but that’ll have to wait for next time! Thanks Whangarei for staging such a great event.
Thanks to our sponsors: Handy Rentals, Automotive Technicians and WDE.