Round two – Taranaki Tarmac Rally
Wet, wet, wet and more wet …… no not a band from the 80’s, our weekend in Taranaki.
Heading down to New Plymouth Friday morning the skies were clear and I was optimistic the predicted rain might hold off and that poor guy bobbing around in his kayak might paddle in but as we crossed Mount Messenger it was obvious neither was going to happen.
With a field of 71 cars New Plymouth was abuzz with rally fever and because it was tarmac there were some unusual and some pretty cool pieces of machinery racing like Stuart Rose in a V8 Hilux ute and Marcus Van Klink’s new C2 Citron, a serious bit of kit, wheels up pure race car that left all that had a look at it drooling.
Saturday morning and the rain had well and truly set it as we toured out car 51 to the first stage, the 34km Otaraoa road. Contrary to our usual race plan we decided not to push stage one till we understood where the limits were of tyre grip, suspension and brakes. Despite such a great plan we still managed to have a major moment coming into an intersection way too hot for the conditions and spinning backwards down through the escape road tape, costing us around 20 seconds but a valuable lesson learned and completed the stage sitting in 44th position.
Into service and a small adjustment to soften the rear bar just to take the twitchiness out of the rear mid corner and we headed off to stages two and three. Open and fast with a lot of crests to test your commitment. Even with all the rain the Jaffa sport starlet was feeling pretty solid so Paul and I pressed on moving up to 41st by the end of three.
Stage four, fast to start then into tight and twisty narrow sections around the base of Mt Taranaki, opening out again to the finish. Up to now there had been very little carnage but this stage claimed around six cars and by the end of five we had moved up to 38th. The guys gave it a quick brake bleed and a dash of fuel and off again to stages six and seven. Due to the high average speed in six the organisers had put in place a new concept, the virtual chicane, basically at three points during the stage your rally safe monitor would require you to reduce your speed to 50km/hr within 200 meters. Not so difficult in the dry maybe but oh boy in the wet??? Another fright trying to slow the car down after going through the finish of seven reminded us not to become complacent with just one stage left and lying in 33rd position stage eight incorporated sections of stage four (the really tight narrow stuff to be exact) It had bitten plenty last time through, so we weren’t about to let it get us now.
Finishing a pretty satisfying 33rd overall, eighth Top Half series car and 2nd in class Top Half series. Securing 2nd place in the Top Half series championship, going into the third round in Coromandel on the 23rd of August. Back onto gravel our preferred surface, a new event that looks pretty exciting and close to Auckland.
Thanks to Scotty, Gav, Tim and Jordan for all the help crewing in one of the wettest events we’ve done in a long time, and Thelma for keeping us all fed.
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