It’s been a while since my last rally report. After our “rollover” at Whangarei in April, I’d figured that was our year spent. The plan was to rebuild, reshell, and start again with the Evo 3. Plans were underway, and we sourced a genuine Evo 2 shell and started to put together a to do/wishlist.
The more I priced stuff up, the less enthusiastic I became. And this is where we had a change of direction. Chatting with Dan Walker, it became obvious our best option was to replace what we had with his old car exactly the same as I had been running, and ready to go. It would then leave us with a full set of spares, and we were ready to go.
The finance department (Michal) said I was good to go, so I picked up the new machine at the Coromandel round of the NZRC with a view to running at either Wairarapa or Hawkes Bay later in the year.
As it turns out, we were in a position to get to Wairarapa and so with the car set, team set, and a budget in place, we made the final preparations to get the car looking good for the rally.
With a mix of Daybreaker and Wairarapa stages this year I was looking forward to getting back in the drivers seat and getting some much needed seat time in the car.
We headed down to my sister’s farm on the Thursday with a view to completing recce on Friday. It’s a fair trek back from Masterton to the first stages at Pohangina, but it would give us an opportunity to wake up prior to starting the rally properly on Saturday.
Recce went well. The roads were great in the dry(ish) conditions on Friday, and with previous experience, Jo and I were happy with the changes we made to the notes.
And so Saturday morning dawned really early, as we left the farm at 0500 heading approx. 150km north for the rally start and service area.
The weather was crap and so the team put up the gazebo, side included, and we put the car away until our due start time. As we headed out to the first stage the rain continued, and what had been dry stages the day prior, were likely to be a little slushy back in road position 48.
Stage 1 wasn’t too bad. We went steady and managed to keep in touch with the guys we were going to use as our benchmark. The car felt a little off later in the stage (turns out the team had set us up with 1 205 tyre in amongst the 195’s we’d elected to run), but otherwise we were quite happy.
Stage 2 was good at the start, gradually building on our speed until approx. 6 kms from the end when the oil pressure dropped to nothing. Stopping on a tight 3 R, we found a burst oil cooler fitting. (Many thanks to David from Dewtec who helped by organizing one of his team to meet my crew with additional hose to get us back out on the afternoon stages).
We weren’t able to get the car out after stage 2 due to the limited timeframe between stages, and so we sat and spectated stage 4. But we had the crew come to the nearest intersection and immediately following the sweeper, we were on the tow rope and heading to service. The boys had a plan, and we were going to be back on the stages in the afternoon.
Temporary fix made and the car back to running condition, we headed off to stage 5. The southern stages were more to my liking and so we were out to push for the afternoon. We slotted in amongst the cars towards the rear of the field and started stage 5 behind an Evo 6. Unfortunately we caught them in less than 7kms and got caught in the dust and then couldn’t get past, even while using “push to pass” a number of times. Eventually, we got past them just after the hairpin with approx. 4km of the stage to run. This caused a 30-35 second time loss, but we knew we had the pace to push on in the afternoon and that we could mix it with the crews in our class.
Stage 6 was awesome. Maybe pushing a little too hard, as we came down the hill and the surface changed, one mailbox, and the passenger side mirror and window later, we were pushing along quite well.
Back to service for the final time, change of tyres (finally a service that didn’t require heaps of work), and back out for the last 2 stages. It really was good to get some seat time, and the more we got, the better the car felt.
The last 2 stages passed without significant incident. Stage times improved and it was starting to come together. And both Jo and I were quite happy with our pace throughout the afternoon.
I must thank Ian Welch who came to find me after the finish to show me the pictures of my encounter with the mailbox. Ian and his family were down from Auckland to watch for the weekend (another reason I enjoy going out to do skids is the people who travel from near and far to watch).
And finally, a thanks to all those that helped us get to Wairarapa this year:
To the organisers, marshalls and all those involved, thanks for your efforts so we can go and compete in a sport we all love.
My family, Michal and Claudia, who continue to encourage me., even with my shocking finishing record over the last 12 months 🙂
My sponsors who help get the car ready, especially to Cameron at Zodiac Signs for the short notice finishing up.
But not forgetting Tommo’s tyres, Ben Thomas Panelbeaters and Konnect Safety Ltd for the ongoing support.
And finally to the guys who make it all happen both prepping the car and over rally weekends – Keith, Clint, Tan and Hayden. We really couldn’t do this without your help. Roll on the next one!
by Ben Brown – KSL Motorsport