Round 3 of the Total Lubricants Rally Xtreme Challenge sees a new test for the competitors. Not only a new event for the series but also a new surface, as Rally Xtreme takes to the tarmac in the Quality Hotel Plymouth Taranaki Tarmac Rally.
Covering 140km of special stages, the competitors race around the base of Mount Taranaki, traversing the roads from Stratford to Inglewood and over the ranges to Okato, finishing back in New Plymouth.
This will certainly be a test for the crews as they change their cars to a tarmac specification, with lower suspension, bigger brakes and road legal semi-slick race tyres. Plus they will need to adapt their driving style to suit the surface.
The cars don’t move around as much on the seal, and it is harder to get the traditional sideways flick normally seen on gravel to set the car up for a corner. Therefore you need to driver straighter and smoother, because as soon as you do break traction it can be fast and vicious.
Trying his hand at seal for one of the few times in his career will be series leader Stewart Taylor. After two rounds and two top finishes he leads the series by 20 points over Geof Argyle, with Graham Featherstone third, only a further 5 behind.
Featherstone has shown real speed on seal in the past, including at the Possum Bourne Memorial Rally last year, but with the Taranaki event not having been run since 2011 it is the local boys of Neil Marshall and Nigel Adams who will be the ones to watch. Marshall won the event outright in 2010, and was second in 2007. So he knows these roads well. Adams hasn’t had quite the same success, but his record here dates back to 2008 with 13th, and then 3rd in 2009.
Not to be out done, the man with the most experience, Brian Green has also performed well here, with 4th overall in 2010, and 2011. This means the top two had better adapt quickly, or they will be over run.
There is also some excitement in the two wheel drive classes as Marcus van Klink debuts his recently acquired Citroen C2 S1600, that looks to be very well suited to the tarmac. However the battle is set to resume in the Club 2WD class as Ric Chalmers has been working day and night to repair his car in less than two weeks after a big off at Rally Wairarapa. Seeded just in front of the up and coming Tyson Jemmett it will be another contest to watch for.
With round 3 of Rally Xtreme sponsored by Taranaki By Products, it will be the front runners who will feel the extra pressure in the Pyroclassic Fires Power Stage. The dash for the $500 cash will be over the 14.25km Stage 5 of Dover Road, as the XT Open Class competitors take on the challenge at this round.
The Taranaki Tarmac Rally certainly has the potential to upset the form book, and it will be some fast and furious competition as the locals look to make the most of their opportunities. High speeds, big crests, and four wheel drifting are guaranteed.
Visit www.taranakicarclub.org.nz/events/taranaki-tarmac-rally for event information.
By Jody Seabright