One of the most closely fought editions of the Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship heads to a crucial penultimate round at Rally Gisborne.
Currently Mount Maunganui’s David Holder leads Dunedin’s Emma Gilmour by just six points, but with only two rounds remaining a total of 26 drivers have a mathematical chance of being crowned New Zealand Rally Champion.
Awaiting the crews are six special stages totalling 150km to the west and north of Gisborne that are widely regarded as some of the most challenging public road stages in the country. Whoever can master the roads will give themselves a great shot at the title come the series finale in Whitianga on August 20.
Holder (Mitsubishi Evo) and Gilmour (Suzuki Swift AP4) are the top two seeds for the event by virtue of their championship positions, with the remaining spots in the top five being filled by Marcus van Klink (Mazda RX-7), Andrew Hawkeswood (Mazda 2 AP4) and Graham Featherstone (Mitsubishi Evo).
Other contenders for the victory include the Subaru’s of defending national champion Ben Hunt and Lance Williams as well as the Mitsubishi’s of Sloan Cox, Phil Campbell and Dylan Turner. There could also be surprises from Glenn Inkster (Skoda), Clint Cunningham (Mitsubishi), Carl Davies (Subaru) and Shannon Chambers (VW).
The Gull Rally Challenge is a battle that is also heating up, with Grant Blackberry top seed in his Mitsubishi, ahead of the similar cars of Kingsley Jones, Lee Robson, Jonathon Walker, Warwick Redfern, Jono Shapley and Bryn Smith, while the lone Subaru entry of Dan Alexander completes the four-wheel drive field.
Also joining the Gull Rally Challenge for the event is the new Group A Challenge class, allowing cars that previously topped the world rally championship and that were built prior to 1993 a home. Five cars have entered the inaugural round, including two Mitsubishi VR-4’s for Gareth McLachlan and Matt Adams, Audi’s for Ray Wilson and Phil Collins, plus the Subaru Legacys of Simon Bell and Marty Smith.
The two-wheel drive battles will also be interesting to watch, with Anthony Jones the pace setter to date in the open-two wheel drive class ahead of Dave Strong. The battle for the final podium spot will be fierce however with Dylan Thomson in the Ford Fiesta trying to fight off the Suzuki Swift’s of Jack Williamson and Andy Martin.
Marcus van Klink needs only to start to secure his fourth Historic title, but will be keen to show the similar Mazda RX-7 of John Silcock why he is the master of the class, while Jeff Torkington will be looking for a class win in the Gull Rally Challenge two-wheel drive class to take the fight to the final round at Coromandel.
Crews will take on six special stages before returning to the rally finish at Reads Quay in Gisborne for the finish from 6.25pm.