Following the unfortunate demise of Ian’s faithful steed at the rally of Hawkes bay, there was little time to prepare for the team’s favorite event, the rally of Gisborne. The much loved but heavily damaged DX corolla made way for an early version Mazda RX7. Many will remember the RX7 Ian acquired as “SNOTTR”, a bright green beast constructed and previously campaigned by Darryl Manson. However, the RX7 had not seen competition for some years and required several all-nighters by Darryl and Ian to restore it to its former glory.
Following the RX7’s hurried revival to competitive specifications, Ian had limited opportunity to test the car and come to terms with its many differences to that of the DX corolla. Ian’s first outing behind the wheel of the RX7 being the MBOP dual rally sprint held at the TECT park, where Ian convincingly won the class. A second opportunity to test the RX7 came in the form of a sponsor’s day, also held at the TECT park. Ian gained valuable seat time while supporting fellow competitors, concluding the day feeling a little more confident in his ability to control the RX7. Unfortunately, the RX7 suffered suspension damaged at the sponsors day and required replacement.. The replacement suspension slightly altered car setup, which among other minor untested changes did nothing to settle Ian’s apprehension for the Gisborne event.
The RX7 with new flame decals boarded the trailer and made its way to the Gisborne event behind the ever faithful Tranny van. Reminiscence of good times from Gisborne rallies past fueled the team’s excitement, surpassing the wows of the journey through the Waioeka gorge. The competitive crew was joined this year by team ‘manager’ (and camp mother) Michelle Wood, service crew Hayden and Shane and Wood juniors (Kayden and Ryan). The usual penthouse apartment was again the location of the team headquarters and subsequent post rally party central, ensuring the Rally of Gisborne was set to be a cracker.
Heading into the start of rally the crew was determined to deliver a strong performance. The first stage however proved to be problematic and Ian struggled to find his usual flowing rhythm in the tight stage. The RX7’s 11th hour setup changes undoubtedly playing into Ian’s lack of confidence to carry his usual speed into corners. Ian’s post stage frustrations were subdued by words of reassurance from Heather. Encouragingly the crew finished the first stage as the 4th fastest RWD.
A strong second stage performance resulted in the crew developing good placings in the RWD contingent (and the majority of 4WD cars) . The very flowing stage 2 road seeing the return of Ian’s spectacular ‘throw the car into every corner’ driving style. The crew completing the stage 2 test some 16 seconds clear of the next RWD car, in the process taking 11th overall on the stage. Despite the stage 2 success, Ian remained unsatisfied with the RX7’s handling. Brake and clutch problems also developed during the latter part of stage 2, further compounding his handling concerns.
Unfortunately little could be done to resolve the rapidly developing brake and clutch problems at service. The NZRC limited duration service format coupled with the service crew’s unfamiliarity with the RX7 ensured that only the basic service tasks were completed. The crew headed out of service on time for the 20km stage 3. Once again Ian made the RX7 dance showing all his usual form, a respectable effort given the mounting issues he faced. Stage 3 ended with Ian and Heather taking 9th overall on stage and 2nd RWD, the result testament to Ian’s ability to adapt to the unfavorable RX7 setup.
The service crew was pleasantly surprised to be greeted by a smiley duo emerging from the RX7 at the remote refuel following stage 3. Encouraged by their successes of the past couple of stages the pairing decided to dig deep in search for more top placing over the rallies remaining 4 stages. Sadly the untimely gear selection issues spelt the end of the teams rally while contesting stage 4. While at speed Ian had the misfortune of being unable to select down a gear during set up for a grade 4 corner. The RX7 slid wide into the bank puncturing a tyre and severally damaging the watts linkage system. The crew nursed the RX7 through the remaining 14km of the 40km stage 4, before retiring from the rally.
Regardless of premature end to the rally and the numerous issues encountered the crew enjoyed the event and took much encouragement from the results achieved with the new car. It’s rumored that Ian celebrated his successes harder than ever before falling victim to the Waioeka gorge on the return trip. With the better part of month and a half to prepare for the teams next event, the rally of the north you can be sure to see a marked improvement in the team’s results.
Thanks to the many supporters and fellow competitors who make our sport the most awesome show on earth……
The ‘Ian Wood Distribution’ rally team