Otago driver, Rhys Gardner’s rally season continues to be intensely challenging with a fire forcing early retirement from the Joes Garage Canterbury Rally held in Rangiora, north of Christchurch on June 5th.
After stage four, the team were sitting in 5th position overall when their Mitsubishi Evolution 9 caught fire causing damage to the electrical systems.
According to Gardner, “We were incredibly lucky that it happened with other cars around rather than in a stage while racing”. The team is extremely grateful for the support from other drivers who provided multiple fire extinguishers and skills to bring the blaze under control.
The incident follows a difficult finish to Rally of Otago in April. Despite finishing the rally as the first Otago crew home, the team made a navigation error which saw them excluded from the results in a hearing held after the rally.
The team remains optimistic about the future.”Our season goal was to learn and grow. While we would prefer to continue the success of overall wins at the Lawrence Rally and the Kaitangata Hillclimb over the summer, the lessons learnt from our recent challenges have been invaluable”.
Gardner, a natural driver with a flair for driving without any knowledge of the road ahead, often finds it challenging to adjust to national championship events with full pacenotes.
“Rally with pacenotes is a very different sport. In blind (non-pacenote) events, I can just relax and lean on my intuition on what’s coming next. We’ve still only done a handful of events with pacenotes so the speed will take some time to build”
The next event on the calender is uncertain as the fire damage is likely to require some time to fix but the team continues to look ahead.
“We’re certainly commited to more events this year and building towards contesting the New Zealand Rally Championship in 2017”
The team is grateful for the ongoing support from Awakiki Ridges, CNC Automotive