I decided to pop down to New Plymouth to cover the Taranaki Rally, mainly because my good mate Ben Brown was competing, but I was also very keen to see Richard and Sara Mason return to rallying in the yellow Subaru.
Ben had been in touch in the weeks leading up to the rally, and had even come to stay while his car was being dyno’d. I have to say that I think Ben is the unluckiest person in NZ rallying. Nothing ever seems to fall just right for him. The first dyno didn’t happen as the borescope revealed some detonation marks on the pistons and possibly valve contact.
After a complete engine change and rebuild, the car was ready for the dyno again, this time producing some good figures. With only days to go, it was time to get the car back to Taranaki.
As I arrived Friday night, the car was still on the hoist with his team working flat out to get the car ready. He certainly has a great team willing to go the extra mile to make sure his car was as good as good could be for Saturday morning.
I’d decided to shoot in SS2 at the junction of Plymouth Road and Carrington. Arriving early, the weather was being as predictably unpredictable. One minute it was lovely sunshine, the next heavy drizzle. Conditions were going to be slippery!
As the top few cars arrived, Dylan Turner was the first to get caught out on the corner and ended up spinning. I was expecting Richard Mason next but the car never arrived. Checking Chrissport, they had finished SS1 so something must have been up in this stage. Before I knew it, there was an amazing noise coming through the stage. It was Klinky in his Citroën. Man that car sounds great, and for a 1600cc goes like stink!
After a long pause in proceedings a bunch of cars came touring through but still no sign of the yellow Subaru. Once the Stage was up and running again, I noticed I hadn’t seen Ben Brown either. I was just pulling out the phone to check Chrissport when I received a text with the words “Stacked it.” I couldn’t believe what I was reading. I was totally gutted for Ben and his whole team who had worked so hard to get the car to the start line. At least further texts let me know both Ben and Joanne were okay.
There were some very enthusiastic drivers through this corner. Johno Brunning managed a complete spin, but whilst recovering, a fast Mike Torr arrived at the junction and had to overshoot to avoid a collision. Shaun Terry also had a close call with his rear bumper very close to the fence and power pole as he slid through the junction.
With this stage being repeated as SS4 and only a 45 minute wait, I decided to sit tight and shoot the corner again as it had been entertaining the first time around. The weather was still flipping between a lovely day and miserable and wet, but the sun appeared to be winning bit by bit.
The second pass through saw some drivers trying a bit hard. In fact rally leader Neil Marshall was pushing hard enough to be close to spinning but just floored it and kept heading down the hill. He was certainly proving tough to catch, although Klinky was doing an amazing job to keep up. Jason Gill also came through this corner with a lot more commitment this time.
Tim McDonald had an exciting moment when he spun and ended up nose down in a ditch with the rear wheels up in the air. Luckily he managed to drive out with no visible damage to the car.
After SS4 it was a short drive to get to the hairpin junction at SS6/SS8. This is a high speed entry into a 180 degree hairpin. It’s also a popular spectator spot with quite a few people turning up to watch.
Neil Marshall was staggeringly quick on his approach. I couldn’t believe just how late he left his braking and then just gave it the big toss-in, sliding wide and using every inch of the road, but still managing to carry on up the hill leaving big black tyre marks on the road.
Once again the noise of Klinky’s Citroën could be heard way before it could be seen. He was flying, carrying some serious speed towards the hairpin. Unfortunately he couldn’t get it slowed down in time and ended up sliding on in a huge cloud of tyre smoke. I don’t think he went through any of the tape, but certainly sent spectators running, who were well back from the area.
Kevin Sanderson’s Hyabusa Starlet was another car which sounded fantastic, but also looked cool as he three wheeled all the way through the hairpin bend and up the hill for a bit. Unfortunately I believe his clutch let go on the second run through and didn’t make it to the end.
Being a Vodafone user, I couldn’t get any coverage at this location to follow what was going on with the rally. I think it was clear that Neil Marshall was leading given his pace, but I wasn’t sure who was holding second / third. In fact, I wasn’t aware of any results until much later when I made it back to Tauranga that night.
It was only then I saw confirmation that Neil Marshall/Richard Carr had won, with Jason Gill/Mark Robinson second and Marcus van Klink/Rocky Hudson third.
What an incredible drive from Klinky, certainly my driver of the day.