Team Walker’s South Island debut at Rally Otago 2015 created a number of firsts for the team. It marked the first time on an aeroplane for one of the crew, a first time visit to the Mainland for others and the boys got their first look at the Otago countryside while experiencing pre-rally reconnaissance for the first time as a driver pairing.
This set the scene for Saturday’s event as Daniel set an impressive time through the first test to lead the NZRC 5a class, despite unfamiliar road conditions and a puncture towards the end of the special stage.
The next 2 competitive sections confirmed the Subaru was on the pace as the category lead stretched out to close to a minute after Stage 3 and an impressive 8th overall in a field including local WRC star Hayden Paddon, former WRC driver Alastair McCrae and pop culture legend Ken Block.
Unfortunately there was one more first yet to come and the undesirable first retirement of the series came in the inland high country of SS4 – Nenthorn.
The previous test of Shag Valley had included a big jump and though the landing hadn’t seemed particularly heavy, it must have been enough to cause some internal engine issues and the car was down on power from the start of the next stage.
The stricken Ford Fiesta of Block was only a couple of fast and flowing kilometres in from the start so at least car 21 was in good company when the engine gave up with a bang and came to a grinding halt further along the road in the tussocky hill country.
Overall, it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience and the team has some unfinished business to take care of and will certainly be heading back to Dunedin to conquer Rally Otago in the future.
In the meantime, the engine will be getting rebuilt and the team hopes to be back in the 2015 NZRC by round 4 in Gisbourne to add some more firsts and tackle the famous Motu stage. Judging by the pace shown at Otago, a first class win of the season looks to be a good chance too!
Also big thanks to the service crew Ethan, Jono, Joey and John. Without our sponsors we wouldn’t of been able to make this all work, so big thank you to Keith Walker Construction, T G R Automotive, AA Auckland Carriers, Autostop Henderson, Imperial Panel Beaters Whangarei and Henderson Valley Tyre Centre.