Firstly I must apologise for the time it’s taken to get this event report out, but it’s been a manic week since getting back from Whangarei! I’ve decided to be a little different with this event report for a change, so would be keen to hear what you think.
This year’s rally season got off to an incredibly hot and dusty start at the VINZ International Rally of Whangarei. All weather forecasts had predicated heavy rain which did not eventuate, even though it appeared to have covered the rest of New Zealand.
The stages for Day One were north of Whangarei this year, incorporating some of the stages from previous Rally of the North events. They looked very smooth, and extremely fast. They were clearly going to reward the brave.
Richard Mason got off to a flying start, setting the fastest times in the first three stages, and being chased by Sloan Cox and Dave Holder. Unfortunately for Sloan he left the road and damaged the rear end of his car, which saw him withdraw from SS2 and SS3 while his service crew worked hard to get the car ready to rejoin in the afternoon’s stages.
Dave Holder was showing incredible pace in his first rally in the ex Hayden Paddon Evo 8 4WD since making the step up from last year’s 2WD Fiesta. Holder had managed to take the lead from Mason in SS6, who had been struggling with a diff problem which caused the tyres to wear out quickly. Mason had to slow up to try and avoid a puncture. Holder’s show of speed was to be cut short due to a fuel leak, leaving him short of fuel.
Day One certainly claimed its fair share of casualties with Brian Green, Doug Adnitt, and Andrew Phillips rolling out of the rally. Richard Baddock also ended up on his side in a ditch, but the car was only cosmetically damaged and he was able to rejoin the rally for Day Two.
Further down the field Anthony Jones (Jonesy) was looking quick in his Mk2 Escort. Jonesy ended Day One in the lead of the National Rally, closely followed by Simon Bell in his Subaru Legacy. Jonesy did break his rear suspension during SS6 and nursed it home to service, where his service crew worked hard to repair his car with some welding and tie downs.
Day Two saw no let up in the hot dusty weather as the event moved south of Whangarei into stages that had been run in previous events. Unfortunately, the Iconic Hella Bridge was not to be included this time around, but there were still plenty of good roads to compete on.
Richard Mason’s speed continued into Day Two, with Sloan Cox hot on his heels. By lunchtime, Cox was leading the event, a lead which he continued to build on giving him a significant advantage going into the last stage. Unfortunately Cox suffered a brake disc failure as it exploded at over 200km/h, causing him to have to nurse the car home, but he still managed to get the overall win for Day Two.
Brother and Sister team Matt and Nicole Summerfield were looking very quick throughout the weekend as was Lance Williams, both of whom managed to join the Masons on the final podium.
As with all events I go to, it’s time to choose my “Sideways Driver of the Day”. My decision isn’t based on placings or stage wins, but rather who was driving the wheels off their car each time I saw them. For this event is goes to Matt Summerfield. He was clearly showing good pace, and always looked great flying past me. In fact, to make it more impressive he appeared to be catching the car in front quite a bit and driving in thick dust most of the day. I know most drivers were encountering dust, but my photos clearly show a couple who suffered more than most, and Matt was one of them.