Staged against the magnificent backdrop of the South Island's Mackenzie Country, the finale to the 2006 Rally Xtreme Championship produced a new round winner, young rally talent Brad Harris.
Starting the South Canterbury Rally as the ninth seed in a class field of 68 cars, twenty-two year old Harris charged home in his Hankook Motorsports supported Lancer Evo 1 to finish third overall, on the podium with rally winner Andrew Hawkswood in his state of the art Evo 8 and current NZ Junior Rally Champion, Hayden Paddon (Evo 8).
While not in the fight for the overall title of '06 Rally Xtreme Champion, Harris and co-driver David Calder, set about their work from the outset, winning the 37km opening stage around picturesque Lake Pukaki by 6 seconds. "To be honest, I was a bit surprised at our pace in there," commented Harris at the first service. "A kilometre into the stage I knew it was really slippery so just concentrated hard on keeping the car straight and balancing it in the fast corners to stay on the hard line."
Never posting stage times outside the top five all rally, Harris enjoyed the challenge of competing on new roads and against new drivers. "It was good to be able to gauge ourselves against such a competitive group of drivers, especially the likes of Andrew (Hawkswood) and Callum (McInnes). That's the great thing about Rally Xtreme - being able to mix it with some of the best drivers in New Zealand."
After losing some time in Stage 2, the 46km Mackenzie Pass, when the car in front struck problems, Harris fought back in fine style. Tying with Hawkswood for the win on Stage 5, then separated by 3 seconds over Staqe 6 Middle Valley, were highlights of the rally for the Canterbury combination.
Arriving at service before the last stage, Harris found himself locked in a battle with Hankook Motorsports team mate Jeff Judd in his Possum Bourne built Subaru Impreza; a mere seven seconds separating the pair for the top spot in Rally Xtreme. A repeat of Stage 1 but in reverse, everything was at stake. Harris flew over the demanding 37km stage recording a further stage win and with it the round victory.
"I gave it everything in there. I couldn't afford to ease up," said a delighted Harris at the finish. "Its been hard work today. The pace at the front was red hot so I'm rapt to have our old car on the podium! Our Hankook tyres have been superb. We've run on the same compound and cut all day and the minimal wear has been fantastic. To get a one-two finish for Hankook at the final round is a great reward for the whole team."