This weekend's final round of the Parker ENZED New Zealand Rally Championship has seen Mitsubishi's Stewart Taylor (Hastings) take a substantive victory in the first leg of the 0800 Boxman Rally of Nelson.
Contested over five gravel stages to the north-east of a gloriously fine Nelson day, Taylor took an early victory from fellow Mitsubishi driver Dean Sumner to win the day by 14.1seconds.
The tight and twisty roads were expected to see the Subaru charge take a hold on the top of the field, but it was the swept line left by the first few cars that seemed to favour the followers.
Pondering the advantage, Taylor, driving a Lancer EVO9, said he thought the first run through the twice-used stages, would be in his favour.
"I thought at the service break that I'd had my run and with the stages being re-used later - I'd lose my swept road advantage. But I still managed to do reasonably well."
"The tyres I was running were the perfect compound," Taylor added as he explained his Dunlop's surviving the 88km of gravel without incident.
"Now I just have to keep my focus to do it again tomorrow."
Subaru's hopes started with Chris West, who without the competition of Richard Mason could comfortably dictate the pace. However just short of 2 kilometres in to the second test the Impreza broke loose and rolled from the road and in to a creek. Suspecting a failed suspension arm, it took several hours for the car to be extricated - as the team survey the damage before making a call as to whether they will restart for Sunday's final leg.
Third for the day was Subaru's Sam Murray - who battled a steering problem to finish 32 seconds behind Taylor.
Pipping the early advantage Kiwi-2 flyer Kayne Barrie had aboard his Nissan Sunny, Auckland's James Holder won the day by 8.3 seconds.
A conservative third was enough for Kapiti's Aaron Cook to secure enough of a point's buffer to clinch the Kiwi-2 driver's title - in his rookie attempt.
"We really only needed to finish today so set a pace that was comfortable," commented Cook, driving the Honda Jazz.
"Now we can go out and have fun tomorrow - without going too hard as we don't want to take any risks."
"But we're stoked," Cook said of his title victory. "At the start of the year we thought it'd take time to settle in to driving a front-wheel drive car and it worked out we were pretty fast. So I'm really happy with the result - it's awesome."
As part of the final weekend, the Classic category is still wide open between the two campaigners: Bert Murray (Mazda RX-7) and Keith Frankum (Toyota AE86). Both again finished, although the lead has stretched in Murray's favour.
Finishing fifth overall for the leg, Mitsubishi's Hayden Paddon has a healthy lead in both the Rookie and Junior categories; the 19-year old needing to finish Sunday's leg to secure both titles.
Starting again from Nelson's World of WearableArt(tm) & Classic Cars Museum (WOW) complex, the cars will depart from 8am and head south for six special stages.
After covering 130km of competitive gravel, the cars return to a ceremonial presentation for each of the class winners - from 3pm outside the picturesque WOW complex.
Results Parker ENZED New Zealand Rally Championship Leg 1 Round 6 (provisional)
Overall: 0800 Boxman Rally of Nelson (NZRC top-10)
1 Stewart Taylor/ Warwick Searle (Mitsubishi Lancer EVO 9)
2. Dean Sumner/Paul Fallon (Mitsubishi Lancer EVO 8) +0:14.1
3. Sam Murray/Rob Ryan (Subaru Impreza STi) +0:52.2
4. Glenn Smith/Colin Smith (Subaru Impreza STi) +1:07.7
5. Hayden Paddon/John Kennard (Mitsubishi Lancer EVO 8) +1:11.5
6. Brett Martin/Raymond Bennett (Mitsubishi Lancer EVO 9) +1:11.7
7. Emma Gilmour/Chris Cobham (Subaru Impreza WRX) +1:18.0
8. Brent Taylor/Chris Ramsay (Mitsubishi Lancer EVO 6) +1:21.8
9. Carl Adnitt/Aaron Conaghan (Mitsubishi Lancer EVO 7) +4:27.0
10. Lee-Anne Barns/Damon McLachlan (Mitsubishi Lancer EVO 8) +4:56.3
1. James Holder/Richard Ellis (Toyota Levin) 1:12:44.5
2. Kayne Barrie/Rob Scott (Nissan Sunny GTi) 1:12:52.8
3. Aaron Cook/Stratton Campbell (Honda Jazz) 1:14:02.2
4. Glenn Inkster/Glenn Goldring (Honda CRX) 1:15:26.0
5. Jason West/Charmaine Helm (Suzuki Ignis) 1:18:42.6
1. Robert Murray/Deborah Kibble (Mazda RX7) 1:14:26.7
2. Keith Frankum/Mike Gibbs (Toyota Sprinter AE86) 1:23:07.8
Parker ENZED New Zealand Rally Championship - points (after leg 1 round 6)
1. Richard Mason 296, 2. Brett Martin 218, 3. Sam Murray 206, 4. Emma Gilmour 202, 5. Chris West 182
1. Aaron Cook 273, 2. James Holder 225, 3. Glenn Inkster 217, 4. Jason West 180
1. Bert Murray 160, 2. Keith Frankum 135
1. Hayden Paddon 256, 2. Patrick Malley 229, 3. James Holder 204
1. Hayden Paddon 251, 2. Stewart Taylor 227, 3. Dermott Malley 215