Winning his first Parker ENZED New Zealand Rally Championship event, Rotorua's Dean Sumner became the first driver outside the Richard Mason/Chris West Subaru duo to win a round of the 2006 championship season.
In doing so the Mitsubishi Lancer EVO8 pilot took his ITM Rally Team to an emphatic one minute victory at Sunday's conclusion of the 0800 Boxman Rally of Nelson.
Wrapping up the final of six rounds in the 2006 season, the Nelson based event became a Mitsubishi affair after pace setter Chris West unexpectedly crashed when a front suspension arm failed.
Also out of the event and the four-way chase for second-best in the championship standings the rally also claimed Dunedin's Emma Gilmour early on the Sunday to leave Brett Martin and Sam Murray tussling for second and third.
Meanwhile Sumner was benefiting from an early charge to, as he described it, 'put the others on the back foot'.
"We weren't really expecting to do so well," said the 27-year old. "We did quite a bit of testing before the rally and you're never quite sure if you've got the car right 100% - it's such a fine line. It wasn't until the rally we realised it was quite good - when we won the first stage."
"Paul (Fallon), my co-driver and I don't stop thinking of different ways, and strategies to get better. But it was through Geof Argyle - he's been the main influence at making us go quicker at Nelson. We went testing with him; he tutored me a bit and changed a bit of the setup on the car. He got in to my head at the rally and made sure my head was in the right place. I've had no-one really help me like that before."
Describing how he clipped the wings of his competitors, he also pointed out that the roads were similar to the Hawke's Bay round that was then dominated by Subaru's Richard Mason and Chris West.
"There were some fast stages - you feel they were just as much a Subaru stage as much as a Mitsubishi stage. Saturday's stages we thought it'd be Subaru - there was virtually no 5th gear stuff - so I was quite surprised to be as quick through there."
"Whoever won that first stage on the second day had the fastest car and was likely to win - that's how we felt and that's what happened."
Running as third car on the road after the demise of Emma Gilmour, he didn't feel there was any of a 'road swept' advantage: "There was a little line there, but far-out, we were struggling. The first stage was the only one that needing sweeping, the rest of the roads were pretty much OK."
Now with his first championship round victory under his belt Sumner feels it is only the start: "Everyone tells me that getting your first win under your belt is the hardest - it's supposed to get easier from there. We try to set realistic goals at each rally - like win as many stages as we can. So if we only come away with a few stage wins then we have achieved our goal, but didn't really expect the victory."
"If you look at Westy (Chris West) and (Richard) Mason - they're the two most experienced drivers and everyone is catching up in terms of their speed."
"It's changed what we're going to do next year. We were going to get a new car for next year and it might even be a two car team."
Placing second in the 2006 Parker ENZED New Zealand Rally Championship behind Richard Mason and Sara Randall, Taihape's Brett Martin finished fourth overall - and with enough of a points buffer to comfortably retain the placing. Having finished third in 2005, Martin is realistic at returning to challenge for the one position he hasn't yet claimed - the outright overall title.
Third and pushing to take the podium advantage enjoyed by Martin, Palmerston North's Sam Murray had the honour of being first car on the road for ten of the eleven stages - cutting a path through the gravel.
Keeping Honda atop the Kiwi-2 standings, Kapiti based championship rookie Aaron Cook was lucky to secure the title in the first leg when his Honda Jazz became stranded in Sunday's final test:
"Going in to that last stage we were second behind Kayne (Barrie), and were pretty happy how it was going. About 1.5km in the bolt on the steering arm sheered off - spat the CV out and we slid off to a stop on the side of the road," explained Cook.
"I couldn't be too disappointed as we had already wrapped up the championship - but it would have been nice to have finished, get to the podium and do all those things - but oh well."
Intending on returning to the series in 2007, Cook says he expects to defend his title but could step-up in to a larger Group-N 4WD car.
"Next year, yes; we're going to look at some options, maybe step up to Group N, but at this stage we'll run again in Kiwi-2 and defend the title. The Honda Jazz is such a good little car we don't feel we need to change it."
Geraldine's Hayden Paddon secured both the Junior and Rookie titles in his Mitsubishi Lancer EVO9 - the 19-year old being the youngest driver to ever clinch a New Zealand Rally Championship category victory.
Palmerston North's Bert Murray returned the Mainfreight Mazda RX7 to the championship podium by winning the inaugural Classic class - 20 years since the same car won the outright New Zealand title at the hands of Neil Allport.
Subaru retains the Manufacturers title - securing enough points at the Wairarapa round for the win.
20-year old Sara Randall takes the Co-drivers title - matched to the overall Goldstar title taken by fiancée driver Richard Mason.
Results Parker ENZED New Zealand Rally Championship Round 6
Leg2: 0800 Boxman Rally of Nelson (NZRC top-10) - Sunday 24th Sept.
1. Dean Sumner/Paul Fallon Mitsubishi Lancer EVO 8
2. Brett Martin/Raymond Bennett Mitsubishi Lancer EVO 9 +0:33.3
3. Sam Murray/Rob Ryan Subaru Impreza STi +0:43.3
4. Glenn Smith/Colin Smith Subaru Impreza STi +1:03.7
5. Hayden Paddon/John Kennard Mitsubishi Lancer EVO 8 +1:09.2
6. Stewart Taylor/Warwick Searle Mitsubishi Lancer EVO 9 +1:14.3
7. Patrick Malley/Hayden Middleton Mitsubishi Lancer EVO 8 RS +2:56.4
8. Carl Adnitt/aron Conaghan Mitsubishi Lancer EVO 7 +4:04.3
9. Kayne Barrie/Rob Scott Nissan Sunny GTi +5:59.2
10. James Holder/Richard Ellis Toyota Levin +7:09.6
11. Reg Cook/Louise Cook Nissan Pulsar +8:45.6
Leg1: 0800 Boxman Rally of Nelson (NZRC top-10) - Saturday 23rd Sept.
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
Parker ENZED New Zealand Rally Championship - points
1. Richard Mason 296, 2. Brett Martin 245, 3. Sam Murray 229, 4. Emma Gilmour 202, 5. Chris West 182
1. Aaron Cook 273, 2. James Holder 252, 3. Glenn Inkster 217, 4. Jason West 200
1. Bert Murray 192, 2. Keith Frankum 162
1. Hayden Paddon 288, 2. Patrick Malley 256, 3. James Holder 224
1. Hayden Paddon 283, 2. Stewart Taylor 254, 3. Dermott Malley 233
Results: 0800 Boxman Rally of Nelson (overall - provisional)
Pos. Driver Co-Driver Vehicle Total Time Tbl
1 Dean Sumner Paul Fallon Mitsubishi Lancer EVO 8 2:26:09.8 ****
2 Stewart Taylor Warwick Searle Mitsubishi Lancer EVO 9 2:27:10.0 +1:00.2
3 Sam Murray Rob Ryan Subaru Impreza STi 2:27:31.2 +1:21.4
4 Brett Martin Raymond Bennett Mitsubishi Lancer EVO 9 2:27:40.7 +1:30.9
5 Hayden Paddon John Kennard Mitsubishi Lancer EVO 8 2:27:58.1 +1:48.3
6 Glenn Smith Colin Smith Subaru Impreza STi 2:28:07.1 +1:57.3
7 Regan Ross Nigel Ross Mitsubishi Lancer EVO 8 2:32:07.7 +5:57.9
8 Greg Teece Carl Rabbidge Mitsubishi Lancer EVO 6.5 2:32:31.8 +6:22.0
9 Jeff Judd Grant Marra Subaru Impreza 2:34:01.6 +7:51.8
10 Carl Adnitt Aaron Conaghan Mitsubishi Lancer EVO 7 2:34:16.7 +8:06.9
11 Kayne Barrie Rob Scott Nissan Sunny GTi 2:37:13.1 +11:03.3
12 Chris Hughes Nicholas Brownlee Mitsubishi Lancer EVO 2 2:38:10.0 +12:00.2
13 James Holder Richard Ellis Toyota Levin 2:38:15.2 +12:05.4
14 Dermot Marton Lisa Hudson Mitsubishi Lancer EVO 6 2:38:15.7 +12:05.9
15 Paul Dickson Mike Fletcher Mitsubishi Lancer EVO 3 2:39:03.4 +12:53.6
16 Blair Sutherland Tony Johnston Toyota AE85 2:40:32.1 +14:22.3
17 Phil Gurney Tony Foster Toyota Corolla FXGT 2:41:04.0 +14:54.2
18 Dermott Malley Linzi Malley Mitsubishi Lancer EVO 7 RS 2:42:10.0 +16:00.2
19 Robert Murray Deborah Kibble Mazda RX7 2:42:17.0 +16:07.2
20 Paul Nicoll Marty Stevenson Mitsubishi Lancer EVO 8 2:45:16.1 +19:06.3