Waikuku farmer Brian Stokes in a Ford Escort Cosworth continues to lead the 2006 NZ Silver Fern International Marathon Rally, but it was the spectacular Black Forest Stage that proved the most talked about aspect of the day.
Run along the Black Forest Farm road and the down the power transmission line service road from Haldon to the Benmore Dam, the Black Forest Stage has been used several times over the years, and comments from today's running are as varied as those from the 1976 Heatway Rally when the stage was run in darkness and with snow falling.
Ex World Champ Stig Blomqvist from Sweden described the stage as "scary stuff" while his co-drover Ana Goni from Venezuela suggested it was "definitely not a co-drivers stage", referring to the huge drops from the road down in to the lake should a mistake be made by any driver.
Rally leader Brian Stokes said "that was un-believable - you can just see your life flash by in front of your eyes". Stokes was still fastest thru the 29.34km stage in a time of 26:11 and averaging 67km/hr. From the other perspective Porsche driver (Frenchman) Paul-Eric Jarry said "that was excellent, really fun".
In fact it was the Porsche drivers, with the exception of one, that all commented they either enjoyed the stage or that it suited their rear-engined cars. Local Porsche driver Brent Rawstron said "It was one of those stages that if you were in the grove and had your mind set it was OK. We started out slowly and built up speed as we went, hey it's all part of this marathon event."
A number of drivers experienced mechanical problems in the stage as well, including Palmerston North's Brian Green who punctured 10kms from the end, stopped to change the wheel but broke his jack, and was forced to drive out of the stage on the rim. The misfortune dropped Green about 15 places overall.
Unfortunately for crews the final stage of the day (Cardrona) had to be cancelled due to the extreme weather and snow, and competitors toured back into Queenstown for their overnight stop. The seven day 1300km event continues tomorrow.
OVERALL TOP 10 PLACINGS AT END OF LEG TWO - QUEENSTOWN
Place/CarNo/Driver/Co-driver Town Car Overall Time/diff .
1st 4 Brian Stokes/ Grant Marra Waikuku Escort RS Cosworth 3:17:07
2 28 Garry Adcock/ Mark Dalton Nelson Triumph TR8 3:19:25 2:18
3 1 Stig Blomqvist/ Ana Goni Sweden / Venezuela Ford Escort RS1800 3:19:52 2:45
4 2 Joe McAndrew/ Murray Cole Wellington Honda Integra Type R 3:22:20 5:13
5 37 Stumpy Holmes/ Mike Burgess Waiuku Ford Escort MKII 3:24:54 7:47
6 3 Jimmy McRae/ Gary Smith Scotland / Hamilton Honda Integra Type R 3:25:48 8:41
7 58 Robert Murray/ Stu Jenkinson Palmerston North Mazda RX7 3:27:21 10:14
9 24 David Owen/ Paul Lindsay Christchurch Ford Escort RS2000 3:27:47 10:40
8 45 Brent Rawstron/ Ian McKee Christchurch Porsche 911 RS 3:27:56 10:49
10 10 Iain Freestone/ Rod Mclean UK Ford Escort RS2000 3:28:48 11:38
Full stage times for Leg 2 and the start order for Leg 3 www.silverfernrally.co.nz
Tomorrow's competition takes teams eventually right across to the East Coast, and features several of the longest stages in the event. The first stage, the 65km Nevis Road from Garston to Bannockburn has unfortunately been cancelled due to bad weather, snow and possible flooding. So it's straight into the Hawkesburn Road stage (17km) which finishes near Clyde at about 9.15am. From there Cars go in to Clyde town where they are allowed to service.
Then they travel north to the St Bathans area for 2 stages, the 15km St Bathans Downs at 10.30am followed by the 30km Runs Road loop at 11.10am. Then its in to the longest stage in the event at 92km's which runs down the Old Dunstan and Lake Onslow Roads to Finish near Millers Flat at about 2.15pm. With the cars starting a minute apart organisers expect the entire field of cars will be in the stage at once.
Just up the road, the 26km Three Brothers stage starts at Teviot at 3.00pm and finishes at Roxburgh East. From there it's further east to Lawrence for the start of the 44km Waipouri Rd at 4.35pm, which runs all the way to Berwick.
Dunedin Rally fans then get to see the cars in familiar surroundings of the Whare Flat stage which starts at 6.00pm, before cars service and are parked up at the Anzac St Carpark beside the historic Dunedin Railway Station.
Wednesday is a rest day for the Rally with competitors allowed to service their cars between After leaving Queenstown tomorrow morning at 7.45am the event stops in Dunedin and Christchurch before returning via Nelson to the finish in Blenheim on Saturday October 14th.
Event organisers would like to acknowledge the assistance of sponsors, Scenic Circle Hotels, Budget Rentals, Team Talk Mobile, Variety - the Children's Charity, Kea Campers New Zealand, and BP Ultimate.