Rotorua's Dean Sumner was one of 44 starters in this years WRC round, The Propecia Rally New Zealand.
With Rally headquarters moved to Mystery Creek, Hamilton; spectators could see the service crews working on the cars and also see the drivers in action on the Special stage. It was out on the narrow gravel roads Special stages though the Waikato and northern King country that provided a spectacular backdrop for the penultimate round in the years World Championship.
Sumner driving the ITM Rally team Evo 8, entered what is his 3rd New Zealand WRC event. The previous two outings going no further than stage one. The 2006 round though was to be different, coming in off a win in the Nelson Rally back in September, Sumner and experienced co-driver Paul Fallon started stage one quietly confident of a better result this year. At stage end they were lying in 4th spot in the N class kiwi drivers, with Sumner relishing the tricky condition. The WRC cars had been through the stages first, and had cut out the apex of the corners. This had the effect of dragging the sticky yet slippery clay out onto the racing line, making it very slippery for those following. The strategy for the rally was to go hard on day 1, consolidate on day 2 and make sure that they got home on day 3.
Day 2 saw the worst of the weather with the second special stage of the day, Klondyke, seeing the demise of no fewer than 7 drivers. The wet and slippery conditions proving to much to handle for some. Sumner moved up into 2nd Kiwi after having a bit of a battle with Hawke's Bay's Stuart Taylor, managed to pull out another 45seconds on one stage.
Day 3 took the field down south of Raglan with the tight and scenic Whanga coast road being used twice during the course of the day. Patchy rain again made for slippery conditions and lack of grip showing through in the afternoon final stage.
Back to Mystery Creek for the final time check with ITM Rally team Mitsubishi of Dean Sumner's coming home 4th in the group N class and second Kiwi in the field.
Sumner commented that "It's an endurance race as much as it is a race against the clock. The car went really well, our tyre choice was good, Geof Argyle Rallysport had prepared the car and done a great job. We are really happy with how things went, it is the longest and hardest rally I've ever done. Paul (Fallon) and I learned more in this one rally than we did all season, the WRC is a huge step up, it's faster and the world's best drivers are taking part".
Sumner would like to thank ITM, Gib, Marley and Mitsubishi for their support for the event.