Fortunes swung either way on the second day of Rally Otago for two of the Vantage Aluminium New Zealand Rally Championship drivers. Chris West led the rally throughout the final day despite struggling with grip and car set-up, only to be thwarted on the final stage when he lost a wheel, promoting Dean Sumner to the top of the podium
“I can’t believe it,” Sumner said. “As soon as we saw Westy on that stage, we thought we might be in with a chance but we weren’t sure whether Emma (Gilmour) had got in front.”
The Rotorua driver eased into the rally, gaining more and more confidence in his ITM Evo IX over the two-day event.
Consistent times enabled Richard Mason to take top NZRC points on Day 2 to sit second for the weekend. Suspension problems on his BNT Subaru plagued Mason most of the weekend.
“We only won one stage in the entire rally. You’ve just got to keep going,” Mason said.
Patrick Malley had a bit of trouble committing to his pace notes through the stages surrounding Middlemarch but managed to hold off a charge from Emma Gilmour to finish third.
“So many hits and near misses; we’re lucky to be here as much as glad,” Drury-based Malley said. “We’re gutted for Westy, if anyone deserves to get a result it’s him.”
Open Class 4WD driver Andrew Hawkeswood was gunning for West in the overall standings until he took out a stump on special stage 14, seriously damaging the front of his Mitsubishi Evo VIII. This left Geof Argyle and his ailing Evo VII atop class points.
“Once we’ve sorted out the engine, we can start challenging for round wins,” said Argyle.
Stephen Barker (pictured) cleaned up both days in Group N 2WD and looked relieved back at the Dunedin Octagon.
“I can go home and stop stressing about how it’s going to go now,” he said.
The brakes in Matt Summerfield’s Skoda Fabia decided enough was enough on the last stage of the day, but a comfortable lead earned him a win in the Kiwi 2 category.
Regan Ross enjoyed a thrilling battle in the Dunlop International Classic Rally and collected full points for NZRC Historic Challenge in the process.
The Vantage Aluminium New Zealand Rally Championship now prepares for the 40th Rally New Zealand, where competitors will be able to compare themselves to the world’s best in Auckland over 7-9 May.
RALLY OTAGO - CLASS RESULTS
NZ Gold Star Rally Driver – Group N:
1 Dean Sumner 2 Richard Mason 3 Patrick Malley
Group N 4WD (as above)
Group N 2WD and NZ Fiesta Sporting Trophy
1 Stephen Barker 2 Ben Hunt 3 Dermott Malley
Open Class 4WD
1 Geof Argyle 2 Marcus Van Klink 3 Andrew Hawkeswood
1 Matt Summerfield 2 Reg Cook
1 Regan Ross 2 Jeff Judd 3 Ron Davey