Christchurch based rally driver Chris West is already looking to the future after a good effort ended in retirement at the Rally Of Whangarei this weekend
West, the defending champion at the event, was on track for a top result when the diff failed in his Castrol/Exide Lancer in the thirteenth of the 16 special stages. At the time he was third amongst the Vantage Aluminium Joinery 2009 NZ Rally Championship contenders after finishing fourth overall on the opening day.
"Unfortunate" was how West, the 2004 National Rally Champion summed up the event. "We were in for a good result but it just wasn't meant to be. However that is part of it all."
West had taken third place on the second day's championship classification when he moved ahead of Emma Gilmour on Special Stage 11. He maintained position on the following stage but the diff failed without warning on Stage 13. It was a double blow as rally leader Richard Mason retired on the same stage meaning West and co-driver Chris Cobham would have inherited another place but for their own problem.
"The car was as good as could be expected," said Chris as he contemplated the weekend shortly after the finish. "Compared with the pace and the machinery the front guys have got we are happy with where we are."
With a limited amount of soft to medium compound Yokohama tyres available the team decided to make some sacrifices. "We thought we had better opportunities with tyres on Sunday rather than Saturday. We saved the best till last and were confident of the afternoon stages. We were in good position to race Emma (Gilmour) to the finish and then the diff let go."
On the opening day of the rally West had finished fourth with a series of top four stage times. Westy identified a couple of small issues on the opening day that had proved quite costly however. After finishing second on the opening stage, tyre problems on the second and intercom failure on the third dropped West and Cobham back to fifth. After that he was never outside the top four on any stage to finish fourth for the day.
The following day he was again to the fore on every stage until the disappointment of the diff failure.
West leaves Whangarei fifth overall in the championship but the Castrol/Exide Lancer has now been sold and he is looking to the future. "The car has served it's purpose despite suffering some small issues. We are looking at the options for the rest of the season but we need to look at long-term opportunities. We have to look very carefully and prepare more for the future."