Is buoyed by changes to his car
Conditions were extreme in last Saturday’s Rally of Waitomo – hail heavy rain, wet road surfaces – but they were just what former NZ champion Chris West wanted.
West contested the rally to test some new Yokohama tyres and work on a wet weather set-up for the Andrew Simms Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9 going into the next round of the NZ Rally Championship at Hawke’s Bay.
The icing on the cake was coming away with a rally win that was made sweeter on Sunday when it was announced that he and NZRC points leader Hayden Paddon would get the two Repco scholarship prizes of entries into the Production World Rally Championship section of next month’s Rally of New Zealand. “We had two really good days,” West said. “The whole emphasis on Saturday [the Waitomo Rally] was that it was simply a chance to test the tyres that we were given as part of our support from Yokohama.
“The main focus of the weekend was to try to get a set-up in the car that was suitable for damp conditions and make it all work.
“And on achieving some grip to get some speed which we were lacking in Otago (Round 2 of the NZRC).”
West says the team achieved what it set out to do at Waitomo. “We now have a fairly good package to go to the next round, and I feel a lot better with what I did. I felt as if it all worked really well.”
West says it was hard to gauge how well the changes worked in comparison with his NZRC rivals Paddon, who finished second in Waitomo, and Richard Mason who came home fourth. Both rivals were working on their own test programmes with Mason co-driven by his engine builder and chassis engineer, Dwight Scott, in place of his regular navigator, his wife Sara.
West said he enjoyed the whole aspect of competing in a Rally Xtreme round. “It gave us the opportunity to service after each special stage [Waitomo allowed roadside servicing in place of the usual central service park which cars visit usually after two or more stages run back-to-back].
“That meant we could make changes to the car after every stage, for better or worse.”
West said that though the weather was “pretty extreme – there was flooding and hail at one stage, and they probably weren’t nice for the service and timing crews – for what we wanted to achieve the weather was perfect.
“But certainly they were testing conditions weather-wise, that’s for sure.
“We’re pretty happy with what we achieved and to win was an added bonus but it wasn’t a priority.
“We didn’t go there with the intention of winning; it was just a chance to find a suitable set-up and get an idea of where we were going [chassis-wise].”
West is excited at the prospect of pitting himself against the PWRC regulars in Rally NZ. “I was given the same opportunity in 2006 but wasn’t able to finish the rally.”
West says he’s very happy to have another opportunity to go out and represent New Zealand at the top level. He says he came away from the weekend with some really good ideas to use on the Lancer at Hawke’s Bay, and he’s planning a private test session during the week before the end-of-July rally. “We know where we’re heading.”
The data he gained last weekend and the ideas he’ll try in the test day, “will put us in good shape for Hawke’s Bay.”
West won the Waitomo Rally by 30 seconds from Paddon, with Glenn Inkster third in his Evo 6.5 Lancer.