Damage caused by the violent storm which lashed the North Island yesterday and overnight caused the cancellation of Leg 2 of the Hawke's Bay Rally on safety grounds.
Flooding on the road between Napier and Wairoa and the fear of other storm damage led the organisers of the Hawke’s Bay Rally to call off the second leg of the event this morning, on police advice.
At the time the first cars were due to leave the startline in Napier, the main road to Wairoa was flooded and impassable in the wake of the storm which lashed northern and eastern parts of the North Island yesterday and overnight.
There were also slips and debris on other sections of road between the two towns; the Hawke’s Bay Rally uses roads around the northern Bay settlement of Wairoa.
There was also the possibility of snow on higher sections of the rally route, trees brought down across forestry tracks and the possibility that the Three Bridges stage near Hastings would be under water.
At the urging of the police the second leg was cancelled.
Worst affected was double NZ champion Richard Mason who retired from yesterday’s first leg after his BNT Subaru Impreza WRX STi broke its front differential in Special Stage 5.
With the cancellation of today’s leg Mason comes away from Hawke’s Bay with no points and is fifth on points, 67 behind series leader Hayden Paddon.
His hopes of securing a third title now look slender and from this point on Paddon or second on points Chris West would have to have major problems in the remaining two rounds, Rally NZ and the Nelson Rally.
Paddon won yesterday’s first leg in Hawke’s Bay, from West and Stewart Taylor, all three in Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9s.
They’re in that order in the championship too, with Paddon on 196, West on 167 and Taylor – who hadn’t even planned to contest the 2008 series – third on 139.
Taylor entered the opening round at Wairarapa on a whim, secured a good result which saw him enter round two in Otago where he repeated his third place finish.
Brett Martin, also in an Evo 9, is fourth in the series standings, on 134, five points ahead of Mason.
Dean Sumner (Evo 9) completes the top six, with 98 points.