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WRC high-paced for Stumpy Holmes


Back home after time behind the wheel, Waiuku's Stumpy Holmes completed his paid drive in the Japanese round of the WRC, finishing 52nd in a Subaru Impreza.

"We did alright considering we had four punctures," started Stumpy.

Heading for Japan a week early to test the 2004 Subaru Impreza offered by Japanese businessman Mr Koizumi, Stumpy spent four hours getting a feel for the Group N package on roads in Hokkaido.

Kept busy for the duration of the visit, numerous meet and greet sessions filled in the opening week: "It was pretty much a real eye opener - we arrived at Tokyo on Saturday and had dinner with one of the Streetlife owners that I helped coach in 1998. He heard I was coming over and wanted to have a traditional Japanese dinner."

Stumpy's co-driver Garry Cowan departed from the finish ramp at the Wairarapa NZRC event straight for the Palmerston North airport, leaving Auckland early Monday morning.

"Garry was pretty knackered when he arrived in. He left at 8:15pm Monday morning and got to the hotel in Japan at 12:30pm Monday night."

Straight in to the event on the Tuesday morning, two days of reconnaissance put Stumpy in the deep end.

"It was the first time for me to write pace notes by myself (from scratch) so that was pretty exciting. They were the roughest roads I've ever driven on, unbelievably soft and the corners were all knackered - it was just mind blowing how deep the ruts were."

Starting the three-day rally, Stumpy was surprised at how fast the pace of his peers was compared to when he last competed against them.

"I knew I was going to be rusty, but just couldn't get over how rapid Dean Herridge and the top Japanese drivers like Taguchi were. Back in 2001 Taguchi and I would have a comfortable battle with each other but now he's 2s/km faster."

"It's just mileage I suppose."

"But it was very very enjoyable. I'm glad I went after being asked three times - finally I have fulfilled my dream."

With a soft handling car for the first stage Stumpy had to pull back his opening pace to keep the car from 'swapping ends'.

"I hardened the suspension for the second stage and we were away."

"On the way to stage three we found the right rear was going flat, so we quickly changed it. The stage was the first of the very narrow ones - that was pretty hard, and I got my butt kicked though there."

"In the fourth stage the car felt very very gutless and I said to Garry I thought we may have a flat. We pulled in to little side road and by the time we changed that the third car had gone past."

"On the second run of the first stage we were much faster; I'd had a play with the suspension on the way to the stage and it transformed the car - it stayed in the ruts and went really good."

"Then on the eighth stage we got about 15km in and punctured at an intersection. I said to Garry 'you wouldn't believe we've got another puncture."

Talking of the new publicity stage built for the 2006 event Stumpy described how un-forgiving it was for a number of cars who tested prior to the event.
"It was the tightest stage I have ever been on. They made it out of concrete with fine gravel on top - heaps of Armco - and the jump was one of the steepest I've come across. You pretty much come up to the jump in 3rd, lift off as you go to leave the ground, land, hard on the brakes, handbrake on, in to first for the corner and off."

"The final result for that stage put us third to last. We went from 65th on the road right back to around 90th. That night Garry and I virtually didn't talk; we just joked about going to the airport and heading home."

"On the Saturday we tried to pull some stuff out of the bag - and ended up 12 places ahead."

"On Sunday the next car in front was 1min ahead, with other cars a consistent 40-50s ahead from each other. We pulled another 10 places and finished with our team manager saying we were 47th."

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