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Clean sweep of North by West


Auckland rally driver Chris West fought back from being disqualified from the first two rounds of the 2006 Parker Enzed New Zealand Rally Championship to win last weekend’s Rally Whangarei.

The Subaru Impreza WRX STi driver was excluded from the first two rounds – at Dunedin and Rotorua – after his team broke an officially-applied engine seal without gaining permission from MotorSport New Zealand technical officers.

West won both legs of Rally Whangarei last weekend – the seven special stage rally on Saturday and the rallysprint at Paparoa on Sunday.

West’s exclusion from the first two rounds and accompanying loss of point has effectively put him out of contention for this year’s title. The team’s engine builder had broken the seal affixed to the Impreza’s motor by MotorSport NZ (MNZ) technical officers.

The motor had failed at Rotorua and needed to be rebuilt before the Whangarei event. The engine builder had unsuccessfully tried to contact MNZ’s technical department and decided to go ahead with stripping the engine, breaking the seal to do so.
The penalty for breaking a seal without an MNZ official present is exclusion.

“Winning today can’t make up for what’s happened,” West said on Saturday night.
“It was an unfortunate error. The team removed the seals to fix the motor (but) without going through the proper procedure. It’s history now. We’ve just got to get on
with competing.”
West said he hadn’t needed any more motivation to win. “It’s taken us a couple of rallies to get the car going properly (and) now it’s working really well.”

West led home fellow 2006 model WRX STi driver Sam Murray in Saturday’s seven-stage rally.
Reigning champio
n and 2006 series points leader Richard Mason finished third after a fightback drive in the ex-Cameron Bates 2001 model WRX.

West finished one minute 9.5 seconds ahead of Murray. Mason was 8.6 seconds behind the Manawatu driver after pushing hard to close the gap. Mason lost all chance of victory after puncturing a tyre part-way through the opening 48km stage on Saturday morning. He lost more than 73 seconds.

West’s only real “moment” came near the end of Special Stage 5 when he slid wide on a corner, hitting a bank and ripping off the rear bumper and damaging the right-rear suspension.

He said road conditions had been tricky. “Sometimes the grip is really good and then it’s slippery. I just misjudged the braking for a corner and we went into a culvert.”
Emma Gilmour (WRX) finished fourth behind Mason after a day-long battle with fellow Subaru runner Todd Bawden.

Mitsubishi’s flag was flown highest by Dean Sumner who brought his Lancer Evo home sixth. Behind him, after a consistent day in the top 10 was Glenn Smith in an Impreza WRX.
Lancer Evo 9 driver Brett Martin was eighth, ahead of the similarly-mounted Dylan Turner.

Rookie championship contender Hayden Paddon completed the top 10.
James Holder won the Kiwi 2 class on Saturday with a spectacular drive in the final special stage. The Toyota Corolla driver had been pushing hard to keep Nick Marshall’s Peugeot 106 Maxi at bay and began to encounter dust left hanging in the air by the car ahead, the Honda Jazz Type R driven by class leader Aaron Cook.

When the dust got steadily thicker Holder knew he was catching the Honda and put the hammer down. He was just a few hundred metres behind the Jazz at the end of the stage, and had done enough to take the class win. 

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