Argyle wins 2012 Rally Xtreme in New Zealand
- 15th October 2012, 8:37am
After 5 events, 42 special stages, and 685km of competition, the first year of the Total Lubricants Rally Xtreme Challenge has been a fight right to the end, where consistency over the entire series has seen a wide variety of machinery and drivers populate the top 10 places on points. With every class represented at the top of the leaderboard.
With the prediction of drama leading into the final event at the Rally of the North, it was to be the added complication of the weather that saw the end of season event test the crews over the final 180km of special stages.
Despite the heavy rain and wind providing difficult driving conditions on the back roads around Paihia, the fight for the rally was between Stewart Taylor and defending rally winner Dylan Turner as they enthralled the spectators in their ding dong battle. That was until Taylor managed to extract a lead late in the day and take a relatively comfortable win, his third win of the season.
Despite winning each rally he entered, Taylor wasn’t in overall contention for the challenge, having missed two rounds. That battle was between Geof Argyle and Graham Featherstone as they started the event on equal points.
Initially the die looked to be cast when Featherstone had a slow start, however Argyle was in trouble by the first service break when he encountered problems with the centre diff in his Evo 8. This changed the complexion of the event as Argyle moved into conservation mode and Featherstone started to play catch up.
Of the chasing pack, potentially within striking distance of these two, it was only Neil Marshall who was having any impact. That was despite him having a turbo problem early on, and the resulting slow stage times dropping down the rally leaderboard. Still, a top 5 finish gave Marshall enough points to jump into third for the series.
That was at the expense of the Escort mounted Craig Stevens, who was out of the Paihia rally early with engine problems, meaning that he had to settle for the class win in the series.
Back at the top, Agryle still had enough of a pace, driving around his mechanical issues, to take third in the rally. The resulting points haul enough to push him 6 points clear of Featherstone and take the overall Total Lubricants Rally Xtreme Challenge title.
Featherstone proved that with consistency and reliability you don’t need the big budgets and flash toys to be competitive over a series. His second place a fantastic result for someone, who at the start of the season, wasn’t considered by many to be a contender.
With excellent results later in the season, Marshall was able to just pip Clinton Cunningham by 5 points to take the third position. However with Cunningham using an older Evo 4, compared to the newer model Evo 7 and 8s in front of him, Cunningham was still able to celebrate his class win, in taking out the XT1 Pre-2000 4WD trophy.
The XT 1 class was the most tightly contested class of the season, with only a few points between the top 3. However Matthew Jensen unfortunately finished the season the way he started, with mechanical problems, despite a real show of speed in the middle of the year. Those problems keeping him second in class, with Quentin Palmer having amassed enough points earlier in the year to take third.
The Club 4WD class saw good competition at the Rally of the North, with Gareth McLachlan, Marty Smith and Simon Bell all fighting for position. Despite McLachlan striking problems, in the end the Chellenge result was never in doubt as McLachlan was well ahead on points over Smith and then Bell.
Unusually in XT3 – Open 2WD all three of the front runners struck trouble at Paihia, meaning that it was status quo, and Craig Stevens took a well deserved win over Tony McConachy, with Chris Alexander retaining third, despite needing two different cars to do it in.
Another of the talking points for the season has been the speed shown by Paul de Rose in his Mitsi Mirage. The hands down winner of XT4 – Club 2WD he also amassed enough points to be 6th overall, again showing it’s how you drive it that counts. Second went to Lyndsay Homes, while Kevin Preest jumped into third.
All though the season, the crowds had been cheering on Jeff Judd as he used his side windows more than the windscreen with his spectacular sideways style. Having won the Classic Class at every rally he entered, the south island based Judd had opted not to contest the final round at Paihia. A spirited effort by Roger Goss to make up the points needed wasn’t to be and problems at Paihia saw him fall 10 points short. Meaning that Judd takes the Classic title and Goss remained the runner up. Michael Bunyard retained third after a very up and down season for him.
At the start of this year, the organisers of the Total Lubricants Rally Xtreme Challenge wanted to get as many people out competing, at a level that was affordable for them, and in a series that shows the depth and variety of machinery and drivers we have in the country.
The end result is that these goals have been achieved and a closely contested series has kept spectators interested and drivers enthused. Modest cars and previously low key drivers have risen to the top, to upset some of the early predictions, making for many of the talking points over the season.
While this first season has been mission achieved, it is now onto building the Rally Xtreme Challenge for next year and beyond.
Full results and points are available at www.chrissport.co.nz
Photo by Geoff Ridder
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