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Nelson based forestry contractor Ben Hunt and co-driver Tony Rawstorn have topped the field contesting today’s third round of the Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship event – winning outright the GoPro Daybreaker Rally held in the Manawatu today.
 
Driving a Subaru STI, Hunt finished 13.1 seconds ahead of 2004 champion Chris West and Chris Cobham in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X. Third was 1999 champion Geof Argyle, with co-driver Joelle Eyre, in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 8.
 
Covering nine special stages held to the north of Feilding, the day was largely under the command of defending title champions Richard and Sara Mason of Masterton. Holding a comfortable lead heading in to the final special stage, adjacent to the township of Kimbolton, the gearbox on their Subaru STI failed leaving them stranded and out of contention.
 
Focused on finishing, Hunt emerged to cross the finish line in the town centre of Feilding as the overall winner.
 
“It’s pretty awesome alright, especially coming here to an event we’ve never done before. They are nice tight and twisty roads and probably suit our Group N specification car better than the others,” explained Hunt pre the champagne ceremony.
 
“Although we did have a few dramas throughout the day with the engine cutting out so we were glad to get to the finish and get such an awesome result.”
 
Hunt’s win elevates him to second in the overall standings on 68 points, 20 behind current leader Hayden Paddon. Mason drops to third, six points behind Hunt.
 
The opening stage took its toll on many of the 69 cars who started the day. Aside from having to carve through thickening gravel typical of the Manawatu roads, reasons for attrition varied from Alex Kelsey’s shearing of wheel studs 12km in the first stage to electrical failure in the penultimate stage by Emma Gilmour in her new generation Suzuki Swift. A total of 53 made it back to the finish – just before the clear skies turned to light rain.
 
Leading the BNT Historic Rally category and fastest two-wheel-drive car overall, Kaiapoi’s Marcus van Klink charged past his peers to put his title campaign back on track. Failing to finish the first two rounds in his Mazda RX7 today’s result pushed him closer to current leader Jeff Judd – who snapped a drive axle in the day’s first stage to end his event.
 
Returning to the series, Christchurch’s Deane Buist and co-driver Andrew Bulman finished second in their Ford Escort, to firm their second overall in the standings – 17 behind the lead of Judd on 76 points. Still in third, van Klink improved the points differential to trail by 27 points.
 
“We’re stoked,” said van Klink. It was a very good result from a very good rally. It’s good for our championship too as we’d been struggling with non-finishes and as well as being out to keep those (Ford) Escorts honest of Judd and Buist. Plus we got the ‘power stage’ too – which was a sweet bonus as we weren’t really focusing on that one.”
 
The battle between the two latest R2 specification Ford Fiesta’s swung back to Tauranga’s Phil Campbell and co-driver Venita Fabbro. Top point scoring over Christchurch’s Josh Marston and co-driver Rocky Hudson they now sit on 105 points – seven ahead of Marston. Third Fiesta, the earlier generation model, Tauranga’s David Holder and co-driver Josh Theobald finished just behind Marston.
 
Te Aroha’s Graham Featherstone and co-driver Chris Davison topped the Gull Rally Challenge feeder category in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo, putting a healthy points buffer between himself and title rival Scott Simpson and co-driver James Bee in their Mitsubishi Lancer Evo.
 
The season’s fourth of six rounds for the 2013 season returns to the South Island for the Sunday running of the Canterbury Rally on 11 August.
 
GoPro Daybreaker Rally – top ten overall results
Pos., No., Driver/Co-Driver, Hometown, Vehicle, Time
1, 2, Ben Hunt/Tony Rawstorn, Nelson, Subaru STI, 1:20:24.2
2, 3, Chris West/Chris Cobham, Timaru, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X, +13.1
3, 25, Geof Argyle/Joelle Eyre, Feilding, Mitsubishi Lancer EVO 8, +1:19.5
4, 28, Nigel Adams/Tanya Gwynne, New Plymouth, Mitsubishi Lancer EVO 5, +2:16.9
5, 26, Dylan Turner/Mark Tapper, Auckland, Mitsubishi Lancer EVO 8, +2:36.4
6, 7, Matt Summerfield/Nicole Summerfield, Rangiora, Subaru STI, +3:16.4
7, 11, Dave Strong/Kylee Smith, Auckland, Ford Fiesta S2000, +3:47.4
8, 30, Carl Davies/Tracey Lance, Waihi, Mitsubishi Lancer EVO 8, +4:08.4
9, 9, Graham Featherstone/Chris Davison, Te Aroha, Mitsubishi Lancer EVO, +4:16.0
10, 6, Matt Jansen/Grant Marra, Christchurch, Subaru STI, +4:20.1
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