Nicholas Box and Julian Wright have both let their championship aspirations be known after tasting victory in the WARC and 2WD sections respectively at an eventful Donnelly Rally on the weekend.

After becoming a Dad just weeks before the rally started, Box joked that he had only had time to wash the car in preparation for the event, but with all jokes and children aside, he stepped up when it counted and took the rally win after a long and intense battle with championship leader Leigh Hynes.

“It was a very tight battle with Leigh - to the point where the long stages had just one second in it,” Box said. “It was an intense battle and it came down to if you made a mistake you were nowhere.”

“But on the last stage it was a big push, made a big effort and that’s when we took Leigh,” he said.

“He was leading by two seconds but it was a 29km stage at night. He had consistently been taking a bit of time off me through a couple of previous stages so I decided to step it up a notch on the big stage in the dark and show him how it is done.”

In second place in the WARC and with stealing the title from Hynes a clear possibility, Box was candid when asked about how he’ll approach the championship-deciding Carrington Safari Rally in October.

“We’ll see what Leigh brings to the table and we will serve up something to suit,” he said.

“I have never driven as fast in my life as I did in Donnelly and I have never had to try so hard so Leigh certainly pushed me and from what he said to me, I certainly pushed him and that is what it’s all about.”

Julian Wright won the state 2WD section despite trailing Geoff Leatt-Hayter for most of the event and inheriting the lead on one particularly muddy corner on the last stage and now sits in second place in the 2WD state championship

“We nearly went off the road at that spot in the recce, we almost went off the road in the first pass through so on the second run through we knew it was going to be pretty treacherous so we went through there at crawling pace.“

“We only just made it around that corner and when we got to the end we were pretty stoked because the conditions were pretty treacherous and we pulled up and noticed that Geoff hadn’t pulled up behind us.”

Leatt-Hayter said his Mark II Ford Escort performed well at Donnelly after some upgrades since the last event but that he made a mistake on the last stage that handed the victory to Wright.

“We had a very good front end and the car was developed a little more between the rallies; new gearbox, new differentials and new suspension and it all worked well on the weekend,” Leatt-Hayter said.

“But I hit a very muddy section of clay on the last stage and it slid wide and I went off the side of the road and I just got bogged,” he said.  “I just couldn’t get out – I was leading the state 2WD championship at the time but I just went from hero to zero.”
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