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Dylan Turner has made a flying start to the opening round of the Total Lubricants Rally Xtreme Challenge, with Round 1 sponsored by Team Ralliart Mitsubishi Motorsports. However his winning margin of just 3 seconds over Sloan Cox meant that it was a tight fight for the lead of the MTA Rally of Maramarua.

The sprint nature of the event, with nine relatively short stages of varying configurations around the Maramarua forest, provided challenging conditions with a mix of fast open sections leading to rougher areas that tested driver and machinery.

After winning the opening stage, Cox was caught out when he overshot a junction and had trouble to get going again. That promoted defending Challenge champion Geoff Argyle to the lead, and into a battle with Turner.

After Turner put in some flying stage times, his cause was further helped when Argyle suffered electrical problems and dropped back. But Turner wasn’t to have things all his own way as Cox battled back and put in stage winning times to reel in Turner. However Cox’s late charge wasn’t quite enough, where the 18 seconds he did make up still left him 3 seconds shy of the winning podium.

With others striking problems, Argyle buttoned off to hold onto third, 1 minute 49 seconds ahead of Ben Thomasen in fourth.

The XT1 Pre-2000 4WD class was initially a close contest, however initial leader Nigel Adams had mechanical problems and withdrew, leaving Lee Robson to take a well driven 5th overall and first in class. Quentin Palmer was bumped up to 2nd when Clinton Cunningham hit a rock and suffered suspension damage, limping home to still finish third.

Before his retirement, Nigel Adams did manage to earn $500 cash for his troubles, winning the Rally Drive NZ “Power Stage”, where the cash prize was contested by drivers in the XT1 class at this event.

XT2 Club 4WD was an easy win for Cameron Young, over Marty Smith and Alan Smith.

The battle for top 2WD honours looked to be in the bag for Grant Liston in his Honda Integra, establishing a 40 sec lead at one point. However problems in the last two stages allowed Phil Campbell in his R2 Fiesta to close in fast. Fortunately for Liston his earlier buffer proved valuable and he managed to retain the class win by just 10 seconds over Campbell. Behind these two Dave Strong in his Civic had also sniffed an opportunity and he put in some top stage times to close in on Campbell, ending just 9 seconds down on his target to take third.

The XT4 Club 4WD class saw one of the stand out drives of the event, earning Mike Goldsbury the Brian Green Properties Driver of the Rally award. In just his second rally ever, he piloted his DX Corolla to finish 18th overall and take the class win by just over a minute from Lyndsay Homes. 17 year old Max Bayley took out a fine third in class.

The classics saw drama early on after Lee Stringer shot to the lead on stage one, only to fall back to 4th on the very next stage. That meant that Mark Parsons took the lead in his Triumph TR7 for the majority of the event. Stringer wasn’t about to give up though, and a series of class wining stage times in the Lancer EX saw him make up a 2 minute deficit to pip Parsons for the win on the very last stage. Roger Goss took third in his RX3.

This first round of the Challenge was also successful for the Make-a-Wish Foundation, where $920 was raised at the charity auction after the event. “It was a great start to our fundraising”, says Tanya Gwynne, “It certainly brought out a competitive spirit with the drivers trying to outbid each other”.

The next round now moves to the east coast, and 130km of competition at the Tomoana Warehousing Rally Hawkes Bay on 2 June.
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