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The fourth round of the Total Lubricants Rally Xtreme Challenge, supported by Ralliart Mitsubishi Motorsport, turned out to be more of a challenge than many thought. Abrasive roads that contributed to high tyre wear, and a tight technical course, saw many having to modify their attack on the fly.

As expected, it was the ones who could adapt to the Vinz Goldrush Rally of Coromandel fastest who shone through at the end, where it quickly became a battle of experience versus enthusiasm.

First points in the battle went to the enthusiasm of Alex Kelsey in his Mad Creation Peugeot, however that wasn’t to last and a misfire in stage 3 saw him sidelined. That allowed the experience of Geof Argyle and Graham Featherstone to come to the fore, with the enthusiasm of Carl Davies, Nigel Adams, and Phil Campbell just seconds away.

When Featherstone punctures in stage 4 it leaves Argyle out in front, with the chasing pack three quarters of a minute behind. Into the second loop of the stages, where there is just 15 seconds covering second to fifth, it is Campbell who has pushed ahead of Davies. As Davies exits the stage complaining of overheating issues and a suspected blown head gasket, Featherstone’s earlier time loss sees him in close battle with Adams.

While Campbell proceeds to consolidate his second place the battle then focuses on third. Adams makes his move in stage 6 and jumps up two places to third. But with Davies just 3.6 seconds back, he returns serve in stage 8 to now lead Adams by 0.2 of a second. It all comes down to the last stage, and at 1.17kms long it is all or nothing. On the tarmac streets of Whitianga it may have been Adams with a perceived advantage, but Davies is in no mood to give in. A flying lap sees him complete the test ahead of Adams to take the final podium spot, by just 1.1 seconds overall.

In the end it is the experience of Argyle that wins through, taking both the outright rally win and Rally Xtreme by just over a minute to Campbell. Argyle having well and truly killed off his gremlins from earlier in the season, after some hard work by his team between events.

Campbell enjoys the fruits of a new drive train and records his best result, but it is the enthusiastic drive of Carl Davies, to press on despite a suspect head gasket and take third in the dying stages, who is awarded the Brian Green Property Group Driver of the Rally.

Adams shows he isn’t just a tarmac specialist to take fourth, only 1.1 seconds behind Davies, with Featherstone 14.2 seconds further back in fifth.

The XT1 class for pre-2000 4WD cars sees Lee Robson and Clinton Cunningham locked in battle for most of the day, with less than 10 seconds separating them. A lunge in the penultimate stage sees Cunningham move ahead by 0.2 seconds, but Robson fights back in the last to retake the position. With Adams taking the class win, it is Robson and then Cunningham in the minor money.

XT2 for Club 4WD was the feature class for the Pyroclassic Fires Power Stage. A determined drive by the father daughter team of Marty and Kylee Smith sees them take the cash prize and also the class win, ahead of Alan Smith.

The fight for two wheel drive was also a fight between two classic cars in the XT3 Open 2WD class. Anthony Jones took his Escort to a flying start, but he was slowly reeled in by Marcus van Klink, who was back in his Mazda RX7 for this event. As the gap between the two got down below 20 seconds, Jones found an extra jot of speed and stabilised the losses. That let Jones retain the class win with van Klink second. Young Max Bayley didn’t have such an enjoyable day in his Fiesta and he finished well back in third.

However Bayley did manage to collect maximum points in the Te Rapa Automotive Junior Driver challenge. A tight fight with Tyson Jemmett all rally saw these two just 0.2 seconds apart in stage 7. When Bayley pushed hard in stage 8 his lead increased to 5.3 seconds, only for Jemmett to come back again in the last test. Despite this last gasp effort Bayley managed to hold on by 1.3 seconds, with Jemmett second. However Jemmett did take consolation in winning the XT4 Club 2WD class.

And now the crews have a seven week break to prepare for the final round at the Tanoa Paihia Hotel Rally of the North, where there is everything still to play for. With 20 bonus points given to all competitors at the final round, and all drivers able to drop their worst result, the fight for the overall title and the class titles are all still wide open. It will be the closest finish to a Rally Xtreme season yet.

Full results are available at chrissport.co.nz

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