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Round one of the Total Lubricants Rally Xtreme Challenge looked to be straight forward, on paper that is. The Tomoana Warehousing Rally Hawkes Bay was 133km over well known stages, including Cricklewood, Hereheretau, and Mohaka Coach Road, combined with 3 service opportunities. But the reality turned out to be a little different, and as the stages mounted up so did the retirement list.

Unfortunately the highly anticipated debut of Alex Kelsey’s mad creation Peugeot only lasted 17km as electrical issues forced him to tour the last 10km of stage 1. However when it was going on song, it looked to have every bit of the potential it is promising.

Meanwhile Nigel Adams flew through stage 1 to sit 3rd, only for the front diff to cut him short in stage 2. Dave Strong had the new V6 engine fitted to his Fiesta and it sounded good, for the two stages it contested. Then Dylan Turner’s day was stopped by a fence post, while Tony McConachy’s debut in 4WD also only last three stages. Then Brain Green’s season of discontent continued with a suspected broken rear diff in stage 4.

Back at the front of the field it was rally sponsor and local speed demon Stewart Taylor who grabbed the lead. Only for Patrick Malley to show how potent his Peugeot 208 is straight out of the container. By the second service break these two were tied for the lead. The chasing pack was already over a minute behind, as Neil Marshall and Graham Featherstone were locked in their own battle. They in turn were just 25 seconds ahead of the next group, where incredibly Geof Argyle, Lee Robson, and Clinton Cunningham were all tied for 5th.

Unfortunately for Malley, gearbox issues stopped him from mounting a serious challenge in the closing stages, but with Taylor having some minor issues of his own the gap stabilised at around 15 seconds. And that’s how it stayed. Taylor taking a hat trick of wins, to show mastery of his home event.

Marshall pulled away from Featherstone to take a fine third place, while Argyle overcame intercom and tyre issues to battle back and push Featherstine hard. In the end it was Featherstone’s love of seal on the penultimate stage that saw him nose in front for 4th, with Argyle 5th.

The $500 cash for the Pyroclassic Fire Places Power Stage was contested by the XT1 class at this event. And a resurgent Nigel Adams had rejoined, to take the prize by 16 seconds over Lee Robson.

Taking the Brian Green Property Group “Driver of the Rally” was Taylor Radovan. Despite it being the first ever rally for both him and co-driver Tony Kenrick, they showed a lot of spirit to take on 4wd and Rally Xtreme in their first attempt.

In the classes it was Clinton Cunningham who retained the XT1 win, despite big problems and time loss in stage 5. Graeme Eagles lead from start to finish in XT2, while Anthony Jones showed a clean pair of heels in XT3. Ric Chalmers made the most of his first event in Rally Xtreme and claimed a fine win in XT4.

And now it is onto Round Two of the challenge as the teams head down the east coast to the Trusthouse Racetech Rally Wairarapa. With only 4 weeks to prepare, the teams will be working hard to get rid of the gremlins.


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