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There may have been a solar eclipse over New Zealand today, but that didn’t dim the competition in the epay Silver Fern Rally. Clearing skies and drying roads provided ideal conditions as the crews bid the Silver Frond competitors a fond farewell.

Heading from Napier to Feilding, via the back roads of Waipukurau and Pongaroa, the competition was red hot, especially as Jeff Judd, Neil Allport, and Geoff Portman were in catch up mode, and they set about recording the fastest stage times of the day in the Historic Trophy.

In fact things were going very well for the rally crews, with few problems. That is until they hit the two biggest tests of the day, and then the flood gates opened. Graham Samuel and Brent Rawstron had continued their toe to toe battle from yesterday, only for both of them to fall off the road in the same stage, and they dropped 6 places instantly.

Then it was the demanding 43km of Stage 27 that had the most impact on the leader board. Historic Trophy leader Shane Murland went too fast into a corner and spun backwards into a ditch. He wasn’t able to continue until a local farmer pulled him free, loosing 6min in the process and dropping him to 2nd. Then third placed Vince Bristow managed to find too much of the scenery, breaking a steering arm in the process, and he plummeted to 10th.

The result being that Dean Buist now leads, with Murland almost 4min behind. UK resident Grant Shand inherits 3rd while it is the barn storming Allport who has moved his Mk1 Escort from 10th at the start of the day to sit comfortably in 4th. Rounding out the top 5 is Christophe Jacob from Belgium.

Over in the Silver Fern Challenge the dramas almost mirrored the Historic Trophy. In this case it was Stage 26 that caused the problems, when Brent Taylor clipped a bank and bent his steering. He managed to carry on, but a stage maximum time and a penalty for being 30 minutes late to the next stage start while repairs were made, saw a driver who was rather upset with himself. He then went on to win the next stage by over a minute. Dave Strong was the next casualty when his gearbox gremlins returned, and he was sidelined while repairs were made, dropping to 9th in the process.

In the meantime Brian Stokes continues to dominate the Challenge field, now with a massive 22min 46sec lead over Chris Woudenberg in an AE86 Corolla. Taylor’s problems see him drop to third, a minute and a half behind Woudenberg, with Leigh Marston in the R2 Fiesta moving up to 4th, but now only 24sec off Taylor.

With the crews now enjoying the motor racing mecca that is Manfeild, unfortunately they will be racing out of Feilding before Prince Charles gets a chance to catch them when he visits the area tomorrow.

However Day 5 will be providing the biggest test of the entire event. Although only 5 stages long, it contains 202km of competition, and the massive 74.12km long Turakina Loop. This will likely see stage times in excess of an hour, through the very tight and twisty gravel west of Hunterville, before a well earned rest at Ohakune.


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