More new talent shows up at Mt Thomas Sprint
The running of the Autosport Club’s Mt Thomas Gravel Sprint in New Zealand saw 37 drivers turn out and some new talent introduced to the sport.
A new road first used last year to popular acclaim was run again, providing a constantly twisting course that climbs then drops down into a gully, before climbing again and then dropping back down to the finish line. The only straight of any length runs steep downhill into a tricky section with drops both sides, making that a place where time can be made by the very brave.
Matt Summerfield in his Subaru Impreza was expected to set the pace given his experience at NZRC level and the substantial rally miles he has built up over nearly 10 years. But it was Dave Quantock who set the early pace, ahead of Summerfield.
In third early on, Job Quantock was the only other driver to go under 3 minutes in run one, in the Evo 7 he shared with Dave Quantock. Stu Webber made a rare appearance in his ex-Possum Bourne Prodrive Impreza and sat fourth to start, with a high 3.01.
Rob McCallum was also running a hot pace in his Duratec powered, 6 speed sequential Mk2 Escort, to be a couple of tenths behind Webber and out on his own in the 2WD class at the start of the day,
Runs two and three saw Mike Tall enter the battle at the front in his Evo 4 powered Mirage. Tall would go into run four with the lead, holding a slender margin over Summerfield and Job Quantock, with Dave Quantock and Stu Weeber still in the front running action.
Richard Baddock was also in with a chance, share driving Sean Haggerty’s less developed WRX.
The fourth run at Mt Thomas threw the cards back in the air. Matt Summerfield did the job expected of him to win the event outright in a time of 2.44:59. Jumping up to take second was Matt Penrose in his WRX, just 1.5 seconds off the win. Penrose had been near the front pace, but outside the top 6 until the last run.
Job Quantock got the final podium spot, getting knocked over by Penrose by just 5/100ths. Tall was pushed back to fourth, proving the level of competition in the front group. Weeber would take fifth, followed by Baddock, then Dave Quantock.
Rob McCallum owned the open 2WD class all day, getting down to 2.58:6 to take the win. Another mighty drive from young Ari Pettigrew had him down to 3.01:1 in his 318 BMW to take another outstanding result in second of the 2WDs.
Veteran Phil Walker also put up another good performance to take third 2WD in his RX7, ahead of Deane Buist, who was driving Deborah Kibble’s EX Lancer Turbo to help set the car up.
In the 1600 class, 2017 NZRC AP4 entrant, Josh Marston, put in another high speed drive that thrilled the spectators and would win him the class in the FWD AE111 Toyota. Josh Mitchell looked like he might end Marston’s run of class wins, and went into run four with a lead of a half second in his 4AGE powered Starlet.
But going off road in run four meant a DNF for Mitchell, but he would hold onto second of the 1600s with his run three time. He was fortunate his car was towed back to the road undamaged.
Third in class was a great result for Nick Marston in the AE111 he shares with older brother Josh. Nick is a rookie and has shown talent runs in the family as he learns how to slide a front drive Toyota like his brother – Nick owns the car and will continue with it when Josh steps up to AP4 next year.
In the 1300s Chris Herdman dominated in his Starlet over Geoff Combes front-wheel drive version. Combes has been a dominant force in 1300cc in the past, but found after a few years off that he will need to pick up his pace if he is to run with young hard chargers like Herdman. Coombes chances were not helped by missing last year’s Mt Thomas event on the new road that takes a lot of learning. Relative rookie Garry Mechen also had a good day out to take third of the 1300s.
In 2015 Ari Pettigrew entered his first event at Mt Thomas and immediately stuck his head up as someone to watch. Ari’s reputation continues to build momentum, while 2016 saw some more rookies show up with talent at Mt Thomas.
Garet Thomas bought an Evo 3 on the Friday before the event and had his first drive in it at Mt Thomas. As the day went on he built up his speed, knocking nine seconds off in run two, another seven in run three and finishing run four with another four seconds saved and in 8th outright with 2.54. Garet’s potential was noticed by many of the experienced teams he was competing with.
It must have been a good night at home for the young Thomas couple, because Garet’s wife also had a good day out. Gemma Thomas was share driving a WRX wagon with her sister Jessica Ollis. In her first ever competitive skid, Gemma was beating Jessica much of the day. Jessica has done a handful of events this year and wasn’t going to let her big sister show her up, and she fought back to beat Gemma by about half a second in the final showdown.
Mt Thomas was the fourth round of the five round Autosport Club Gravel Sprint Series. The final event is at Kaiwara Rd in North Canterbury on November 6. It will provide another great piece of Canterbury back country public road to race on. The good spirited fight among Canterbury’s rally crews will resume then.
– Ross Teesdale