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Penny Homes Holden Rally Team drivers Greg Murphy and Josh Marston can’t wait to tackle the special stages of this weekend’s International Rally of Whangarei in their Holden Barina AP4 rally cars.
 
Josh Marston competing at the Otago Rally earlier this month. (Photo: Euan Cameron)The Whangarei rally marks the first two-car event for the new team as Murphy missed the opening New Zealand Rally Championship round in Otago due to his Supercars commentary commitments. As well as this being Murphy’s first competitive drive in the new Barina, it’s the first time he’s contested the highly-regarded Whangarei event.
 
“Having both Penny Homes Holden Barinas here this weekend is a big moment for our team and everyone involved should be hugely proud of what has been achieved to make this happen,” says Hawke’s Bay-based Murphy. “I am just really excited about getting behind the wheel and I think my co-driver Mark Leonard is pretty pumped to get things under way too.”
 
Team-mate Josh Marston returns for his fifth run on the sweeping Whangarei and Northland roads, feeling confident that the electrical failure with prematurely ended his run at Otago has been addressed.
 
“We identified the problem which halted our debut in the Holden Barina at Otago and believe we are on top of it now with colder spark plugs,” says Christchurch-based Marston. “Unfortunately, issues can appear as you’re developing a new engine package as we are with this de-stroked 1800cc EcoTech, direct-injected GM engine, and this was one of them.”
 
Marston says the engine being direct injected means it’s not easy to source parts locally and the new plugs were sent out from Japan. “We tested on Easter Monday and everything went well, then we won a rallysprint at Lake Kaniere. But it is a continual job for our crew at RDL Performance, with a new package like this, working on setup and development for both of the cars.”
 
The pre-event test held on Wednesday gives both drivers a valuable opportunity to fine-tune the Barinas.
 
“It’s a great chance to hopefully understand the car more and also get a feel for the type of roads we will compete on over the weekend,” says Murphy whose only previous experience on the rally stages was to sit alongside US rally star Ken Block during a pre-event test two years ago. “That was a great experience for more than one reason!”
 
Marston says his goals, with co-driver Andrew Graves, are to “…finish and get some time in the car. As we didn’t get a lot of mileage at Otago, it’s really important that we get two cars to the finish in Whangarei to get as much data as possible for our development programme.”
 
Like many NZRC competitors, Marston is appreciative of the rally stages. “The nature of the roads, they really flow well. A lot of the roads feature really cambered corners which you can really attack. I can’t wait.”
 
Murphy adds: “We’d also like to thank Mark Cromie, from Mark Cromie Holden in Whangarei. Mark’s a big supporter of our Holden Barina rally programme and the whole team’s looking forward to getting sideways in the gravel roads of his backyard this weekend. It’s going to be great!”
 
Friday’s night-time running of the Pohe Island super special stage gets the rally underway. On Saturday competitors contest two loops of four stages, going as far north as Paihia. Sunday’s stages take the teams south with another repeated loop with familiar tests like Waipu Caves before the 3pm ceremonial finish at the Quayside Town Basin.

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