Christchurch’s Jeff Judd has one hand on the victory champagne in the epay Silver Fern marathon car rally after the penultimate day’s stages finished in Alexandra late this afternoon.

Judd leads Paraparaumu’s Shane Murland by two minutes and 19 seconds going into the final day’s 108 kms of special stages in Central Otago.

Murland made a strong bid to regain the top spot he held for the first four days, by nearly halving Judd’s advantage as the field tackled six stages in Central Southland, having started the day four minutes and two seconds behind.

Murland was fastest through five of the day’s six stages as he held nothing back. Both he and Judd admitted to spins on the back country and forestry gravel roads and Judd slid wide demolishing a letter box on the day’s final stage as he fought back.

The pair have continued to pull away from the rest of the field as their battle for the lead has intensified in their Escort RS 1800s

Third place Geoff Portman, a double Australian champion, is now 12 minutes 24 seconds behind Murland after conceding another three and a half minutes today.

Australian Brad Goldsbrough in his Datsun 1600 – with a 2.4 litre engine – has had to concede the lead in the Challenge event for cars with greater modifications.

Christchurch’s Deane Buist in another Escort was 38 seconds faster through the day’s first four stages and at the end of the section at Pyramid near Gore, he and Goldsbrough were tied after 880 kms of stages in the previous five and a half days.

Over the day’s final two stages – 53 kms between Waikaia and Moa Flat and then another 25 kms at Roxburgh, Buist romped away to take a 1 minute 31 second lead into the final day.

Andrew Hawkeswood reached his home town - Alexandra - in a secure third place, having been faster than the two cars in front of him, but too far back to make much more than a dent in their advantage.

However there will be some nervous drivers going into the final stages tomorrow (Saturday). There are four stages north of Alexandra in the Omakau, St Bathans and Wedderburn area, followed by the sting in the tail, a double crossing of Duffers Saddle, the highest public road in New Zealand, through the Nevis Valley near Lake Whakatipu.

It is not open to traffic in winter time and has some rougher sections which could easily cause punctures, which would be enough to reverse the leading positions as they stand tonight.
After that, it is simply a matter of driving to the finish in Queenstown, seven days and 1060 kms of stages after the event started in Cathedral Square, Christchurch last Sunday.

epay Silver Fern Historic Rally – Overall results at end of Day 6
1, J Judd, M Smith (Escort RS1800) Christchurch, 9hrs 39mins 49secs;
2, S Murland, J Benton (Escort RS1800) Paraparaumu, 9.42.08;
3, G Portman, R Runnalls (Holden Commodore) Australia, 9.54.32;
4, A Siddall, C Thompson (Escort RS1800) England, 10.00.34;
5, B Rawstron, I McKee (Escort RS1800) Christchurch, 10.01.59;
6, K Callinan, M Callinan (Escort RS1800) Australia, 10.17.58.

epay Silver Fern Challenge Rally – Overall results at end of Day 6
1, D Buist, A Bulman (Escort RS1800) Christchurch, 9.38.53;
2, B Goldsbrough, A Topliff (Datsun 1600) Australia, 9.40.24;
3, A Hawkeswood, S Johnstone (Mazda RX7) Alexandra, 9.45.00;
4, L Marston, J Marston (Subaru Legacy) Christchurch, 10.10.11;
5, A Dippie, P Coghill (Toyota Corolla) Dunedin, 10.24.30.

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