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Derek Ayson has made a perfect start to New Zealand’s second-tier national rally series – Rally Xtreme – by scoring a start-to-finish win on the June 10 Southland Rally.

The event was also the opening round of the Mainland (South Island) rally championship, in which the Ayson is the current title holder, and he powered to a strong 86 second victory over fellow Mitsubishi Lancer Evo driver Regan Ross. On the comeback trail after five years out of the sport, former national rally championship regular Robbie Leicester finished third in his Subaru Impreza after a great battle with runner-up Ross.

Last year’s Southland winner Paul Nicoll (Mitsubishi) recovered from an early overshoot to finish fourth, ahead of two-wheel drive sensation Deane Buist in his Ford Escort BDA.

While there was no taking away from the strength of his own performance, Ayson’s job was made all the easier by the problems suffered by several of his leading rivals. They included Mike Turfus, who was out with a slipping clutch before the first stage even started. Local favourite Mark McMillan rolled out on the first stage, and promising teenager Haydon Paddon was placed second until a mechanical problem ended his hopes event.

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