Possum rally a test for NZRC contenders
- 5th September 2013, 9:26am
Saturday, September 7 will be a special day for drivers competing at the fifth round of the Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship – by contesting the tenth anniversary Possum Bourne Memorial Rally sponsored by Vantage Aluminium.
The event, in honour of the rally sport icon tragically killed in a road accident in 2003, is the penultimate round for the 2013 season and covers roads well traversed by Bourne in his formative years. Starting and finishing at Bourne’s hometown of Pukekohe the day covers 125.79km broken in to 11 special stages.
The journey also includes visits to the Hampton Downs motor racing circuit and the Pukekohe Park Raceway – where the final special stage will be held that will decide the day’s winner.
Now in its tenth year, it is the first time the entire championship field will score points toward the season title at this event. Currently headed by Nelson’s Ben Hunt and co-driver Tony Rawstorn (pictured) they have former champions Hayden Paddon and John Kennard a solitary point behind their total of 89.
Hunt, driving a similar Group N specification Subaru STi to the car Possum Bourne last competed internationally in, says the weekend’s one main challenge is to have a clean run.
“For the last three events we’ve had some sort of little issue that could have ended it for us – so the team have said they’d like to see us have a trouble free run for a change. We’re competing against world-class drivers like Hayden Paddon, Chris West and Richard Mason – so to be putting times against them and being ahead of them in the points is pretty awesome but we still need to finish – that’s been our whole goal for the year,” commented Hunt.
“Changes to this year’s event as part of the ten year anniversary includes the Maramarua forest. That’s a very iconic piece of New Zealand’s rally heritage and makes the weekend that much more special. So that adds a bit more to being part of an event in his memory. Plus it’s going to be awesome to see Possum’s son Taylor competing – I hope he has as much fun as his dad did. Hopefully too I’ll get a chance to meet him and get to see how he’s going.”
Returning after dominating the opening rounds this season and holding the overall lead until the recent Canterbury Rally, Geraldine based Paddon and Blenheim based Kennard will be switching focus having recently returned from back-to-back World Rally events. They will campaign the familiar green Mitsubishi Evo9.
Paddon, competing in the Super Rally by Auto Finance Direct top category will have his start order determined at Friday night’s cocktail function. Picking their preferred start order ahead of him will be Chris West, Ben Hunt, Richard Baddock and Brian Green. Paddon will instead be concentrating on getting the most of his car.
“There are a few unknowns this weekend. First is how the new developments we have made to the Evo9 will work. We have been unable to do any testing, so the first corner of stage one will give us a gauge of how the car is working. Throw into the mix that John and I have not rallied in Maramarua forest for quite some time, and the final stages being on tarmac means there is plenty to keep us all honest,” said the 2008-2009 New Zealand Goldstar champion.
“Possum was a massive icon for New Zealand rallying and someone that I looked up to. It is humbling to be able to compete in a memorial event of his that is based out of his home town in Pukekohe and on roads that he learnt to drive on in Maramarua forest.”
Third in the standings is Timaru’s Chris West on 77 points with defending champion Richard Mason from Masterton on 66 points.
Also contesting the event is 1986, 1989 and 1992 New Zealand Goldstar champion Neil Allport from Auckland with seven-time champion co-driver Rob Ryan. Allport and Bourne were arch rivals with Bourne wresting the 1991 title to give Subaru their first of many Kiwi titles.
Allport returns to the championship scene in a Ford Escort RS1800 – contesting the BNT Historic Rally category. Current leader is Christchurch’s Jeff Judd and co-driver Malcolm Read – also in a Ford Escort RS1800. Also making the journey north will be last round’s category winner Deane Buist (Christchurch, Ford Escort RS1800) and defending champion Marcus van Klink (Kaiapoi, Mazda RX7). Judd has a lead of nine points over Buist’s total of 90.
Among the 53 cars entered to the full event are the two-wheel-drive modern contenders, currently led by Tauranga’s Phil Campbell and Venita Fabbro in a Ford Fiesta R2.
Joining the Gull Rally Challenge, a feeder class for casual exponents are Daniel Walker (Auckland, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo1) and David Ralph (Pukekohe, Toyota Starlet). It is headed by Te Aroha’s Graham Featherstone, who moves categories to the top-tier Super Rally for this weekend.
Starting at 7am Saturday morning 53 cars will leave from King Street in central Pukekohe. Combining both sealed and gravel surface sections the first seven special stages are 100% gravel – centred on roads in the Maramarua forest with service breaks in Te Kauwhata. From 2:18pm teams will start in their regular one minute intervals – for three laps around the Hampton Downs motor race circuit. After three stages there teams move to Ardmore Quarry Road for a 7.99km section before travelling to the Pukekohe circuit for a final test.
Here teams have the opportunity to better their first result by handing in a ‘joker’ card and trying again. However if their time is slower or they make a mistake they’re stuck with the second result.
The day concludes with a ceremonial finish at the track from 6:30pm – ahead of the evening’s prizegiving dinner.
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