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The Mitsubishi Mirage AP4 crew of Matt and Nicole Summerfield raced clear of their rivals as pacenoted rally action resumed in New Zealand on Saturday. Top-seed Summerfield was pipped in the opening stage of the Stadium Finance South Canterbury Spring Rally, held near Timaru, by the young Canterbury driver Robbie Stokes (Ford Fiesta AP4). But Summerfield immediately responded to the challenge, setting fastest times on the remaining seven stages to build a winning margin of almost one minute by the end of the day. It was Summerfield’s second straight victory of the 2020 season and he continues to show impressive pace in the Mirage. Saturday’s result was also notable with brother and sister crews claiming the top two positions. "We had an excellent day. I just chipped away at the driving and getting back into a rhythm of driving on notes," said Summerfield. "I was very rusty in the first stage and some of the notes I wrote were a bit average. We stuck to the game plan and drove our own rally.

Matt Summerfield was all smiles in his Mitsubishi AP4. Photo: Geoff Ridder

"The car performed very well. It was just fuel and tyres at service today. "It’s been a valuable day and it was great to work with Nicole again in a proper rally. It’s been a long time since our last pacenoted rally [15 months ago at the 2019 South Canterbury NZRC event]." Stokes was engaged in a podium duel with Mainland Rally Series points leader Josh Marston (Holden Barina AP4) throughout the 130km of competition. The largest gap between the pair was 7.7secs in Stokes’ favour at the completion of stage six, and a late charge from Marston trimmed that margin to just 1.8secs at the finish. At the finish, Stokes was 59.2secs behind Summerfield. The runner-up effort was a career-best finish for Stokes – the son of double New Zealand rally champ Brian Stokes. Marston’s third placing gives him a 17-point lead over Summerfield, with three out of four rounds completed in the Mainland Rally Series Kaikoura’s Regan Ross delivered a string of top-five stage times on his second outing in a Ford Fiesta R5 to finish fourth overall. He was 1m 42.7secs back from Summerfield’s rally winning pace. Marcus van Klink was at home on the fast South Canterbury roads in his crowd-pleasing triple-rotor Mazda RX-8, to lead the 2WD battle and finish fifth, ahead of Sean Haggarty (Subaru Impreza).

Jack Hawkeswood was off to a good start, but put his Mazda off the road. Photo: Geoff Ridder

The margins were tight in the middle of the top-10. van Klink edged Haggarty by 3.7secs, with Deane Buist (VW Golf GTI) finishing seventh, only 17.1secs behind Haggarty. Local driver Scott Jones had a successful day, moving up from 15th seeding in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 8 to finish eighth ahead of Auckland’s Kingsley Jones (Skoda Fabia R5), who was the best-placed of the North Island contingent. The top 10 was completed by Wayne Muckle (Lancer Evo X). Only two of the top-10 crews failed to finish the eight-stage event. Third-seeded Aucklander, Jack Hawkeswood, was running in fifth place after two stages, but then put his Mazda2 AP4 off the road. The car wasn’t damaged and Hawkeswood was able to re-join and post a trio of top-10 times in the final three stages. Dave Quantock was running eighth when he put his Mitsubishi Mirage AP4 off the road in the penultimate stage. Today’s event was the third gravel rally completed in New Zealand during the COVID-19 disrupted season. It was the first rally to allow competitors a single pass recce and stage notes.

Second placed Robbie Stokes makes a splash. Photo: Geoff Ridder

The rally lived up to its "Spring" title and was completed in dry and dusty conditions, just before a band of severe weather with high winds and colder temperatures was forecast to blast across the South Island. Stadium Finance South Canterbury Spring Rally 2020 – results: 1. Matt and Nicole Summerfield (Mitsubishi Mirage AP4) 1h 07m 35.0s; 2. Robbie and Amy Stokes (Ford Fiesta AP4) +59.2secs; 3. Josh Marston/Andrew Graves (Holden Barina AP4) +1m 01.0s; 4. Regan Ross/Katrina Renshaw (Ford Fiesta R5) +1m 42.7s; 5. Marcus Van Klink/Dave Neill (Mazda RX-8) +4m 23.4s; 6. Sean Haggarty/Sean Sands (Subaru Impreza WRX) +4m 27.1s; 7. Deane Buist/Karl Celeste (VW Golf GTi) +4m 44.2s; 8. Scott Jones/Shane Reynolds (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo8) +4m 50.0s; 9. Kingsley and Waverley Jones (Skoda Fabia R5) +4m 54.2s; 10. Wayne Muckle/Tania Cresswell (Mitsubishi Lancer EvoX) +4m 58.2s.
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