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Day 3 and the epay Silver Fern Rally has turned from dust to mud in dramatic fashion. Torrential rain lashing the east coast for the last 24 hours meant that three stages were cancelled today due to rising river levels and poor road conditions.

The remaining four stages that did run were wet and slippery, making for very difficult driving, with a resulting jump in the attrition rate.

However the rally thundered on despite the weather, and the final day of skids for the Silver Frond competitors saw some big changes. With this mini version of the Silver Fern Rally contested over the first 3 days only, Napier was their finish line, and it turned into an effort for some to make it.

Overnight leader James Hewlett stopped in the first stage of the day when his Escort short circuited. That allowed the Mirage of Trevor Taylor to take the lead, however Hewlett fought back, only to incur more time penalties in the confusion of the afternoon cancellations. That allowed Taylor to cruise into his home town for the Silver Frond win. Behind these two Jim Robb and his Sunny had been keeping Stuart McFarlane’s Porsche at bay, until Robb struck engine problems and McFarlane was able to sneak past for the final podium spot.

In the Silver Fern Challenge the early dramas featured Dave Strong when gearbox problems from yesterday got worse and he had to make an impromptu change, with a resulting time penalty for lateness. However this only dropped him from second to third, now behind Brian Stokes and Brent Taylor. The remainder of the day went to plan for the top runners with Stokes managing to extend his lead over Taylor by more than a minute, to be 1min 52sec ahead.

The top 5 in the Silver Fern Historic Trophy saw another shake up today, with Jeff Judd and Neil Allport both off the road in the Cricklewood Stage. While Judd ended up on his side and had to wait for assistance, Allport managed to get unstuck and back onto the road, but his stage time was almost as slow as the penalty time Judd incurred.

This didn’t affect the battle for the lead, as Dean Buist tried to reel in some time on Shane Murland. But at only 8sec over the day, Murland still has a 1min 38sec lead. With Judd and Allport going bush, the Englishmen of Vince Bristow and Grant Shand took full advantage and moved up to third and fourth respectively.

And it could have been an English trio in the top 5 if Graham Samuel had been able to hold off Brent Rawstron. Locked in their own little battle they swapped times and places almost every stage, however Rawstron was the victor for today and he rounds out the top 5, with Samuel only 2sec behind.

With the weather forecast to improve for tomorrow the crews will be well pleased to dry out from a very wet traverse of the coast. Tomorrow the gravel leads south to Waipukurau, then west and back inland to Weber, with 6 special stages and 140km of competition on the way to Feilding, and an overnight stop at the Manfeild Raceway.

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