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Only a stumble at the final hurdle prevented Rotorua rally driver Sloan Cox from a fantastic podium finish at the International Rally of Whangarei over the weekend.

New regulations in the Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship meant Cox was unsure where he would sit on the results board with the Taslo Engineering Mitsubishi Evo 10, but was immediately competitive with a third fastest time on the opening stage.

Another six top-three stage times in seven stages, including being one of only two drivers to record stage wins, saw Cox and co-driver Sarah Coatsworth taking a well-deserved second place for the opening leg after a faultless performance.

Day two saw Cox again setting top three stage times and although he was unable to hold onto second place, the 21-year old was setting times hot on the heels of New Zealand Rally Champions Hayden Paddon and Richard Mason, despite a damaged brake pipe in the morning. That left Cox holding down a comfortable third place heading into the final stage of the event, which also doubled as the event ‘Power Stage’ with bonus points on offer.

Unfortunately for Cox, there would be no bonus points after he slid off the road, having been caught out in a very slippery section. Despite not damaging the car, was stuck and lost more than 35 minutes to the leaders, seeing his podium finish passing him by as the pair slipped to 16th place.

“I thought I braked early but it wasn’t early enough,” said Cox. “We slid into a culvert and got stuck. It’s a huge disappointment for Sarah and I when a podium position was pretty well wrapped up.”

The Cox Motorsport team now look forward to the second round of the Rally Xtreme series, Rally Hawkes Bay, on June 2.

Photo: Jason Byrne

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