Brian Stokes and his co-driver Grant Marra driving a Ford Escort Cosworth have today extended their lead in the NZ Silver Fern International Marathon Rally to over 7 ½ minutes.
 
While second placed Stig Blomqvist from Sweden got close to Stokes’ times on several of the day's stages, his 2 wheel drive Ford Escort was no match for Stokes' later model 4 wheel drive version.
 
Third placed after the fourth day of the seven day event was Joe McAndrew in a Honda Integra Type R. McAndrew took advantage of several of the top drivers' misfortunes to move up during the day.
 
Scotsman Jimmy McRae was the first to strike trouble, crashing heavily off the road in the second stage of the day, while previous third placed driver, Garry Adcock, was delayed with mechanical problems late in the day. McRae’s car will be repaired in time to start tomorrow’s stages.
 
All of the cars arrived in Christchurch for their overnight stop, with the ex-Neil Allport Group B Mazda RX7 of Bert Murray moving up from seventh to fourth position.
 
Yesterday’s stages have been a new adventure, with Tuesday’s snow and ice being replaced with smooth roads and dusty conditions. Several of the drivers likened the difference in the days to competing one day in Finland in the snow and another day in Africa in the dry.
 
This event is about marathon rallying and the 50 cars that have completed all the route so far would agree. The long stages yesterday tested drivers, with sections of fast road with many blind crests, as well as some tight and twisty forest roads.
 
Consistency is beginning to play a role in the event, with a number of drivers moving up the results sheets, at the expense of faster drivers who are striking problems. Driver Brent Rawstron described competing as needing “a positive mindset, to be able to drive consistently fast enough, and to finish.

To follow today's stages, visit the official Silver Fern Rally website

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