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Stewart Taylor (pictured) has defended his Rally Hawkes Bay title in fine style, to take maximum points in the second round of the Total Lubricants Rally Xteme Challenge. With Taylor’s company Tomoana Warehousing not only sponsoring the event, but also the Rally Xtreme round, it was a perfect start to his season, on a beautifully sunny Hawkes Bay day.

An initial challenge from Sloan Cox on the first stage had seen the youngster take the lead, but his aggressive style and some scenery bashing meant that a radiator pipe was broken and he retired soon after with a waterless engine.

As the field tried to settle into some sense of order over the frantic first stages there was a slew of problems that hobbled a number of potential front runners. Neil Marshall never really got going and ended up off the road for a period of time, while Dylan Turner couldn’t repeat his winning run from the last first round when he broke an axle and ended the day in 8th, after running repairs.

With Quentin Palmer and Wayne Pittams also suffering mechanical problems, by the first service halt Taylor had already established a 31.6 second lead over Robbie Leicester. Leicester enjoying a fine run in his Impreza that had only just been converted to R4 specification. The ever present Geof Argyle had settled into third, despite ongoing electrical gremlins that saw his engine cut out periodically. An issue that would dog him all day.

Superb drives by both Nigel Adams and Carl Davies saw them burst up the leader board and push Argyle back in the process. However a seized turbo late in the day saw Adams drop out of podium contention. Meanwhile the fight between Davies and Argyle continued to be close, that is apart from the 29km long Waitara 2 stage, where Argyle flew, and Davies didn’t. Davies lost 40 seconds and third place in the process, a time deficit of 20 seconds to Argyle that he was never able to recover.

As the dust settled and the sun set it was Taylor who was enjoying the glow of a 1 minute 14 second lead over Leicester, who in turn had 52 seconds over Argyle in third. Davies took fourth, however the drive of the rally had to be that of Graham Featherstone.

Starting the day seeded 10th, he exited the first stage in 26th overall. A string of top 10 stage times from then on then saw him jump up the standings with each completed test. That never say die attitude saw him home to take 5th overall, just 30 seconds off Davies.

He may have missed out on a podium, but an ultra quick turbo change by Nigel Adams’ team allowed him to still take the XT1 class win and 6th overall, with 20 seconds to 2nd in class Lee Robson. Quentin Palmer battled to take third.

The XT2 class for Club 4WD was a good result for Chuck Newton in his trusty old Galant VR4. However the battle in the 2WD classes had been another drama all of its own.

Phil Campbell in his R2 Fiesta started well, but then fell back in Stage 2, 23 seconds back from the class leading Tony McConachy in his Hyabusa Starlet. That lasted all of a few minutes as McConachy was late checking into the next stage, and Campbell flew through the 15km Stage 3 to jump from third, to the class lead, with 2.2 seconds over Grant Liston. And that is how it stayed for XT3 2WD, as Campbell continued to pull away, for a 1 minute win over Liston, with Dave Strong another minute back in 3rd.

Lyndsay Homes took his first class win for XT4 Club 2WD, and also picked up the $500 cash for winning the Power Stage, which was contested by this class this time round. However he had been having a battle all rally long with 17 year old Max Bayley, after early leader Greg Browne suffered gearbox failure. The 12 second difference showing that this class is very competitive.

The Brian Green Properties Driver of the Rally went to Carl Davies for his highest finish in Rally Xtreme, and a fighting spirit that saw him mixing it at the top for the whole event.

And so the attention now turns to round three and the GoPro Daybreaker Rally in 4 weeks time, on Saturday 29th June. Certainly the points battle for the Challenge means that every round from here on in will be vital. Dylan Turner leads by 3 points to Robbie Leicester, who in turn is tied with Geof Argyle on 88. While in 2WD Phil Campbell and Grant Liston are tied for the lead with Strong only 3 points off them.
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