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The Australian rally team VTRacing has made a great start to their year of international competition, finishing fifth at the Drivesouth Rally of Otago held on New Zealand’s South Island last weekend in their Subaru Impreza STi.

Competing against the best rally drivers the New Zealand Rally Championship has to offer, including former champions Richard Mason, Chris West, Andrew Hawkeswood and WRC star Hayden Paddon, the Aussie combo of Matt van Tuinen and Erin Kelly would always have their work cut out.

Add to this the fact that most of the other competitors were running to the new NZ championship rules which allow weight reduction and increased power compared to the VTRacing Subaru, which was running essentially in international Group N production car trim.

Further challenges faced by the team included the weather, with a local cold front meaning the team’s medium compound tyres struggled to generate heat, and a broken gearlever on Sunday’s stages meant that the VTRacing service crew had to attach a screwdriver to the broken part to allow Matt to shift gears for the rest of the event!

Despite these disadvantages, Matt and Erin constructed a calm and clever rally to always be in the mix of top crews on the fast and dangerous roads around Dunedin.

“We’re really happy with this result,” said driver Matt van Tuinen, “it’s always a pleasure to compete in New Zealand and we’ve achieved a great outcome in a very tough event.”

“We knew it would be a challenge to come to Otago and be competitive,” said van Tuinen, “but we wanted to be here to get some more miles before our Asia-Pacific Rally Championship campaign kicks off at Rally of Whangarei in May.

“Unfortunately the selection of tyre compounds we had available was limited, because we had to send them from Australia a few months ago,” he added.

The VTRacing Subaru Impreza is now being prepared to take part in the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship opening round, the International Rally of Whangarei to be held on 18-19 May. Matt and Erin will be looking to pit their skills against the best rally drivers in the Asia-Pacific region.

Photo: Neil Gardner, NZSnaps

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