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Timaru’s Chris West and co-driver Erin Kyle have overturned earlier disappointments this season to have a 30 second overnight lead after eight special stages in the two-day Trusthouse Racetech Rally Wairarapa.
 
The Wairarapa Rally is the third round of the 2011 Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship with Saturday’s 157.91km of competitive stages taking the teams north of host town Masterton.
 
Able to capitalise on mechanical misfortunes which impacted favourite Richard Mason and fellow top-running Subaru driver Emma Gilmour, West now heads a trifecta of Mitsubishis, with 19-year-old Sloan Cox from Rotorua second and defending NZRC champion Dean Sumner, also from Rotorua, third.
 
“It’s put a smile back on our faces, but, in saying that, it’s been hard to get there,” said West, the 2004 NZRC champion. “The car has been feeling good but we’ve had an issue with the fuel. It’s got dirt or something in there somewhere. It’s been starving for fuel and, at the last time control point, we were hitting the fuel pump with a hammer to try getting some response out of it. Very nervous moments, so we’re very lucky to even finish.
 
West added: “We’ll put all that behind us now; tomorrow is another day with nice hard and fast roads.”
 
Excited to be in second overnight behind West in the overall results, Cox said the good news was still sinking in.
 
“It’s almost too good to be true,” he said. “To be second after the first day is a dream; even to be third after the mid-day service we were extremely rapt. Tomorrow we’ll approach the stages with a bit of caution. Our pace notes are working perfectly so hopefully we’ll come out with a podium finish for the rally.”
 
The day’s action included numerous stage records being broken despite recent heavy rain.
 
Howick’s Glenn Inkster and co-driver Glenn Goldring took an early lead after the first special stage, set due east of Masterton, and also set the first record for the day. In the second stage it was Dean Sumner who came out fastest with a new record and the rally lead. At this point, Dunedin-based Gilmour was also pouring on the pace, but a broken half-shaft in the third stage dropped the Subaru driver down the standings.
 
Masterton locals Richard and Sara Mason – the favourites – had a troubled start to their event with turbo-charger problems in the first stage costing them precious time until the problem could be rectified at the mid-day service. After languishing in 18th place overall with a gap of over three minutes from West in the lead, Mason then bounced back to win the remaining five stages - setting new time records in all five stages – to climb back up the leader-board to fifth at the overnight halt, 53.8 seconds adrift of West. However, the Masons’ hard-charging run didn’t come without incident as they ran wide into a fence post on the seventh stage to leave a tell-tale sign down the right-hand side of their Subaru.
 
Kaipoi’s Marcus van Klink and co-driver Dave Neill set fastest time for the classic cars, with the Mazda RX7 taking an early lead in the Malcolm Stewart Classic Rally category. After the driveshaft in van Klink’s Mazda broke early in the afternoon, Hastings’ Ron Davey and co-driver Ross Gordon then took the classic rally lead in their Ford Escort.
 
Nelson’s Ben Hunt maintained a measured approach in his Ford Fiesta to finish the day as fastest two-wheel-drive championship car. Second in the 2WD class overnight is Tauranga’s Phil Campbell in a second Ford Fiesta.
 
Defending open-class four-wheel-drive champion Geof Argyle, from Feilding, has a comfortable lead in the division two group and is placed fourth overall at the half-way mark. New Plymouth’s Neil Marshall is second, eighth overall in a second Mitsubishi Lancer.
 
Sunday’s remaining nine special stages cover 126.04km, based around Eketahuna. The first car starts SS9 at 8:40am and the event finishes at 4:15pm at the Copthorne Solway Park in Masterton.
 
The 2011 New Zealand Rally Championship enjoys the support of the Brian Green Property Group, Neil Allport Motorsports, Subaru New Zealand and Vantage Aluminium.
 
After Wairarapa, the NZRC continues with the International Rally of Whangarei on 15 to 17 July and concludes with Rally Hawke’s Bay from 20 to 21 August.
 
Trusthouse Racetech Rally Wairarapa
Results for day one: Saturday 28 May 2011.
Pos, No, Driver/co-driver, Car, Hometown, Time
1, 3, Chris West/Erin Kyle, Mitsubishi, Timaru, 1:49:17.2
2, 7, Sloan Cox/Tarryn Cox, Mitsubishi, Rotorua, +30.0
3, 4, Dean Sumner/Paul Fallon, Mitsubishi, Rotorua, +32.7
4, 5, Geof Argyle/Phillip Deakin, Mitsubishi, Feilding, +48.6
5, 1, Richard Mason/Sara Mason, Subaru, Masterton, +53.8
6, 2, Emma Gilmour/Glenn Macneall, Subaru, Dunedin, +1:49.4
7, 6, Glenn Inkster/Glenn Goldring, Mitsubishi, Auckland, +2:14.6
8, 9, Neil Marshall/Richard Carr, Mitsubishi, New Plymouth, +2:16.4
9, 36, Stewart Taylor/Warwick Searle, Mitsubishi, Hastings, +3:31.8
10, 8, Ben Jagger/Ben Hawkins, Subaru, Whangarei, +3:35.9

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