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Timaru based Chris West and co-driver Chris Cobham, in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X, ended up on the top step of the podium at today’s fourth round of the 2013 Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship following a tense wait after the final special stage of the Stadium Cars VINZ Rally of Canterbury (Sunday 11 August).
 
Covering nine special stages held through the forestry reaches of Ashley and Okuku in northern Canterbury the majority of the day was headed by defending title champions Richard and Sara Mason in a Subaru STi – until the final few kilometres. Forced to stop and change a disintegrated front left tyre, time lost moved the four following cars up a position, elevating Nelson’s Ben Hunt and Tony Rawstorn (Subaru STi) to second with Christchurch’s Matt Jansen and Grant Marra (Subaru STi) to third.
 
Christchurch’s Richard Baddock and Jason Anderson (Subaru STi) finished fourth with the Masterton based Mason’s ending up tenth.
 
Returning to the now six round championship series, Rally of Canterbury was strongly supported by spectators who’d not seen the ‘big boys’ compete on the region’s roads since 2000. While light rain made conditions damp underfoot for most of the day the final stage brought the biggest smile to the 41 teams who made it to the finish under clearing skies. Utilising a part of the famed Ashley Forest rallysprint route its hard surface and flat-out flowing style was a talking point for the crews as the first group congregated at the end of the event awaiting Mason’s time. Just over 18seconds behind heading in to the final stage, West was stunned when Mason finally arrived – nearly six minutes later.
 
West was quick to assert the win was a very lucky result after he too nearly succumbed to tyre damage on the same piece of road: “It was very unfortunate for Richard (Mason) after such a good battle all day. We hit a rock 3km in to that last stage that bent the steering so we really struggled in the run to the finish and so winning the stage and rally came as a surprise.
 
“It was a lot of hard work to get here that’s for sure and it’s a credit to the team given how new the car is. It’s certainly the best result we could have hoped for and really helps us for the next round next month at the Possum Bourne Memorial Rally.”
 
Setting fastest time overall in the day’s final ‘power stage’ added five bonus points to West’s overall tally and $500 in cash – part of the prize pool for those in the Auto Finance Direct supported Super Rally category.
 
Equally surprised, Hunt’s second placing and successive podium results move him to the top of the standings – to be one point ahead of previous leader and absentee competitor for the weekend: Hayden Paddon.
Now on 89 points, Hunt said today’s result was superb reward against tough competition.
 
“We were happy to be as high as third so to finish one better in second is fantastic – considering we haven’t had fifth gear since the second special stage this morning.
 
“Now it makes the championship pretty exciting and we’re looking forward to the next round and to Hayden (Paddon) returning,” said the forestry based mechanic.
 
Behind Paddon, West moves to third, on 77 points with Mason dropping to fourth, on 68 points.
 
In ninth position for the day, Christchurch’s Deane Buist and Andrew Bulman headed the 2WD campaigners in their BNT Historic category Ford Escort RS1800. Finishing ahead of current points leader and fellow local driver Jeff Judd (Ford Escort RS1800), Buist closed the point’s gap to now trail by nine with Judd on a total of 99. Third (20th overall) after a day troubled by windscreen wiper issues was Kaiapoi’s Marcus van Klink and Dave Neill in the Mazda RX7.
 
Among the historic mix were the modern 2WD cars, finishing behind the more generously powered Buist Escort. A season of tit-for-tat between the latest R2 specification Ford Fiesta cars of Tauranga’s Phil Campbell/Venita Fabbro and Christchurch’s Josh Marston/Rocky Hudson went the way of Campbell for the round. While Marston took the five bonus points and $500 cash on the power stage Campbell has opened the overall point’s advantage to 12 with a total of 133. Second fastest on the power stage was Mt Maunganui’s David Holder and Josh Theobald while Campbell and Fabbro picked up three bonus points to now trail Marston’s tally of 128 by two points.
 
Arriving at the finish with the widest smile was Te Aroha’s Graham Featherstone. Plagued by a third gear fault in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 7, the Gull Rally Challenge competitor recounted how lucky he was to finish – with his third successive round win giving him an unassailable lead in the category – and the provisional title.
 
Still competing 40 years since the inaugural event was held in 1973, Christchurch’s Garry Cliff finished 18th overall in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 5 – even after he wrong-slotted a junction in the final stage and arrived at the finish with safety tape wrapped around the car.
 
Of those unlucky to finish included Rangiora’s Matt Summerfield and co-driving sister Nicole Summerfield. Their day ended on the second special stage when they left the road in their Subaru STi. Further up the road Dunedin’s Emma Gilmour and Glenn Macneall parked their new generation Suzuki Swift when it was discovered the source of the engine’s overheating was due to a blown head gasket.
 
Coromandel’s Alex Kelsey and Mal Peden (Subaru STi) retired on the fifth stage after a drive shaft failed – the same piece of road that claimed championship rookie Taylor Jansen and Karl Celeste in their Datsun 1200, when they stopped with an electrical fault.
 
Teams now focus on the series fifth and penultimate round – being held in four weeks’ time. Again a one day event, the tenth anniversary of the Possum Bourne Memorial Rally will further test competitor’s ability with the day’s journey incorporating tarmac to the typically all-gravel series.
 
News and information about the championship – including driver profiles and team news – can be found on the website www.nzrallychampionship.co.nz, or follow New Zealand Rally Championship on Facebook.
 
# # #
 
About the New Zealand Rally Championship:
The Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship is this country’s premier nationwide rally championship and, as such, attracts New Zealand’s best drivers to compete in numerous categories for the prestigious MotorSport New Zealand-sanctioned rally championship titles.
 
In 2013, there are six NZRC rounds, each with a unique character reflecting the diverse regions – from Northland to Otago – in which they are run. This year, Round 1 and Round 2 are two day rallies and the remaining Rounds are one day rallies.
 
Caption: Timaru driver Chris West and Palmerston North based co-driver Chris Cobham took out the weekend’s fourth round of the Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship held at the Stadium Cars VINZ Rally of Canterbury in the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X. Photo: Euan Cameron.
 
Overall results: Stadium Cars VINZ Rally of Canterbury – 11 August 2013 (top-ten)
Pos., Driver/Co-Driver, Vehicle, Hometown, Total Time

1, Chris West/Chris Cobham, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X, Timaru, 1:30:41.9
2, Ben Hunt/Tony Rawstorn, Subaru STi, Nelson, 1:31:37.0
3, Matt Jansen/Grant Marra, Subaru STi, Christchurch, 1:34:10.6
4, Richard Baddock/Jason Anderson, Subaru STi, Christchurch, 1:36:00.5
5, Rhys Gardner/Alex Ramsay, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 7, Balclutha, 1:37:21.0
6, Brian Green/Fleur Pedersen, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X, Palmerston North, 1:37:35.2
7, Dean Bond/Ross Moody, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 6.5, Balclutha, 1:37:50.2
8, Richard Bateman/Sharisse Guckert, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 8, Blenheim, 1:37:56.6
9, Deane Buist/Andrew Bulman, Ford Escort RS1800, Christchurch, 1:38:17.1
10, Richard Mason/Sara Mason, Subaru STi, Masterton, 1:38:20.4
 
2013 Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship – after four (of six) rounds.
Goldstar driver points - top five overall

1, Ben Hunt, Nelson, 89
2, Hayden Paddon, Geraldine, 88
3, Chris West, Timaru, 77
4, Richard Mason, Masterton, 66
5, Matt Summerfield, Rangiora, 35
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