Sunday 22 April, one week after the opening round of the New Zealand National Rally Championship, and prior to this the Thames Valley Car Club were a little apprehensive regarding the entry levels for the rallysprint, and rightly so, it’s a huge problem for clubs running events close to rally dates as it does normally have knock on effects. However, no one need to have worried as 62 crews turned out for round 4 of the ABC Pipefitters Northern rallysprint, the largest number of entries for a round this season.
It’s a hard task for drivers doing the rally Championship to try and get through the Otago rally, then drag their cars all the way back home only to then get them prepared for a rallysprint the weekend after, so congratulations to Graham Featherstone and Anthony Jones, Dave Strong also did the rally but had the luxury of using a different car, but still probably had plenty to do to get prepared, spare a thought to for the guys who prepare their cars. Another huge well done has to also go out to Warwick Redfern, who after a big accident at the Bothwell loop Road Rallysprint also made the event.
So, to the action, and as always at Piakonui there was plenty of it, with many crews having incidents, most of them just the usual spins and overshoots, but there were a couple of more serious incidents, thankfully no one was hurt, although there was one very lucky dog!
Fastest on the first run was Clinton Cunningham in his fiesta, he and co-driver Crunch Bennet must have been relieved to finally make an event, and then to be fastest was the icing on the cake. The gap between Cunningham and the next man was less than a cigarette paper, that man being Graham Featherstone. Warwick Redfern was again pushing hard and took third on this first run.
This first run, for those not in the know, or who don’t understand the rallysprint rules is all about being flat out from the moment the flag drops. The top 16 is the really important run for those guys going for the overall win. So after this first run our top 16 consisted of 7 class E cars, (open 4wd) 4 class G ( classic 4wd) 2 class D ( over 2litre 2wd) 2 class C ( upto 2 litre) and 1 class B ( 1600), Just to put some perspective into whose doing what and who punches above their weight. It’s not that the event is over for those who don’t make the top 16, as these rules also apply to the classes but it may explain to people why one guy may post a faster time than someone else yet appear lower down in the results.
So on this first run you could rightly assume that the 5 cars from the 2wd classes are pretty quick, as there were 14 other 4wd that did not make the cut. Steve Goodare, Charlie Evans, Grant Liston, Craig Stevens and Scott Ogle are without doubt very quick.
The second run saw Graham Featherstone stamp his authority and experience on this event, after all it is his local one. Matt Jensen was the big mover on this run posting a second overall, Cunningham was still there in 3rd with Redfern holding off Dave Loughlin. But this being the 2nd run meant that now it was the top eight positions that were the important ones….the pressure now starts. Now we have 7 4wd vehicles and one 2wd in the hunt. That sole 2wd guy being Steve Goodare in his mighty Nissan Sunny.
The third run, and again feathers pulls a few seconds out on the rest, just to keep it comfortable. Cunningham was again the second fastest and must be thoroughly enjoying this event, getting in some much needed seat time, but having the car going so well must also be very encouraging and satisfying. Redfern and Loughlin were the other two chasers in the top four, as now the eight has been cut to four.
Matt Jensen could also have been here such was his speed on the previous run, however a little too hot into a right hander, which did come after quite a long straight saw the Evo pilot make a much published exit from the event. It turned out to be a bit of a humorous exit although really it could have been much more serious, both he and co-driver very lucky not to have a huge bill from one of the residents……not to mention a vet bill.
To be fair to Matt the only escape road once he made the decision he could not make the bend was the driveway of a resident, which he took but was still carrying quite a bit of speed, he could not pull up and ended up hitting a carport, there was a car parked in there and a dog tied to the pole holding up the car port…..the dog escaped un hurt, the residents car was undamaged but the car port did take a little hit!
Now, the really important run, the fourth were we will now be cutting out two more drivers with the two remaining going into a top two run off. Feathers was once again very fast, pulling another second over Cunningham, whom I’m sure would be just glad to be still here, certainly Crunch would be just to justify his time and effort in simply getting to the event. Cunningham just scraped in, holding off a hard charging Redfern to make the top two.
Now, although I,ve taken a different approach to writing this article to what I normally do there has still been plenty of other action within the classes, although no real surprises. What has been encouraging with this series this year is the participation of the “Northlanders”. The Northland Car Club has had quite a few guys register and enter all rounds so far, which has been brilliant for the series. A couple of them are having really good seasons so far, none more so than Brendon Oakden, currently leading the class G. He had a battle on his hands today with local fella Kian Scherer, and had to settle for 2nd best. But with Scherer not being registered it was back to keeping an eye on Kevin Bennet, which he did and went onto take the maximum points for the class.
The classic 2wd class was taken by Don Needham in his mk2 Escort, it’s his local event but it’s a very deserving win, there’s probably not a more enthusiastic competitor in the series than Dondy. Craig Tickle took the silver with his BMW 2002, and Chris Alexander took the Bronze with his Mk1 Cortina.
Class B, possibly to re named the Toyota class??? Saw Scott Ogle take the win, followed by Justin Glavish and current class leader Russell Jenkins, all in Starlets.
Class C, I was just about to write “ dominated “ by Grant Liston, but Craig Stevens was also present and looking back at the times its apparent that Listo had to work really hard to take the class win, with John Whooley and Ethan O’ Hagen making everyone work hard. Listo 1st, Stevens 2nd, With Whooley 3rd.
Class D, as I mentioned in the last report on the Bothwell Loop this is an awesome class, purely for the cars. Take our top three. Steve Goodare in his Nissan Sunny, not 100% sure of the capacity of this car but its certainly well over 1500cc. Then we have Charlie Evans in his RX7, pure competitiveness…if there’s such a word, then Anthony Jones in his Millington powered Escort, who wouldn’t like this class? Now, just quickly going back to my earlier paragraphs regarding the elimination process and this is a great example of how things work.
Steve Goodare progressed further than Charlie Evans in the overall elimination process, so gets more points on the overall finishing. However once eliminated he still continues in the class, were although he was still fastest on all four runs Charlie kept with him and qualified through the elimination process to meet him in the top two run off….where he beat him, thus gaining more points for the class, but lost out to him in the overall standings.
So getting back to class D results, it was Evans 1st, Goodare 2nd and Jonesy 3rd.
Class A, up to 1300cc. This was won by the reigning champion, Mark Bradly in his 1200 Datsun. Chris Clarke took 2nd with local hero Murray Brown taking 3rd in his Nissan sunny.
So, back to that top two run off for the overall. Now normally we would now have a top two run off in all classes, however, as today’s event had a few hold ups at the start, and the field was so big, then add in a couple of holdups due to incidents the top two run off was pulled earlier by the organisers, who judged time was running out regarding road closure, therefore that fourth run was the last run. Thus Featherstone was declared the winner. I must point out that all competitors were made aware of this decision earlier on in the day.
As usual, an awesome event, superbly organised and run by the Thames Valley Car Club. A stunning piece of road, loved and hated by competitors as some found it difficult to get into a flow, others loved it due to its technicality, whatever your take it was a superb event.