Geraldine’s Hayden Paddon has a commanding lead after nine stages of the 2011 DriveSouth Rally of Otago, the Subaru STI driver finishing 1 minute 33.4 seconds ahead of the Mitsubishi of Rotorua’s Dean Sumner.
The first of five rounds in the 2011 Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship, the three-day event takes in roads around host city Dunedin. Paddon took an early advantage after three stages held in the dark of Friday night, with Dunedin local Emma Gilmour runner-up, before defending series champion Sumner narrowly over-hauled her podium advantage by the end of Saturday’s action.
With the majority of the 29 championship teams recording a clean run over the first 151 kilometres of mainly county road set south and west of the city, Friday night’s opening three special stages were a new contrast to the series. Completing a further five stages today in superb autumnal weather, the day ended with a 2.15 kilometre blast through part of Dunedin’s industrial area.
“It’s a great start for us,” said Paddon, fresh from winning his opening round of the 2011 Production World Rally Championship season in Portugal. Having never driven the Supercheap Autos Subaru STI on New Zealand roads before, the 23-year-old was taking a measured approach to an event he last contested in 2009. “We built a buffer on Friday night and just cruised today. Today’s stages were quite open and didn’t quite suit the Subaru but tomorrow’s stages are a bit more technical and it should suit us a bit better.”
Behind Paddon, Sumner, Gilmour, Christchurch’s Chris West and Masterton’s Richard Mason are all within 46 seconds of each other.
Eighth overall, behind the premier Group N and leading cars, open four-wheel drive class driver and two-time defending champion Geof Argyle made the best possible start, despite not having his first choice of tyres. Feilding’s Argyle headed off the challenge from series rookie Neil Marshall (New Plymouth), while the third open-class entry of Dylan Turner (Auckland) had the dubious honour of the first retirement of the championship, crashing on the opening stage of the rally. Despite his early lead, Argyle was far from impressed with his performance.
“Our good tyres haven’t yet arrived yet in to the country and we didn’t do a great job on the notes to be honest,” said a downcast Argyle.
The hotly contested two-wheel drive class saw Nelson’s Ben Hunt take an early in his Ford Fiesta ST150, having overturned the earlier time deficit to Christchurch’s Josh Marston. Rangiora’s Matt Summerfield held an early advantage after the night stages in the bio-Diesel powered Skoda Fabia, however a sensor problem meant he arrived at the first stage late and incurred time penalties to relinquish his position.
“The stages in the morning were fantastic compared to driving with the lights on last night. It was awesome to get back into the groove and a good way to start the season,” said Hunt, positioned 22nd overall at the half-way mark.
In the historic class, a battle royale between the Ford Escort RS1800’s of Paraparaumu’s Shane Murland and Christchurch’s Jeff Judd ended early. On Friday night’s third stage, Murland rolled out of the lead and the rally. Judd, who struggled with incorrectly set-up lights on his Escort, was on the pace in the light of day, taking four stage wins. Second at the over-night halt, Marcus Van Klink in the Mazda RX7 claimed the other two stages, with Ron Davey currently third.
Although he holds a lead of 1 minute 9.5 seconds, all is not well with Judd’s Escort, the BDA engine using plenty of oil and smoking all around Dunedin’s Anzac Avenue super special stage.
“It was an awesome day, great roads but I made a bad tyre call in the long stage earlier, it was a lot drier than I thought,” said Judd.
“We are happy to have taken day one, but it is burning a lot of oil so we will probably start tomorrow and see how we go, but the big stage at the end will be a worry.”
In 15th position overall, just behind the Super2000 Ford Fiesta category car of Auckland’s Dave Strong is 1981 World Rally Champion Ari Vatanen. The original ‘Flying Finn’ held second in the two-wheel drive classic ‘rally-within-a-rally’ for the majority of the opening day, but when Australian Stewart Reid struck trouble, Vatanen capitalised and now holds a lead of just over one and a half minutes. Judd currently sits third in that event.
Sunday’s conclusion to the event see’s the teams cover a further 119.55 kilometres of six special stages centred around the Lake Waihola service park. The event then returns to Dunedin for the ceremonial finish, being held at Dunedin’s railway station from 3:55pm.
A new-look NZRC website is now live – www.nzrallychampionship.co.nz – and fans can also find out more information about any of the events on the New Zealand Rally Championship Facebook page.
Results overall after day one 9 April 2011 DriveSouth Rally of Otago
Pos., No., Driver, Co-Driver, Vehicle, Town, Time
1,2, Hayden Paddon, John Kennard, Subaru STI, Geraldine, 1:24:38.6
2, 1, Dean Sumner, Paul Fallon, Mitsubishi Lancer EVO IX, Rotorua, +1:33.4
3, 3, Emma Gilmour, Glenn Macneall, Subaru STI, Dunedin, +1:44.0
4, 4, Chris West, Erin Kyle, Mitsubishi Lancer EVO IX, Timaru, +2:15.0
5, 5, Richard Mason, Sara Mason, Subaru STI, Masterton, +2:19.7
6, 101, Andrew Hawkeswood, Rocky Hudson, Audi Quattro, Alexandra, +2:59.9
7, 10, Sloan Cox, Tarryn Cox, Mitsubishi Lancer EVO X, Rotorua, +3:12.2
8, 6, Geof Argyle, Phillip Deakin, Mitsubishi Lancer EVO VIII, Feilding, +3:33.6
9, 7, Glenn Inkster, Glenn Goldring, Mitsubishi Lancer EVO IX, Auckland, +4:20.8
Full results can be found on www.chrissport.co.nz
2011 New Zealand Rally Championship Calendar
Round 1 – DriveSouth Rally of Otago – 8 to 10 April
Round 2 – Rally New Zealand ‘High Octane at Hampton’ – 7 to 8 May
Round 3 – Rally Wairarapa – 28 to 29 May
Round 4 – International Rally of Whangarei – 15 to 17 July
Round 5 – Rally Hawke’s Bay – 20 to 21 August