Whangarei driver Ben Jagger suffered a cruel twist of fate when on the very last special stage of the final round of the New Zealand Rally Championship the engine in his Subaru gave in denying him his first podium finish of the season.
"We knew we were in trouble when the cockpit was filling with smoke earlier on and we were having to keep topping the oil up between stages. We were nursing it but the engine just gave up in the end."
Jagger and co-driver Ben Hawkins started in eighth place on Sunday morning after finishing there after a fairly solid first day of the rally. They were climbing up through the field of national contenders stage by stage but were surprised to find they had reached third position when told by a TV crew.
"We knew we were doing some good times but it was a TV crew who told us we had moved up to third place when they came to interview us at the end of one of the stages." said Jagger.
A third place would have been the pair's first podium finish since moving up into the four wheel drive category last year after winning the two wheel drive national title in 2009.
But motorsport can be a cruel game and anything can happen before crossing the finish line with Jagger's fruitful day turned on it's head just kilometres away from the end.
However 2011 has been a strong season for Jagger and Hawkins although suffering two significant retirements hindering their progress up the standings, one at Rally NZ with a broken gearbox and this weekend's blown engine. A new points structure rewards finishing a rally and penalises harshly when you don't.
With a marked improvement on 2010 where they finished 15th, the pair can be happy with finishing well inside the top 10 placing ninth in their second season in the four wheel drive class.
At the end of the season last year, Jagger and Hawkins went on to claim victory at their home event Rally of the Far North.
The well earned victory with quick and consistent stage times was just what the "Two Bens" were looking for with which to complete what was at times a very difficult debut season in the new SeedForce Subaru Impreza WRX.
This coming October 15th the pair will attempt a repeat rally win in front of their local supporters.
"This year the car has been performing very well and we have been very happy with it. We'll have to do something about getting our engine sorted before Rally of the North so we can defend our title." said Jagger.
Richard Mason took overall honours in the Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship claiming his third title in the national competition.
Emma Gilmour finished in second place ahead of Hayden Paddon who competed just three of the five rounds in the series due to clashes on the calendar as he competes in the Production World Rally Championship which he currently leads.