Nelson’s Ben Hunt snared his first NZRC win at the Daybreaker Rally in Manawatu on Saturday, after Richard Mason - who held a commanding lead throughout the event – was beset by gearbox issues in the ninth and final stage.
Driving his Subaru STI on Dunlop tyres, the former NZRC Junior and 2WD champion capitalised on Mason’s misfortune to cross the finish line in Fielding’s town centre 13.1 seconds ahead of 2004 champion Chris West.
“It’s pretty awesome alright, especially coming here to an event we’ve never done before,” said Hunt.
“They’re nice, tight and twisty roads and probably suit our Group N car better than the others.
“We did have a few dramas, with the engine cutting out, so we’re glad to get to the finish and get such an awesome result.”
Hunt’s win elevates him to second in the overall standings on 68 points, 20 behind current leader Hayden Paddon. Mason drops to third, six points behind Hunt.
“It’s a great win for young Ben Hunt, who’s looked promising for some time,” said Dunlop motorsport manager Richard Fraser. “It’s going to make the final few rounds very interesting.”
Of the 69 starters, only 53 managed to finish. Usual Dunlop frontrunners Emma Gilmour and Alex Kelsey were struck down by electrical and mechanical issues respectively.
In the Historic Rally category, Kaiapoi’s Marcus van Klink flew past the field in his Mazda RX7, making amends for failing to finish in the first two rounds.
The NZRC returns to the South Island for the Canterbury Rally on 11 August.
GoPro Daybreaker Rally results
1. Ben Hunt/Tony Rawstorn Nelson Subaru STI 1:20:24.2
2. Chris West/Chris Cobham Timaru Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X +13.1
3. Geof Argyle/Joelle Eyre Feilding Mitsubishi Lancer EVO 8 +1:19.5
4. Nigel Adams/Tanya Gwynne New Plymouth Mitsubishi Lancer EVO 5 +2:16.9
5. Dylan Turner/Mark Tapper Auckland Mitsubishi Lancer EVO 8 +2:36.4
6. Matt Summerfield/Nicole Summerfield Rangiora Subaru STI +3:16.4
7. Dave Strong/Kylee Smith Auckland Ford Fiesta S2000 +3:47.4
8. Carl Davies/Tracey Lance Waihi Mitsubishi Lancer EVO 8 +4:08.4
9. Graham Featherstone/Chris Davison Te Aroha Mitsubishi Lancer EVO +4:16.0
10. Matt Jansen/Grant Marra Christchurch Subaru STI +4:20.1