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What an awesome rally, the whole team enjoyed it and luckily that famous service area at Lake Waihola was not as cold as the previous year! Sven, Ian, Michelle, Dave McCahon, Mum, Dad and Caity were the service crew for this weekend and what an amazing job the whole crew did to get the car up and running in time. I am incredibly lucky to have such a wonderful, dedicated, committed and knowledgeable crew and it is because of them that our rallies continue to go so well!. Carl had worked incredibly hard to ensure the car was ready in time, having to re-schedule his 'normal' job around getting the car ready and what a great job he did with it. Co-driver was 19 year old Erin Kyle of Palmerston North who is an awesome lady and a great co-driver!

So, Bert had a new boost and after spending the off season thinking through my attack on the championship and each rally we were set to go. Unfortunately not long before the rally naughty Bert broke a valve spring, resulting in us having to put standard cams and valve springs back in - after a WHOLE heap of hard work on behalf of Carl, Dave and the guys at Kelford cams she was ready in time. They finished the car at Thursday lunchtime, raced down to Dunedin getting there with a few seconds to spare before auditing!

Unfortunately we were unable to test the car and it was to be quite a different handling car. My first drive of it was to be to stage one of the rally! With the awesome Dunlop tyres bolted on below, I quickly learned how the car felt, braked and accelerated and was loving it!

We had problems with the front brakes the whole weekend as they wouldn't bed in at the rear and the car would step out under braking (at the start even under light braking). This was a good learning curve for me though, I learned to drive the car in a different way than I previously had. Using that back-end stepping out to the best of our advantage, though it took me a while to gain confidence in this.

The first day went without major problems, roads were in excellent condition but it was sad to see Shane Watkins and co-driver David Calder out on the 4 th stage with engine problems.

Saturday night I was able to sit down and reflect on my driving and the car before a charge on day two. It was very useful and simply by thinking things through I found more confidence.

Had an absolute ball Sunday, starting to get more on top of those brakes and used to the handling of the car. We made a lot of progress and ended up noticeably faster. Really enjoyed the long 35km stage, found a good rhythm and managed to hold it for the stage got to the end and would have done anything to have another 35km left to go!

All in all we had a wonderful weekend. Erin did a great job at co-driver, she was very in tune with what was going on and with me and the car, definitely a co-driver to keep your eye on! We ended up 3 rd in the 2WD New Zealand Rally Championship class a good start for the championship and a great start for the season. Can't wait until our next rally in two weeks.

One of the highlights of my trip was meeting four times World Rally Champion, Juha Kankkunen at prizegiving. He's an amazing guy with a lot of passion. Was a true experience meeting him and he was very kind to talk to Erin and I for a long time. I gained a lot of very valuable tips on drive and determination and found him saying things similar to that I feel. I was amazed at how his gaze was firmly on our faces, even when caps and paper were shoved under his hand to sign and photographers were snapping their flashes at him constantly. After our conversation, he gave me a kiss on the cheek - I was very upset when after 2 days I've finally had to wash it off (got too difficult to wash around it!).

So that was our rally an awesome one at that. Learned a whole heap, I'm loving the car and the hard work that's been put into preparing it are reaping rewards. I knew that during some of those down times that it'll all be worth it come start line and I can assure you that it was!

Thanks to the organisers and helpers in the rally. HUGE thanks to the whole crew for an awesome weekend. HUGE Thanks to Mike Turfus for lending me a recce car - your kindness is really, really appreciated!! Very Special thanks to Carl for the countless hours he has put into me and my car!

Southland two weeks, can't wait!

Sara

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