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,
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
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!
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