Herbert claims fifth rally victory in Rotorua

Palmerston North’s Bruce Herbert claimed a record fifth victory in a row at the Hella Battery Town Rally of Rotorua today.

Herbert has taken a vice-like grip on his defence of the Parker Enzed national rally championship, with one round remaining in Hawkes Bay next month.

The 44-year-old Subaru driver finished 1min 50sec clear of Japan’s Fumio Nutahara and world production car champion Karamjit Singh (Malaysia). The overseas pair tied for second with identical times after three days of rallying, with Nutahara taking out the major honours on countback in the FIA Asia Pacific championship, held in conjunction with the Rotorua event.

Japan’s Fumio Nurahara won Round 2 of the 2003 Asia Pacific Rally Championship in his Mitsubishi Lancer. Even though Nutahara and Karamjit Singh from Malaysia finished with exactly the same time, The Advan Team drivers wins because according to the rules… “who-ever leads on the first day is the winner should the final results be tied”.

Auckland’s Andrew Hawkeswood celebrated his 35th birthday by producing fastest time on three of today’s five special stages, to climb from 1min 25sec behind third placed Singh overnight to just 21 seconds in fourth overall – second in the national championship and third in the Asia Pacific round.

Masterton’s Richard Mason (Mitsubishi) soldiered on with over-heating problems to finish fifth ahead of Germany’s Armin Kremer, the opening round winner of the Asia Pacific championship. Hawera’s Glenn Smith had his best finish of the year for sixth.

Herbert only needs to finish at Hawkes Bay to become the first person to win four national titles in a row in what will be his final New Zealand Rally Championship. “It’s unbelievable to win the Rotorua Rally for the fifth time in a row. It’s a great victory and I think it will be a long time before anyone matches that record” Herbert said.

No 9 Fumio Nutahara: “I am very, very happy with the result in this rally a there are many fast local drivers. It is unbelieveable to tie with Karamjit. Overall I am very happy.”

No 1 Karamjit Singh: “It is a good result in terms of the problems we have had with the car. It was a great battle with Fumio today and we get some good points to start our championship title defence.”

No 8 Andrew Hawkeswood: “We had no option today but to charge. We tried out best but it was not quite enough. The day went well apart from that. We just needed two more stages.”

No 3 Armin Kremer: “It’s been a great experience competing in this rally. We have learned a lot about this car and the set-up and your tricky road conditions. I look forward to coming back and competing again.”

Final results – Hella Battery Town Rally of Rotorua 2003
1. B Herbert (Subaru Impreza WRX STI) 2 hrs 58 mins 32.6 secs;
2. F Nutahara (Mitsubishi Lancer);
3. K Singh (Mitsubishi Lancer);
4. A Hawkeswood (Mitsubishi Lancer);
5. R Mason (Mitsubishi Lancer);
6. A Kremer (Mitsubishi Lancer)

Photo courtesy Mitsubishi Motorsport