Herbert has fifth rally victory in his sights

Palmerston North rally driver Bruce Herbert established a commanding lead today as he chases a record five wins in a row in the Hella Battery Town Rally of Rotorua.

Herbert (Subaru Impreza) finished the second day with a telling 1min 23sec advantage to his closest chasers and one hand on his fourth Parker Enzed national rally championship.

Japan’s Fumio Nutahara and Malaysia’s world production car champion Karamjit Singh head the chase, and are set to fight out the FIA Asia Pacific championship honours, held in conjunction with the event.

The much-anticipated battle between Herbert and his fellow Manawatu rival Geof Argyle (Mitsubishi Evo 6) evaporated early when Argyle blew a turbo on special stage six, the second of the day near Manawahe in the eastern Bay of Plenty. While he gamely limped through the stage and back to service in Kawerau to cure the problem, he is now well out of contention.

Argyle took fastest time in the first special stage of the day to extend his lead to 6.5 seconds over Herbert, as he chased critical points in both the national championship and Asia Pacific standings.

“We stopped to block off the oil line to the turbo so we could carry on. But that’s our rally buggered,” Argyle said. “The car seemed okay after the service although the turbo boost was fluctuating. We drove through the day and we will go for bonus points tomorrow.”

Argyle went into the event in second place behind Herbert in the national championship and second to German Armin Kremer in the Asia Pacific series. His departure left Herbert with a huge advantage.

“We were disappointed to see Geof stopped. We were looking forward to a good battle today and tomorrow. We were able to extend out the lead so I am trying to keep it nice and clean. There’s no real pressure on us at this stage.”

Masterton’s Richard Mason, who had turbo problems as well yesterday, drove consistently fast today to move up to fourth overall, and second in the Parker Enzed national championship, 2min 29sec behind Herbert. “I’m really enjoying myself. Everything is fine with the car and it will be an interesting battle with Andrew (Hawkeswood).”

Hawkeswood (Auckland, Mitsubishi), who drove conservatively yesterday, pushed hard today to record fastest time and stage records on two special stages. This was mixed with a mistake on stage eight, when he hit a bank and was forced to limp out and back to service with two flat tyres. This dropped him back to fifth, 28 seconds behind Mason.

Italy’s Nico Caldarola (Mitsubishi) climbed to sixth ahead of Hawera’s Glenn Smith, who moved up the ladder enjoying today’s faster forestry stages.

Kremer was eighth ahead of Auckland’s Mark Tapper (Mitsubishi) who leads the Group N class, despite losing five minutes due to a puncture on the penultimate stage of the day.

Results Day 2:

1. Bruce Herbert (Palmerston North, Subaru) 2hr 22min 13.9sec
2. Fumio Nutahara (Japan, Mitsubishi) + 1min 23.1sec
3. Karamjit Singh (Malaysia, Mitsubishi) + 1min 32.1sec
4. Richard Mason (Masterton, Mitsubishi) + 2min 29,8sec
5. Andrew Hawkeswood (Auckland, Mitsubishi) + 2min 58.5sec
6. Domenico Caldarola (Italy, Mitsubishi) + 3min 11.3sec
7. Glenn Smith (Hawera, Mitsubishi) + 3min 58.3sec
8. Armin Kremer (Germany, Mitsubishi) + 4min 02.7sec
9. Lewis Scott (Wellington, Mitsubishi) + 6min 32.0sec
10. Brian Stokes (Kaiapoi, Ford Escort RS) + 6min 48.0sec