Just as they have for the past two years, Kiwi drivers lead the NAC Insurance International Rally of Whangarei. During the first day, Richard Mason and Hayden Paddon showed three-time FIA Asia Pacific rally champion Cody Crocker a clean pair of heels, with Mason ahead of Paddon by 25.1 seconds. Young Australian driver Brendon Reeves holds third overall ahead of Crocker while Japanese driver and former APRC champion Katsuhiko Taguchi rounds out the top five.
As the top seed and therefore first on the road, Crocker had to contend with heavily metalled roads during the first runs through each of the day’s four stages, which were repeated in the afternoon. The gravel affected Taguchi and Paddon to a lesser extent, while Mason had the advantage of a much less-gravelled running line as he ran eighth on the road behind the APRC-registered competitors.
Despite the gravel, Paddon, the current New Zealand rally champion, took the first stage win, ahead of Reeves.
“[There’s] a lot of gravel on the road and it is very, very slippery, but that’s the way it is,” said Paddon.
Mason then won the four longest of the day’s eight stages, slowly establishing an increasing lead over Paddon by day’s end, describing the day as “…really good. We didn’t want to go silly; [we] knew we had good lead in NZRC.”
Overall, New Zealanders Emma Gilmour and Chris West are sixth and seventh respectively with Indian driver Gaurav Gill in eighth. Rally rookie Kieran Hall is ninth with veteran Jean-Louis Leyraud, from New Caledonia, tenth. In the APRC standings Crocker leads the chase for points from Taguchi, Gilmour, Gill and New Zealand’s Brian Green. Paddon’s efforts have moved him into the lead of the Pacific Cup, part of the APRC, for which Rally Whangarei is the final round.
The NAC Insurance International Rally of Whangarei comprises several contests within the one rally. Not only is it the third round of the APRC and the Vantage New Zealand Rally Championship, it’s also a qualifying round for the Pirelli Star Driver and Rally New Zealand’s Rising Stars competitions.
Paddon has dominated the points for both the Pirelli Star Driver award and Rising Stars International Award section. But a more interesting tussle has been going on further down the order. Heading the charge for the second available Pirelli spot Kieran Hall, holding a six point lead to Rotorua’s young gun Sloan Cox going into the second day. Patrick Malley takes top points for the day in both the Rising Stars Development Award and the Fiesta Sporting Trophy after former leader Ben Jagger had a puncture.
Day two of the event sees competitors tackle eight further special stages on roads in the Kaipara and Whangarei districts. The event’s official finish and prize-giving takes place at the Quayside Town Basin in central Whangarei from 3pm on Sunday. Full results can be found on the event website www.rallywhangarei.co.nz.
Rally of Whangarei, Leg 1 Results
1, Richard Mason/ Sara Mason, Subaru Impreza WRX STI, Masterton, 1:32:48.9
2, Hayden Paddon/John Kennard, Mitsubishi Lancer EVO IX, Geraldine, 1:33:14.0, +25.1, +25.1
3, Brendan Reeves/Glen Weston, Subaru Impreza WRX STi, Australia, 1:34:07.0, +1:18.1,+53.0
4, Cody Crocker/Ben Atkinson, Subaru Impreza WRX STI, Australia, 1:34:08.4, +1:19.5, +1.4
5, Katsuhiko Taguchi/Mark Stacey, Mitsubishi Lancer EVO IX, Japan, 1:34:20.2, +1:31.3, +11.8
6, Emma Gilmour/Rhianon Smyth, Subaru Impreza WRX STI, Hamilton, 1:34:37.3, +1:48.4, +17.1
7, Chris West/Chris Cobham, Mitsubishi Lancer EVO VIII, Christchurch, 1:35:03.8, +2:14.9, +26.5
8, Gaurav Gill/Glenn Macneall, Mitsubishi Lancer EVO X, India, 1:35:32.0, +2:43.1, +28.2
9, Kieran Hall/Peter Hart, Subaru Impreza WRX STI, Nelson, 1:36:15.8, +3:26.9, +43.8
10, Jean-Louis Leyraud/Benjamin Searcy, Subaru Impreza WRX STI, New Caledonia,1:37:48.0, +4:59.1, +1:32.2