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Matamata set for another Epic battle

10th September 2004

Matamata set for another Epic battle

Matamata, the site of the first Lord of the Rings movie, is set to host another epic battle as competitors prepare for the final round of the 2004 Parker-ENZED New Zealand Rally Championship on Saturday 18th September.

Teams in the Subaru Finance Tarmac Rally face a unique challenge as the event is the only tarmac surfaced rally in the Championship (NZRC).

All eyes will be on the fight for the Overall New Zealand Gold Star Rally Champion as any one of four drivers can still win.

The charge will be led by Subaru driver Chris West who has a 25 point lead over Aucklander Andrew Hawkeswood, the winner of the previous round in Nelson. Third equal on 94 points is 1989 and 1992 Champion Neil Allport from Auckland (Mitsubishi) and 2004 Rookie Champion Sam Murray from Palmerston North (Subaru).

With 32 points on offer for a win the pressure will be right on Hawkeswood, Allport and Murray. All require West to score little or no points for this event and the results of others to also go their way. However West, driving a left hand drive Subaru Impreza built for the late Possum Bourne, will still feel some pressure as he needs to finish no worse than 13th to remove any chance for his opposition.

Should West win the Gold Star he will become only the second driver to take the title in a standard Production Car (showroom specification) after Reece Jones secured the title in 1995 and 1997.

However there are several top drivers keen to take out this very specialised round of the NZRC and finish their season on a high. The pre-rally favourite would arguably be multiple tarmac rally winner Glenn Smith from Hawera (Mitsubishi) while top Group N runners Richard Mason, Masterton (Subaru) and the Mitsubishi's of Auckland's Mark Tapper and Dunedin speedster Tom Pritchard can be expected to figure in the final outcome at the end of the eleven ultra high speed special stages.

Murray will also have another contest on his hands as he attempts to win the final ever Group A Championship. He currently has a 5 point lead over 1983 Overall Champion Malcolm Stewart from Dannevirke (Mitsubishi) who leads Hawkeswood by 1 point with 2001 Group A Champion Lewis Scott from Lower Hutt (Mitsubishi) a further 15 points back. Allport too, is still in with a chance but must win the round.

Double F2 and 2000 Baleno Champion Jason West from Dunedin (Suzuki) will fight it out in the 2wd class with Aucklander Dave Strong (Honda) who is 14 points adrift, and in third place is fellow Aucklander Kayne Barrie (Nissan) 2 points behind Strong.

The Co-Driver Championship mirrors the overall series with Garry Cowan (West) 25 points clear of Jeff Hill (Hawkeswood) and third equal on 94 points are Stuart Jenkinson (Murray) with Rob Ryan (Allport) the champion for the last five years.

Mitsubishi are on track to win their 8th consecutive Manufacturers' Trophy ahead of arch rivals Subaru, while the consistent form of Chris West, Sam Murray and Richard Mason has Subaru Rally Team NZ enjoying a 51 point lead over Team Falken Evo consisting of Allport, Hawkeswood and Scott.

The three other titles have already been decided coming into this final round with Group N Champion Chris West (Subaru), Junior Champion Dean Sumner from Rotorua (Mitsubishi) and Rookie Sam Murray from Palmerston North (Subaru) all wrapping up these titles at Nelson.

The Subaru Finance Tarmac Rally gets underway with a Ceremonial Start at 6.00pm on Friday the 17 September from Garden Place in Hamilton City. Saturday the 18th sees competitors battle over 136km of tarmac stages in and around the Waikato with a Service Park at Matamata before a Ceremonial Finish back at Garden Place at 5.00pm.


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