Extreme Battle at the Daybreaker
Extreme Battle at the Daybreaker
After the high attrition rate in Round 2 at Rally Hawkes Bay, Round 3 at the Daybreaker Rally was an all out, no holds barred, 122km sprint by comparison. With only 6 retirements in the whole day it came down to how fast you can go to beat your rivals.
Added to this was the return of Alex Kelsey, Andrew Hawkeswood and Dylan Turner at the front of the field, meaning that Stewart Taylor and Geof Argyle had to be on their toes from the start.
With 10 stages on the twisty Manawatu roads, and good under rubber conditions, the fight for top honours began right from the first 22km test. Argyle, Taylor, Kelsey and Hawkeswood were separated by 7.6 seconds, while a second battle group developed with Grant Blackberry, Neil Marshall and Dylan Turner separated by 8 seconds.
Taylor won the next two short stages to be sitting just 0.1 seconds behind Argyle. Meanwhile it was another disaster for Hawkeswood, with the Audi Quattro parked on the trailer after just two stages.
Stage 4 and Argyle looses 30 seconds after a spin near the start. This instantly drops him to third and into the clutches of Blackberry, Marshall, and a fast closing Shannon Chambers after Chambers had a slow start to his morning. Meanwhile Kelsey is only 17.7 seconds behind Taylor heading to the first service.
Over the next group of stages Argyle mounts his fight back and closes to within 4.1 seconds of Kelsey, with Taylor a semi-comfortable 19.9 seconds in front. Blackberry is maintaining his 4th place and proving that his superb second place at Hawkes Bay wasn’t just a hometown advantage. Although 38 seconds behind Argyle, he leads Marshall by 9 seconds.
The big improvers in all this had been Chambers and Matthew Jensen as they pushed their way up the field together and in the process knocked Turner back down to 8th.
With just three stages to go, it was the 24km of Ridge Road that provided the last real opportunity to make a move. Unfortunately for Kelsey and Turner it was a move in the wrong direction.
While Argyle and Taylor blitzed the stage with just 0.8 seconds between them, they were 27 seconds faster than the rest, including Kelsey. That saw Argyle take second place, but still 24 seconds down on Taylor.
For Turner, mechanical issues saw him drop from 8th to 12th. Blackberry fought hard to take the 3rd fastest stage time and widen his gap to Marshall and Chambers in 4th and 5th respectively.
Although the last two stages didn’t offer much opportunity to make up time, Argyle gave it a good go. Knocking 7.6 and 6.9 seconds off Taylor’s time for the two loops saw Argyle close to be just 10.2 seconds off the lead. Taylor on the other hand was delighted at making it two wins from two rallies, and his first win at the Daybreaker.
Kelsey had seen the writing on the wall after stage 8 and drove to finish, with a comfortable lead on fourth, to take the third podium spot.
First in the Pre2000 4WD class and 4th overall Grant Blackberry enjoyed a 15.6 second lead over Marshall, with Chambers in 6th. Jensen had faded over the last few stages, but he still took 2nd in the class to Blackberry. A handful of fast times late in the day allowed Nigel Adams to get within 13 seconds of Jensen and take third in class at the same time.
Club 4WD class was an easy with to Gareth McLachlan in his VR4 as Keith Stewart struggled to get to grips with his Legacy.
The battle of the 2WD cars continued on where the last round left off. Tony McConachy and Craig Stevens were neck and neck over the first 4 tests, swapping stage times and places at least 3 times. This continued on until the afternoon when McConachy found an extra yard of pace and proceeded to pull away. That left Stevens having to settle for second in the Open 2WD class by 41 seconds and McConachy again the victor.
Third of the 2WD clan and first in the Club 2WD Class was Paul De Rose. Looking to repeat his heroics at the Hawkes Bay Rally, these roads weren’t as kind to De Rose. However his efforts in chasing the Open Class cars did see him pull away from the rest in a convincing fashion, with the next best in Club 2WD being Lyndsay Homes, almost 2 minutes away. Meanwhile it was a last minute surge by Greg Browne who pipped a slowing Charlie Evans into third.
The expected three way battle of the Classics, between Jeff Judd, Jason Timmins and Michael Bunyard was cut short when Bunyard came through Stage 1 with what looked like broken steering. And then to cap an unfortunate day he rolled out of the rally on Stage 5.
This left Lee Stringer, Ray Wilson and Roger Goss to take the fight to Judd and Timmins, and it was Stringer who took up the challenge. However Judd and Timmins continued to pull away as the day went on, and as Stringer comfortably remained best of the rest he took third in class.
In the fight for class honours a 20 second penalty handed to Timmins, for a jumped start on stage one, was going to come back and haunt him. A string of faster stage times on the last four tests wasn’t going to be enough to overcome this, with the end result being a class win to Judd by 18.6 seconds.
As predicted the Daybreaker Rally has proved to be critical to many for the Total Lubricants Rally Xtreme Challenge. Moving into the second half of the series sees Graham Featherstone retains his overall lead by a healthy 13 points. Consistency has again proved a winning formula with a 6th, 4th and now 9th overall.
Craig Stevens retains his second place, although he now shares this with Geof Argyle. Stewart Taylor’s two wins in a row (after missing the first round) bumps him up to 4th, with Quentin Palmer just 1 point behind in 5th. There is then a compressed group of 7 drivers who make up places 6 to 10, with just 5 points separating the lot. Even 13th placed Neil Marshall is only 6 points off 6th overall.
The 4th round of the Rally Xtreme Challenge now heads to Maramarua Forest on the 15 September with everything still to play for.
Geof Argyle pushes hard at the Daybreaker Rally
Photo Credit: Jody Seabright
Calendar: Total Lubricants RALLY XTREME Challenge
Shakedown - 24 - 25 March - Whariti Hillclimb, Woodville
Round 1 - 28 April - Trusthouse Racetech Rally Wairarapa
Round 2 - 9 June - Tomoana Warehousing Hawkes Bay Rally
Round 3 - 14 July - Daybreaker Rally, Manawatu
Round 4 - 15 September - Maramarua Forest
Round 5 - 13 October - Pahia Rally, Rally of the North