Herbert Warms Up Subaru For 2002
Herbert Piloting Subaru For Third Title
By: Lance Hastie www.car.co.nz
When driving the latest vehicle produced, does it begin to dawn that this same vehicle can be easily transformed to produce a series of world firsts in the motorsport world - the very world where a lot of the technology behind this same vehicle was born from and bred into this, the latest model.
So how do you begin to comprehend that the world's first debut of the 2001 Subaru Impreza WRX RA rally car would be the result of a Palmerston North teams desire to introduce something different to the rally fraternity?
Well that was the inspired thought from Bruce Herbert and his Dynalink Rally Team -that grew in to a second National Championship Rally Title for the Palmerston North based team.
Starting with a new car, fresh from the production line of Subaru in Japan, the team took delivery of New Zealand's first race destined version of the 2001 Impreza.
Immediately after putting the car through its paces on the Manfeild Autocourse, Bruce Herbert realised he'd made a decision that would pay competitive dividends.
While the rest is history, the legacy of battles the team endured along the way bears testament to the kiwi 'can-do' attitude.
In their quest to front at the opening round of National Rally Championship, did the accolades begin to gather. Straight out of the box the team managed to achieve a string of minor goals, not with-standing the goal of finishing, but the result of finishing second outright in its debut event certainly kept the spotlight on Herbert and the car.
In the first event Herbert's Impreza was homologated for, they faced a duelling battle with a Kiwi legend - Possum Bourne. Plagued with minor issues, Bourne failed to provide Herbert with the competition he was laying down to the rest of the field.
Herbert went on to win the Parker Enzed International Rally of Rotorua for the third time and in the process, gave the car its first win in its first points scoring start. The result also gave Herbert the lead in the Asia Pacific Rally Championship - something that was not on the mind of the Palmerston North driver.
Then collecting points at the Propeica Rally of New Zealand by finishing first resident kiwi home, Herbert faced the toughest battle yet, with his home event - the Palmfeild Motors Subaru Daybreaker Rally. While missing out on the top of the podium by a mere three seconds, the point's count-back gave Herbert the narrowest of victories in the National Rally Championship.
On reflection, it took the team three championship events to accomplish what other drivers had the opportunity to claim in five. In all events, the cars reliability was beyond reproach. The careful preparation and maintenance by the team ensured that no matter what the odds, the odds of failure were nil.
Facing another title defence, Bruce has returned for 2002 with the same package that not only won the championship but world recognition.
Hoping to achieve what has only been done once before in New Zealand rallying history - Bruce is lining up to etch his name for the third consecutive year as National Rally Champion. "Our goal for the year is to get that third championship. It is our main reason for coming back. Especially since Rod's name isn't on the current cup, we would like to think we could be the first to do that", said Herbert.
Tied for the honour with Jim Donald, Joe McAndrew and Geof Argyle, Bruce Herbert now has the opportunity to challenge Rod Millen's achievement of three consecutive titles - which Millen achieved in the mid 1970's.
Looking ahead to a big year, Herbert is upfront about which part of the championship that he thinks will be the toughest. "Because of the weather down south, you just don't know what you are going to encounter when you roll up to the start. It makes it so much harder to stay competitive under those conditions and a lot of it comes down to luck - by having the right combination at the right time on the right road. However, if it stays fine for the South Island rounds then Rally New Zealand will probably be the toughest, because of the harder roads you get severe tyre wear."
Looking forward to the Rally of New Zealand, Herbert is treating it as his favoured round for 2002. "Its our chance to battle it out with the big boys", said Herbert.
Planning to introduce some new technology during the year, Herbert is hoping they can utilise some of the latest computer updates to help performance. "We will probably need to be ¼ second a kilometre faster to stay in front this year, we think we have got that and could continue to maintain the margin with our updates during the year", he adds.
Kicking off the year with the Rally of Otago on May 10th, Bruce Herbert, Rob Ryan and the rest of the team are setting their sights on contesting history by wrapping up the Parker Enzed New Zealand Rally Championship.