Thu, 20 Jun 2019 - Timaru weather could provide biggest challenge so far for Gillies and Pilcher

Weather could be the biggest challenge facing Andy Gillies and Nathan Pilcher as the duo aim to maintain their class lead in the Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship at this weekend's South Canterbury Rally.

The pair - who are in their first full season together in the ex-Chris Paddon Commercial Hire NZ Toyota Levin - lead Category 5B in the points chase after three rounds of the 2019 championship.

This weekend's fourth round is based in Timaru, features gravel roads and includes some of the infamous old stages from New Zealand rallying history. Covering over 200km in one day, the event tests every team's endurance and stamina as well as speed. With temperatures dropping over the next few days and the threat of poor weather ever present, both Otago-based Gillies and Auckland-based Pilcher are regarding it as their toughest challenge together so far. It's the first time either have undertaken the rally as well.

"I think we are both hoping that we don’t get as much rain as we did at Canterbury but the threat of snow also brings an added challenge of not only keeping warm but also keeping it on the road," explained Gillies.

"I've done this rally before but it is new for Nathan. It's known for being hard and fast and a little bit like Otago with the attrition rate being the key factor on the end result. We know we want to make it to the finish and we will be reminding ourselves at the start that for us to continue our consistency we have to make it to the finish. The rally is not won on the first stage but can certainly be lost."

It's been a busy time for co-driver Pilcher between rallies, as he has been managing the crew for Collins Motorsport's North Island Endurance Series circuit racing campaign in their Ford Mustang. Jumping between codes has been a challenge in itself, but Pilcher says a calm approach to the rally weekends from both himself and Gillies is paying big dividends as they unlock the performance of their car.

"I think we both look forward to rally weekends as we both enjoy getting out there and doing it," he explained. "There is a sense of relief at the end of each stage. We are always trying to improve ourselves and more notably since I undertook doing the co-drivers academy we are paying a lot more attention to the recce and our notes.

"We have come forward in leaps and bounds this year but we are still finding the limits of the car. The car was built by Chris Paddon with a lot of knowledge and it has a lot of untapped potential as well that we are getting into each round. I think that every time Andy drives the Commercial Hire NZ Toyota Levin he gains more knowledge about what the car is going to do and how it reacts. Another season or two in this car will really allow us to get more comfortable in the car and become more consistent. We're all about taking it step by step."

The rally begins Saturday morning with stages throughout the day.

Gillies and Pilcher's Commercial Hire NZ Toyota Levin is also supported by ENZED, Total Lubricants, Wurth NZ, Wet&Forget, MG Minerals, Superfinishing NZ, Arrowtown Bakery, Base Contracting, Brian Scott Motors and Prestige Commercial Vehicles. After this weekend's South Canterbury Rally, the team head north again for the Rally Coromandel in August. The season then has a free September before concluding with Rally Waitomo in October.

Thu, 20 Jun 2019 - Thomson ready for Timaru Challenge

Christchurch’s Dylan Thomson is ready to take on the latest challenge in the Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship, the Stadium Finance South Canterbury Rally, which takes place this weekend.

Thomson heads to the event currently sitting fourth in the standings, only one point away from third place, after a strong and consistent start to his debut season in a four-wheel drive car, having moved from a Ford Fiesta ST for the last three seasons into the Specialised Auto Services Subaru Impreza STI.

The Timaru-based South Canterbury rally made it’s debut in the NZRC last year and quickly became a competitor favourite, although Thomson and co-driver Amy Hudson are looking forward to using the extra power and top speed of the four-wheel drive turbo Subaru this year on some of the fastest stages the championship has to offer. As an added bonus, Thomson is confident the latest modifications to the set-up of the car will have it exactly to his liking for the gravel highways ahead.

“We’ve had a pretty awesome start to the championship so far this year, we came into the season with no expectations but to learn and all of a sudden we’re one point away from the top three, so not getting carried away is important this weekend,” says Thomson. “I’ve got to take this chance to thank all of our sponsors and everyone that has helped us get this far this season, hopefully we can reward them with a really strong run again this weekend.”

The Stadium Finance South Canterbury Rally gets underway with a ceremonial start from Caroline Bay in Timaru on Friday night, with crews leaving outside the council office from 6:15am. Teams will take on 12 special stages totalling 196 kilometres before the finish at Levels Raceway from 3:30pm.

Dylan Thomson Rallysport’s campaign is supported by Total Lubricants, Riordan and West Transport Pukekohe, Drew + Accounting, Harrier Signs, Specialised Auto Services, Steelrite Framing, LJ Hooker, Fowler Homes South Auckland and New Zealand, AA Autocentre Hornby, Jivan Produce, Dunlop, Dixcel and Braketech.

Thu, 20 Jun 2019 - van Klink looks for more of the same at Timaru

Christchurch’s Marcus van Klink is looking to take his fourth victory to continue his unbeaten run in the Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship at this weekend’s Stadium Finance South Canterbury Rally.

This season has seen van Klink go from strength to strength in the Universal Plumbing Triple Rotor Mazda RX-8, including climbing as high as sixth overall at the recent Canterbury Rally despite the traction disadvantage of a two-wheel drive car.

The ultra-fast roads that the Timaru-based event is famous for is expected to suit van Klink and co-driver Dave Neill, who recorded the fastest top speed on six of the seven stages that made the second day of the season opening Otago rally.

Last season was the first time the event appeared on the NZRC calendar and it was a happy hunting ground for van Klink, recording a top ten overall result and first two-wheel drive car home.

“We’ve had a pretty much dream start to the championship really, there’s been some really good battles but it’s always nice to come out on top of them,” says van Klink. “This was a really good event for us last year and the car certainly works well on the fast roads that we’ll most certainly come across this weekend.”

The Stadium Finance South Canterbury Rally gets underway with a ceremonial start from Caroline Bay in Timaru on Friday night, with crews leaving outside the council office from 6:15am. Teams will take on 12 special stages totalling 196 kilometres before the finish at Levels Raceway from 3:30pm.

Thu, 20 Jun 2019 - Campbell looks for podium return at Timaru

Tauranga’s Phil Campbell heads to the fourth round of the Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship, the Stadium Finance Rally South Canterbury, looking to return to a podium position.

Campbell started the season by placing The Roofing Store Ford Fiesta AP4 on the podium with a third place finished. Unfortunately he was forced to retire from the second round while in podium contention and came home fourth at the most recent round, less than 20 seconds away from a top-three finish.

The South Canterbury event joined the national championship last season while Campbell and his team were developing their new car. That unfortunately means he heads to the event with no experience but is looking forward to what has been described by his rivals as ultra-fast gravel roads from the Timaru-based event.

Campbell and co-driver Mal Peden currently sit third in the national championship points standings, but are well aware that the chasing pack are close and a podium finish will be their best bet at retaining the position and moving closer to the leaders.

“I’m really looking forward to getting to South Canterbury, unfortunately we didn’t make the event last year, but we’ve heard so many great things about it and the roads sound exceptional,” says Campbell. “It’s been an up and down start to the season, we’re third in points and a podium should really help us hold that position down.”

The Stadium Finance South Canterbury Rally gets underway with a ceremonial start from Caroline Bay in Timaru on Friday night, with crews leaving outside the council office from 6:15am. Teams will take on 12 special stages totalling 196 kilometres before the finish at Levels Raceway from 3:30pm.

Wed, 19 Jun 2019 - Paddon going all out at South Canterbury

Hyundai rally driver Hayden Paddon will be going all out at this Saturday’s one-day South Canterbury Rally with Samantha Gray, another Timaru local, back in the co-driver’s seat of the Hyundai i20 AP4.

Paddon is originally from Geraldine so this is his ‘home’ rally and one he enjoys a great deal. He plans to up the pace he showed last year where he and John Kennard won the event by a margin of nearly five minutes.

The event run by the South Canterbury Car Club is the fourth round of the New Zealand Rally Championship, but as Paddon has not entered the championship this year, he is entered for this rally in the all-comers category. “It’s been a while since an event hasn’t counted towards a championship, but it doesn’t change anything about how we approach things or the overall results. The target is always to win which will be no different this weekend.”

This is the last rally for the current Hyundai AP4 car before it is converted to hillclimb spec, so the Paddon Rallysport crew has made some refinements. “We have increased the power a little and changed the gear ratios for the super-fast stages around Timaru. We learnt some good things about the car there last year so have worked on improving those areas,” says Paddon who’s looking forward to putting on a good show for spectators and keep his high-speed driving skills sharp.

Being a one-day rally, the South Canterbury event also has only one day of reconnaissance with just one pass through each of the 12 special stages. “Having a one pass recce certainly adds to the challenge of trying to get all the info on one pass,” says Paddon, “especially as half the stages are new this year compared to last year, adding extra importance to this aspect.”

For Gray, writing the pace notes will be her biggest challenge for the weekend. “We will be writing notes from scratch on the majority of the stages, so I have just one chance to write down everything Hayden says. A few stages have repeated sections from last year which I have written out into my own language from John's notes so for those sections we can adjust the notes according to road conditions this year. As allowed under the regulations, we will video the stages during recce so we can go over them on Friday night to make any final adjustments.”

Gray is thrilled to have the chance to get back into Paddon’s Hyundai. “I am very grateful to all the team and sponsors who have given me another opportunity to co-drive for Hayden. I am looking forward to being able to use the knowledge I learnt at Whangarei, and continue to learn and improve on new skills.”

The 22 June running of the Rally of South Canterbury features closed gravel roads to the south, inland and north of Timaru, including some infamous stages from years gone by. The event uses Levels Raceway as its base, with two service breaks in nearby Fairlie. The 12 special stages cover 199.7 competitive kilometres with Paddon, as the number one seed, scheduled to start the first stage at 7.25am on Saturday morning in what are expected to be frosty conditions. The rally wraps up with a mid-afternoon tarmac dash around Levels Raceway – which is always fun for competitors running on used gravel tyres. The car club then hosts prizegiving at the Caroline Bay hall in Timaru that evening.

Thu, 6 Jun 2019 - Sheehan goes close in one-handed battle

Queenstown’s Mike Sheehan has gone close to an unlikely victory at the third round of the Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship, the Lone Star Rally Canterbury, held over the weekend.

“Sheehan suffered torn ligaments in his right thumb a week before the event after an accident during warm-up at his son’s rugby game saw him spend half a day in hospital suspecting the worst. Whilst determined to make the event, Sheehan knew he wouldn’t be able to perform at full speed.”

Having struggled through the opening two stages, Sheehan and co-driver Glenn Goldring were handed a life-line in stage three when their rivals, Robbie and Amy Stokes, punctured, losing three minutes. With a lead of a minute and a half to defend over four stages, Sheehan knew he would struggle but grimaced through the pain to take the battle on.

Heading to the final stage, Sheehan had the Truck Moves Ford Fiesta R2 26.4 seconds ahead of his rivals. Just to add to the challenge, that final stage would be held in complete darkness. Sheehan gave as much as he could but would come up 16 seconds shy after Stokes set a storming time.

“Hats off to Robbie, his effort all day and in the final stage especially was top notch. You never wish a problem upon your rivals, but as we were running almost literally with one hand tied behind our back, we had to make the most of the opportunity and nearly got there,” says Sheehan. “Unfortunately it was only in some of the faster corners we could actually commit, anything more just put too much pressure on the thumb. But at the end of the day the championship is main game and we’re still well on target for that, so it wasn’t a complete disaster, albeit a bit frustrating to know we could’ve been going a lot faster.”

The Sheehans Motorsport team now turn their attention to the Stadium Finance South Canterbury Rally on June 22, where they will start with a 26 point lead. “The team would also like to acknowledge the amazing amount of assistance they received from Speedy Signs Queenstown, Frankton Automotive, and Frankton Tyres Services prior to the event. “Without them going above and beyond, we were struggling to get all the prep done in the last days before the event. A massive thank you goes to these fantastic companies!!"

Tue, 4 Jun 2019 - Gilloes and Pilcher take class lead in NZ Rally Championship

Toyota crew Andy Gillies and co-driver Nathan Pilcher made the podium for the third rally in a row over the weekend in the Canterbury Rally, taking second in class despite it being their first time together competing in forest and night stages.

The pair enjoyed a virtually trouble free run after overcoming a broken alternator bolt on the first stage.

The Gillies and Pilcher duo - who come from Otago and Auckland respectively - now sit at the head of the Category 5B table with a 12 point lead after three rounds of the Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship, the only crew in the class to have completed all three of the rallies.

"The most challenging part was the unknown with the weather," said a delighted Gilles afterwards. "Unfortunately the organisers had to cut the first stage short by about 18km in the forestry as well as the whole of another stage. Luckily though the roads we did use were in surprisingly good condition which made for great rallying. Heading into the rally we knew we just had to finish and that was our aim, so it was very rewarding to get a clean run and come home in second place."

Co-driver Pilcher had been cautious about his first run on night stages, but the crew were able to maintain their position. "The night stages made for a challenging and absorbing experience," he explained. "Having just run SS6 in the daylight before we ran it in the dark, it made it a bit more predictable but at the same time we had to focus on remaining cautious. We had a good gap on the third place crew and we knew there was no way we could catch Andy Martin ahead."

Although they now lead the class half way through the six round championship, Pilcher believes the crew is only just scratching the surface of their potential as a driver/co-driver combination and that of the ex-Chris Paddon Toyota AE85 Levin.

"Every time we head out in the car we learn something new." he added. "Andy tried a new tyre package on the car which he liked and which made a big improvement. Looking at our times we certainly made massive improvements since the last time Andy was here so that's extremely positive as we gel as a team and unlock more of the potential of the car."

Gillies and Pilcher's Commercial Hire NZ Toyota Levin is also supported by ENZED, Total Lubricants, Wurth NZ, Wet&Forget, MG Minerals, Superfinishing NZ, Arrowtown Bakery, Base Contracting, Brian Scott Motors and Prestige Commercial Vehicles. The team now heads to the South Canterbury Rally later this month before heading north again for the Rally Coromandel in August. The season then has a free September before concluding with Rally Waitomo in October.

Mon, 3 Jun 2019 - Subaru’s Hunt makes it three from three NZRC wins

Subaru brand ambassador Ben Hunt has now scored a hat-trick of round wins in the Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship (NZRC) after producing a masterful victory at the Lone Star Rally Canterbury yesterday.

Powering his Subaru WRX STI through the seven stages with co-driver Tony Rawstorn, they won every one of them, which hands Hunt a huge 42-point advantage over local driver and last year’s event winner Josh Marston in the overall championship standings. Marston and co-driver Andrew Graves (Holden Barina AP4) finished 1min:08secs behind Hunt and Rawstorn– while another Canterbury-based driver Job Quantock and co-driver Grant Marra completed the podium in their Skoda AP4.

“I think this is one of the few times we’ve ever clean-swept the stage wins, so that’s always an awesome feeling. Playing the long day back in my head last night, made it hard to go to sleep! There were times when there were only a few seconds between us and the other teams, which made for some great battles throughout the rally,” Hunt says.

Despite a threatening forecast, the heavy rain, cold winds and snow did not materialise and instead, the public roads and forest passes north of Christchurch were hard-packed. Organisers did have to cancel one stage and shorten another due to the road conditions, but it didn’t dim Hunt’s enjoyment of the event.

“I really liked the stages going north towards Cheviot and Amberley, which we haven’t done for a few years. It was also fun to fix the Hella lights to the Subaru for the final stage in Ashley Forest and drive at night,” Hunt says.

Although he now has a commanding lead in the NZRC – after winning the national championship category at Otago and Whangarei - Hunt won’t be buttoning off in his Subaru WRX STI for the final three rallies.

“We will still keep pushing to finish strongly - nothing will change there. We will just keep doing our thing, with an eye on winning the championship.”

The NZRC returns to the South Island in three weeks for Rally South Canterbury, before heading to the North Island for the final two rounds.

Recent Results
PosDriverTotal 
1New ZealandHayden Paddon1:46:01.6
2New ZealandBen Hunt+6:54.4
3New ZealandJosh Marston+8:08.8
4New ZealandRaana Horan+8:36.0
5New ZealandDylan Thomson+9:19.6
6New ZealandMatt Summerfield+9:20.7
7New ZealandJob Quantock+9:31.6
8New ZealandMarcus van Klink+12:34.7
9New ZealandWayne Muckle+13:53.0
10New ZealandMatt Adams+14:02.4
11New ZealandMatt Wright+14:39.5
12New ZealandRobbie Stokes+14:45.3
13New ZealandAnthony Jones+15:09.0
14New ZealandWayne Pittams+15:21.0
15New ZealandRegan Ross+15:29.4
16New ZealandBrian Green+15:36.2
17New ZealandGraham Ferguson+17:38.5
18New ZealandMark Parsons+18:26.9
19New ZealandTom Bond+18:37.1
20New ZealandRichard Bateman+18:41.5
PosDriverTotal 
1New ZealandBen Hunt1:04:20.0
2New ZealandJosh Marston+1:08.3
3New ZealandJob Quantock+2:14.4
4New ZealandPhil Campbell+2:33.0
5New ZealandJack Hawkeswood+3:13.2
6New ZealandDylan Thomson+3:20.0
7New ZealandMatt Summerfield+3:20.4
8New ZealandBen Thomasen+3:29.1
9New ZealandRaana Horan+3:49.8
10New ZealandMarcus van Klink+4:11.2
11New ZealandKingsley Jones+4:48.2
12New ZealandMatt Wright+5:28.8
13New ZealandSean Haggarty+5:42.1
14New ZealandMatt Adams+5:47.7
15New ZealandAnthony Jones+6:07.4
16New ZealandDeane Buist+6:13.5
17New ZealandJohn Giltrap+6:15.4
18New ZealandPhil Collins+6:26.9
19New ZealandGaret Thomas+6:29.6
20New ZealandWayne Muckle+6:50.7
2019 Points
PosNamePoints
1EstoniaOtt TÄNAK150
2FranceSébastien OGIER146
3BelgiumThierry NEUVILLE143
4United KingdomElfyn EVANS78
5FinlandTeemu SUNINEN62
6United KingdomKris MEEKE60
7NorwayAndreas MIKKELSEN56
8SpainDani SORDO52
9FinlandEsapekka LAPPI40
9FinlandJari-Matti LATVALA40
11FranceSébastien LOEB39
12United KingdomGus GREENSMITH6
13FranceYoann BONATO4
14FranceStéphane SARRAZIN2
15FranceAdrien FOURMAUX1
PosNamePoints
1New ZealandHayden Paddon78
2New ZealandAndrew Hawkeswood55
3New ZealandJack Hawkeswood42
4AustraliaHarry Bates39
5New ZealandDavid Holder30
6AustraliaMolly Taylor29
7AustraliaLewis Bates26
8AustraliaMarcus Walkem20
9New ZealandMike Young19
10JapanSuguru Kawana12
PosNamePoints
1New ZealandBen Hunt146
2New ZealandJosh Marston100
3New ZealandDylan Thomson68
4New ZealandMarcus Van Klink62
5New ZealandMatt Summerfield61
6New ZealandAnthony Jones51
6New ZealandPhil Campbell51
8New ZealandAndrew Hawkeswood46
9New ZealandJack Hawkeswood43
10New ZealandKingsley Jones40
11New ZealandDylan Turner39
12New ZealandJob Quantock38
13New ZealandRaana Horan35
14New ZealandRobbie Stokes34
15New ZealandWayne Pittams31
16New ZealandRegan Ross27
16New ZealandJeff Judd27
16New ZealandBruce Herbert27
19New ZealandMike Sheehan24
20New ZealandDave Strong23
PosNamePoints
1New ZealandStephen Barker32
2New ZealandDylan Turner27
3New ZealandPhil Campbell23
4New ZealandDylan Thomson20
5New ZealandAnthony Jones19
6New ZealandScott Rutherford16
7New ZealandRobbie Stokes14
8New ZealandJeff Judd13
9New ZealandPhil Macquarie12
10New ZealandBrian Green11
11New ZealandWayne Pittams10
12New ZealandBrendan Oakden9
13New ZealandWayne Rowberry8
14New ZealandBevan Wilson7
15New ZealandDaniel Hinton6
16New ZealandRodney Langdon5
17New ZealandDoug Adnitt4
18New ZealandTimothy Hood3
19New ZealandDaniel Alexander2
20New ZealandJack Williamson1
PosNamePoints
1New ZealandJosh Marston82
2New ZealandGaret Thomas80
3New ZealandJob Quantock74
4New ZealandMatt Summerfield73
5New ZealandRegan Ross64
6New ZealandMarcus Van Klink60
7New ZealandMatt Wright54
8New ZealandSean Haggarty50
9New ZealandJeff Judd46
10New ZealandPhil Collins40
10New ZealandGarry Cliff40
10New ZealandDavid Gee40
13New ZealandJohn Giltrap38
14New ZealandRobbie Stokes34
15New ZealandBrad Harris32
16New ZealandTim Smith25
16New ZealandNick Marston25
18New ZealandDeane Buist22
19New ZealandDavid Taylor21
20New ZealandDave Ollis20
PosNamePoints
1New ZealandEddie Bell110
1New ZealandHaydn McKenzie110
3New ZealandDavid Rogers106
4New ZealandBarry Kirk-Burnnand104
5New ZealandAndrew Oakley96
5New ZealandSteven Kirk-Burnnand96
5New ZealandMike Tubbs96
8New ZealandAnthony Butler94
9New ZealandJeremy Friar90
10New ZealandRory Callaway86
10New ZealandTim James86
10New ZealandGraeme Wong86
10New ZealandEddie Grooten86
14New ZealandGraeme Drummond84
15New ZealandTim McIver82
16New ZealandShane Walden81
17AustraliaRobert Darrington79
17New ZealandRichard Gillies79
19New ZealandIvan Knauf78
19New ZealandJohn Rae78