Auckland driver Ben Hunt has jumped into a commanding 42-point lead in the NZ Rally Championship after a dominant display in the Fuchs Rally of Gisborne.
Hunt drove his Subaru Impreza WRX STi (above) through the four stages to finish almost three minutes ahead of Te Aroha’s Lance Williams, piloting a Subaru WRX R4.
Hunt and co-driver Tony Rawstorn now head towards the final two rounds of the championship in a strong position to win their first national rally title. They lead the series on 126 points, followed by Tauranga’s Phil Campbell (84) and Williams (71).
The winning game plan in Gisborne was to increase their points lead in the NZRC, Hunt said. Finishing each stage in the fastest time, “without really having to push it,” was encouraging going into the next round, Rally Coromandel on August 22.
It was Hunt’s first time through the famed Motu stage of the rally, a 46.6km stretch of bedrock-like sections, slippery forestry parts and switchback corners from Opotiki to the small settlement of Motu “It was daunting, after all the stories and myths,” he said.
Willams, in only his second season in the NZRC, described the Motu stage as “really long and tiring and a bit rough in the middle.”
Fifth-placed Emma Gilmour said the Motu was one of the longest stages drivers will cope with in this year’s programme. She said she was “absolutely exhausted” at the end of it.
Auckland driver Andrew Hawkeswood and his home-grown Mazda2 followed Hunt and Williams home to finish third, and Rangiora’s Matt Summerfield, with sister Nicole in the co-driver’s seat, was fourth.
Summerfield, third through the Motu in his Subaru Impreza, finished strongly to record the second fastest time on the final stage. He lies fourth in the NZRC with 63 points, followed by Marcus van Klink (61).