written by Josh Marston
The Nelson Rally saw the final round of the 2009 New Zealand Rally Championship for the RDL Performance Rally Team. Following the same format as the other rallies this year, it involved two days of rallying over 300km. Plenty was up for grabs and our team were aiming to claim second in the rookie and junior titles as we sat in 4th and 5th respectively going into the rally. I personally was looking to step up the pace which had been shown over the year and put together a good result.
Next year the restrictions for Group N are being changed slightly so for this rally the car had these modifications undertaken. This now meant that we were running in the open class for Nelson as the changes to the restrictions do not officially take effect until 1st January 2010.
Pacenotes are something which is very new to me with this being only my 5th rally on notes. It is a very steep learning curve but I am gradually building my own style of notes. Recce was a bit of a challenge with quite bad dust but apart from that everything went smoothly.
Things stopped being smooth the moment we returned back to the motel. Instead of finding an always calm and relaxed team manager, I saw Dave slightly nervous/worried for the first time this year. What followed was a statement which I have also not heard him say, “We have a bit of a problem….”. The dog box had decided it was scared of the dark and smashed a hole in the gearbox case. We were lucky to source a standard gearbox and the change was made that night.
I have been working very hard on my speed in the morning stages and as the rally started this was one of my personal goals to put the hammer down in the morning. The first two stages went very well and we returned to the first service of the morning in 4th overall only 12 seconds off the lead. It became apparent right from the first service that tyre wear was going to be quite a big issue with tyres only lasting one loop of stages!
Stage three carried on where from the first two and was going very well until around 5km from the end when we smacked the rear of the car into a bank on the outside of a tightening right hander. This did a reasonable amount of damage with the wheel alignment of the car suffering from the impact. The rest of the day was spent rebuilding confidence and working with a car that was not quite at its best.
The crew worked wonders overnight to get the car repaired as best they could so that we could start the second day. While it was not quite perfect the car was better and I was looking forward to the next day.
Another lovely day dawned for the last day of the rally and the championship for 2009. Our rally had already had so much drama but it continued in the first stage of the morning a spin on a downhill section followed by a short detour up the wrong road when I mis-heard a pacenote. Despite this our time was quite reasonable. By this stage we had completely run out of new Dunlop tyres and were forced to use some old MRF’s which were hard and unused. These didn’t handle the conditions and our times in the middle block of stages suffered. For the afternoon loop we went back to old (buggered) Dunlops which were a great improvement even given their condition.
The retirements at this stage of the rally were unbelievable with the rough roads taking their toll. We were positioned 2nd in our class and 7th overall heading into the afternoon stages but through others misfortunes at the end of the rally 6th overall and 1st in class. This was a great result for the team who worked so hard on a weekend which was full of problems. In the rookie and junior titles we climbed our way back up to second in both which is remarkable given the problems experienced through the year.
Personally, I am very happy with the pace we are getting out of the car and the next step is improving on the consistency which is something that will only get better with time! Even as this is the end of the championship for this year I am already looking forward to putting a package together to enter next year.
A huge thanks goes to everyone that has supported me and the team this year, Harcourts Vision, Rubber Developments, RDL Performance, Pro Speed Developments, Project Mu brakes, Rush Auto Body, Garry Cliff, Roger @ The Car Bazaar, Tony @ Stadium Cars and Evoparts. Without you all this year would not have been possible.