Local driver Josh Marston has produced a stunning final stage performance in treacherous conditions to win Lone Star Rally Canterbury and claim his maiden Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship victory.
Marston and co-driver Andrew Graves handed the Holden Barina its first win as well after overcoming a spin earlier in the day that threatened to de-rail their charge. They were awarded the Hella Moment of the Rally as a result.
“We are absolutely stoked with the result,” Marston said. “It was a really challenging rally and we made it hard on ourselves at times but the car was great all day.
“I just wanted to hang on to a podium in that final stage so I couldn’t believe it when my co-driver told me we had got the job done.
“It is great for the team because they have worked so hard.”
Marston moves up to third in the championship.
The slippery forest roads north of Christchurch once again proved an immense challenge for the drivers but it made for a superb battle with numerous lead changes throughout the one-day event.
Australian champion Nathan Quinn produced a superb drive of his own on his first visit to the forests north of Christchurch to bank second place in the Ford Fiesta Proto with David Calder.
Their performance was recognized with the Dunlop Drive of the Rally award.
Rookie Raana Horan led the rally heading into the final stage in the darkness but was pipped by Marston and Quinn to fall to third.
Horan and co-driver Michael Connor still showcased their undoubted talent and proved that their early season form was no fluke.
Four-time Bathurst champ Greg Murphy was yet another driver to lead the event. His continued improvement was highlighted with some blistering stage times and he took a deserved fourth place in the second Barina with co-driver Mark Leonard.
Defending champion Matt Summerfield struggled in the morning stages but improved as the event went on in his Mitsubishi Mirage although he dropped a couple of spots on the final test. He still banked valuable championship points with seventh alongside co-driving sister Nicole Summerfield.
Earlier in the day championship runner-up Ben Hunt suffered an electrical problem in his Subaru near the end of the opening special stage which proved terminal.
With Hunt and co-driver Tony Rawstorn failing to score points and championship leader Hayden Paddon skipping the event as he prepares for his next WRC event the chasing bunch closed the gap in the standings.
The Ford Fiesta of Dylan Thomson and Amy Hudson made is three wins on the bounce in the front wheel drive class two category despite falling behind Mike Sheehan and Rocky Hudson. Thomson made up time on the final two night stages to grab the win.
The 2WD class three category battle ended early when Tony Gosling and Sarah Brennan suffered mechanical failure and main rivals Wayne Pittams and Chris Davison got stuck off the road on the opening stage.
Regan Ross and Samantha Gray looked to have won the class four 2WD category for the third event running before going off on the final stage in their BDA Escort. That allowed John Silcock and Grant Marra to claim victory in the Mazda RX7.
The seemingly ageless Geof Argyle and Joelle Eyre took out the Gull Rally Challenge class 5A 4WD category. They picked up a phenomenal fifth place overall as well to further underline the superb performance and it is the second class win in a row for the pair.
Clint Cunningham and Raymond Bennett were second in the class, eighth overall, and were given the Gull fuel drum for a meritorious performance in the Gull Rally Challenge.
Marcus van Klink and Dave Neill were another combination to run into problems and saw a win in the Gull Rally Challenge class 5B 2WD category slip from their fingers. Graeme Coey and Tony Witheridge inherited the lead and safely got the finish to claim victory.
The Mo Bros combination of Matt and Karl Adams took out the Group A class in their Mitsubishi VR4. They struggled through the final stage but took the win despite dropping a lot of time.
Crews get a couple of weeks break before Rally South Canterbury at the end of the month.