Mountain stage amazes
Shane Murland's long term planning for the epay Silver Fern marathon car rally is paying off.
When the Paraparaumu driver reached Dunedin tonight at the end of the third of the seven day event he had a lead of over seven minutes on Englishman Simon Tysoe. Murland campaigned his Escort RS1800 in shorter two day national championship events during the year, ironing out the bugs and getting used to regular competition again.
His car has run faultlessly and he has hardly put a foot wrong either, out distancing the international drivers and the other locals in the 55 car field.
While Murland has continued to dominate and avoid problems, most of the talk, especially from the visiting international drivers was of the day's second stage, the 29 kms from the Black Forest station in the McKenzie Country alongside Lake Benmore to the Benmore Dam.
The single lane track which is used to service the power pylons has some large drops into the lake and is not for the faint hearted.
"It's unbelievable. I've never done anything like that," said Sydneysider Brad Goldsbrough, who leads the Challenge event in his Datsun 1600.
Double Australian national champion, Geoff Portman, described the twisty mountain track and its long descent as "an icon". He climbed two places yesterday to lie sixth in his Holden Commodore, the only non Ford in the top nine cars.
Austrian Willi Polesznig was more circumspect - "That's something for a younger man with no brains." While Englishman Peter Egerton said any comment about the Black Forest stage was unprintable!
At the start of the day Christchurch's Jeff Judd was closest to Murland, but he punctured in the Herbert Forest stage south of Oamaru, dropping back to third place. Top seed, South African Geoff Bell who had a horror start on Sunday, climbed another 10 places today in his Escort and now sits just outside the top ten in 11th overall.
Goldsbrough has taken over the lead in the Challenge event again. Run for similar era cars to the main historic event but allowing more modifications. He handled the Black Forest - Benmore stage much better than the leader at the end of day 2 - former Aucklander but now Alexandra based Andrew Hawkeswood, who has slipped back to third after having to ration his tyres.
The Baby Fern Rally which is being held over the first three days of the full event has been won by Christchurch's Marcus Van Klink.
Tomorrow's stages take the field through six stages in South and Central Otago including a mammoth 100 kms test through the Lammerlaw Ranges before returning to Dunedin. The rally finishes in Queenstown on Saturday after 1060 kms of special stages.