Natalie shows true grit on Rally New Zealand Top female rally driver Natalie Barratt showed tremendous strength of character and determination to successfully complete her third Rally New Zealand today in her KF Concept sponsored Mitsubishi Evo...
Natalie shows true grit on Rally New Zealand
Top female rally driver Natalie Barratt showed tremendous strength of character and determination to successfully complete her third Rally New Zealand today in her KF Concept sponsored Mitsubishi Evo VIII. A heavy roll on the first stage of Leg 2 (SS10) cost her 20 minutes and left her with bad bruising to her left arm, neck and face but never one to give up Natalie bravely regained her pace, and despite a great deal of discomfort triumphantly crossed the finish ramp in Auckland this afternoon in 33rd place.
Co-driven by Carl Williamson, Natalie made a solid start on the opening leg of the rally on Friday (April 16). There was certainly a lot to get used to - it's been 15 months since she has driven on gravel roads and her brand new Gp N Reece Jones Rallysport Mitsubishi Evo VIII four-wheel drive car holds a stark contrast to the MG ZR S1600 she drove in Monte Carlo a few months ago (January 23-25).
Having found her rhythm Natalie began to up her pace on the opening stage of Leg 2, the 25.18km Parahi 1 stage (SS10). Pushing to the limit on the flying finish her Evo VIII got slightly off line hit a post and rolled sideways into a field. The car landed on its wheels and Natalie was able to drive it through the field and rejoin the stage to continue the rally. The impact had smashed the windscreen and the driver's side window and she had three stages left to run before returning to service but Natalie was determined to continue.
Borrowing sunglasses off two marshals to prevent the glass from going into their eyes Natalie and Carl limped through the next three stages with very limited visibility to bring their sorry looking KF Concept Mitsubishi Evo VIII back to the Paparoa service area.
A team of Reece Jones Rallysport mechanics worked frantically during service and did a fantastic job to get the car patched up and road worthy again ready for the afternoon's stages. Badly bruised but in high spirits Natalie continued through Leg 2 and was soon back to the pace she had been setting before the accident.
Sore and stiff going into this morning's final leg, Natalie's main aim was to get her Michelin-shod Evo VIII to the finish. Today's finale saw crews contest a group of three stages run twice ending with one of the key stages of the event, the tough 29.60kms Whaanga Coast stage. Taking over thirty seconds off every stage time on her second run through this afternoon it was clear that nothing was going to stand between Natalie and the finish ramp of one of her favourite rallies.
Natalie comments: "It was quite an eventful rally for us to say the least! It didn't go quite according to plan but we finished in the end and that's really important as I desperately wanted to get some miles under my belt with Carl.
"We were on the flying finish of stage ten yesterday and I felt the car go off line and I tried to fight it and pull it back but we were going too fast and we hit a post and rolled twice through a fence and into a field. We managed to rejoin the stage and continue the rally but I could hardly see anything through the windscreen. It was really tough having to get back into the car with it being in such a state but I knew I had to.
"I've really suffered today, it's been really uncomfortable to drive the car because my belts were rubbing on my bruises and my neck's been really sore but I really wanted to finish, I've come this far and so I was determined to carry on. Although it's been a strange rally I've really enjoyed it, we didn't really come here expecting a fantastic result as the competition's so fast and I've been out of a four-wheel drive car for so long but it's been good to gain some mileage together on such a fantastic rally."