A newly-fitted engine in his Subaru WRX STi was a fundamental step in the right direction that has seen Ben Hunt record a strong runner-up result in today’s Lone Star Canterbury Rally.
The standard 2-litre Boxer unit powered the Subaru through the wet, slippery, 10-stage, 200km event on the same four soft tyres that Hunt bolted on after stage four.
“We ran mediums for the first four stages and everyone got the jump on us. We put softs on going into the fifth stage and man what a difference,” Hunt says.
After a cautious start in special stage one, Auckland-based Hunt and his co-driver Tony Rawstorn gradually found their form and stormed through the next six stages in the Ashley and Okuku Forests, finishing in the top four in each test.
Then as the dark, threatening clouds rolled in, Hunt charged to a result that would have certainly brightened his day – his first stage win of the 2017 season, in this third round of the Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship.
He and Rawstorn achieved it on the 10.3km Beaurepairs Northwood special stage 8.
“Our first stage win in a while must mean that we are moving forward,” Hunt says.
As night fell and the teams were required to fit their specially-mounted headlights, a fellow driver’s misfortune played into Hunt’s favour. Graham Featherstone and his co-driver Dave Devonport, who had been sitting in second place went off the road early in special stage 9, forcing them to retire their Mitsubishi Evo 7.
This boosted Hunt up into second place, which held on to after the final stage to finish 2mins:16.2secs behind fellow Subaru team Rangiora’s Matt and Nicole Summerfield. Cantabrian Deane Buist and co-driver Karl Celeste were an impressive third overall in a 2WD Ford Escort.
“It is just a fantastic result for the whole team, our sponsors, family and friends – everyone puts a lot of time into our campaign. We have still got quite a few things we want to fine tune in the Subaru, with handling going into the Coromandel Rally in August,” Hunt says.
He was thankful to have reached the finish of the Canterbury Rally where 39 teams out of the 77 starters did not make it through the day.
“There were a lot of casualties. We blew a rear calliper twice and with the second time, it happened on the second to last stage so we drove in the dark with no brakes which was pretty interesting,” Hunt says.