Hunt's title bid strengthened

RACE REVERSAL: Ben Hunt and co-driver Tony Rawstorn were denied victory in last year’s Rally Wairarapa, but plan to make amends this year.
RACE REVERSAL: Ben Hunt and co-driver Tony Rawstorn were denied victory in last year’s Rally Wairarapa, but plan to make amends this year.

Ben Hunt hopes to "give it the gumboot" this weekend as he drives for victory in Rally Wairarapa, the fourth round of the New Zealand Rally Championship.

The event has traditionally been the final round of the championship, with plenty of good battles over the years to decide the gold star champion. But at the end of last season, Rally Wairarapa was cruel to Hunt and co-driver Tony Rawstorn.

With a national top-three placing beckoning after a breakthrough season, a gearbox failure close to the finish dashed Hunt's hopes, so he is more than ready for another crack this weekend.

"I'm keen to really give it to it this weekend, and drive for overall victory," he said.

"Giving it the jandal is the saying for those in the North Island, whereas down here in the South, it's giving it the gumboot."

One thing may help him reverse last year's result - this year, many of the roads and stages will be run in the reverse direction.

"This is good news, as I really enjoy the roads and have often said during recce, ‘Wouldn't this be awesome if it was in the opposite direction?'."

It has a busy week for Hunt Motorsport leading into the rally, with a full spanner check and maintenance.

The team at Possum Bourne Motorsport has been working around the clock to get the gearbox problem in Hunt's Subaru diagnosed and repaired. Winger Subaru has also been busy sourcing parts from Japan, and Amex has been adding a few finishing touches to some strengthening of mechanical components.

It is all geared towards making sure the mechanical metal matches Hunt's mental mettle, as component failures have been his biggest problem this season.

When everything is running smoothly, Hunt is fast - very fast. He heads into the weekend with a good amount of momentum behind him.

Recent rallies have seen some "major highs", with a day victory in Dunedin and second place in the Rally of Canterbury, as well as several stage victories.

"It's really positive, and I'm looking to continue that trend," Hunt said.

He said that mathematically, he still had a chance of winning the New Zealand title.

However, "it would take an ultimate run of bad luck for [Richard and Sara] Mason to lose it this year, as they only need to score 16 points from the final three events to secure the title".

"A good points haul this weekend will put me within striking distance of second place in the championship, and this is now my main focus for the remaining year - to win stages and rallies outright, plus show the speed I have."

Hunt said the 70 cars entered in the main event this year made for a large field and looked great for the sport.

He added that the Extreme Series, sponsored by Total Oils, which will also join the field, had drivers very capable of taking overall victory, too.

The Nelson Mail