A DREAM COME TRUE - 2008 PWRC REPCO RALLY NEW ZEALAND
Bourne2Rally, FCACA and Autotek head home...
Competition winner Sacha waves Tony and John across the start line
If you had spoken to Tony Green this time last year and asked him about Rally New Zealand he would have smiled and said: yeah One Day!"
Tony would never have dreamed that his Team FCACA and Ken Skidmore's Autotek Subaru Team would join forces to supply him with Prodrive's latest N14 Subaru Impreza to compete on the world rally stages of his home event with the best local and World Rally drivers this planet has to offer.
This was Tony's first ever New Zealand event and World Rally round since 2005.
The week started on Monday the 25th of August with their inclusion into the PWRC test held on spectacular north island roads. Their first chance to compare the brand new N14 with the duo's 2007 N12B Spec Prodrive Impreza currently being used for the China Rally championship.
The day was enhanced by working together with Prodrive and one of the best teams in the Production World Championship giving the Kiwi/Aussie pair a chance to feel out their new car, setting it up to the ever-changing stages, conditions and pacenotes.
Reconnaissance was on the menu for Tuesday and Wednesday driving on some of the most awesome roads the World Championship has to offer.
On Thursday Tony was very busy, as Repco Rally NZ organizers wanted Tony to pick up colouring competition winners Sacha, Rhiannon and Jowy Kawe from their home and driving them to the Hamilton's Marian Catholic school for a manic autograph session before heading back to mystery creek for a shakedown, another chance to run the car around the super special stage used three times throughout the rally.
This would be the roughest part of the entire rally, ending on the second pass with a damaged front end and most of the burner missing, with the stage looking more like a motocross track than a rally stage left the Autotek boys to prepare the car for the ceremonial start later that night in Hamilton's city centre.
"Our rally is f#$ked so we thought we would help you boys out"
The day we had all been working so long and hard to prepare for was finally upon us with 7 special stages to tackle, the excitement was obvious with our goal to get to the finish of the day 1. We started out steady while we consistently worked on the notes to allow the pace to be pushed a little on day 2.
At the end of day 1, Tony and John found themselves struggling a little by their standards to feel confident int he new N14 and with their trust in the new pace note system, but found themselves 31st outright and second quickest N14 in the field.
Saturday's conservative start to the longest day was looking like the order of the day in the ever-changing conditions with damp stages turning to dry and slippery in some places, contributing to the first mistake of the weekend for the Kiwi/Aussie partnership. A long single lane concrete bridge, into a once clean fast right hand bend, has become a loose slippery gravel corner, from over 40 cars braking off the end of the bridge, not allowing the very hard Pirelli Scorpion tyres the grip they needed to make it through the corner.
stage, plus 100 km of road section before taking on the super special with only the driveshaft and the steering arm holding the corner together. drivers side of the car resulted in the pair becoming stuck in a ditch and even with locked differentials no chance of escape.
The spirit of the rally award, without doubt, goes tot he Kiwi combo Andre Meier and Jason Farmer in their Meier Motorsports Subaru: "Our rally is f#$ked so we thought we would help you boys out."
Once back on the road it was obvious their lower suspension arm was broken in two which resulted in a very interesting 28km through the rest of the Franklin stage, plus 100 km of road section before taking on the super special with only the driveshaft and the steering arm holding the corner together.
The Autotek crew showed their professionalism at this level repairing the N14 to new ready for the Te Akau South and North stages with over 60km of special stages slipping right back into top 30 times the pair had been achieving before their off in Franklin. Te Akai North was a turning point for the FCACA pairing as Tony discovered a differential setting where he was able to get a feel of confidence with the car. This allowed him to listen and find the limits of the car while glancing the banks to extract the best possible speed from the N14 Subaru.
“There is no unaided possibility of getting the car back into the event, and to the Mystery Creek finish ramp…”
The confidence gained from the quick times on Saturday afternoon were hoped by all to be replicated on Sunday morning, which was all going to plan until 300m into the first stage where the driver to co-driver intercom decided that Sunday should be a day off and played dead. Various forms of sign language was used in the car but it was soon decided that screaming was a more appropriate form of communication for the Te Hutewai stage.
This continued for the much anticipated Whaanga Coast stage that would be halted 3 kilometres into the stage for fellow Autotek team members Misfer Al-Marri and co-driver Chris Patterson to offload the fire extinguisher and continue onto SOS point to advise of their fire. This meant that the pair could have a scenic drive as rally NZ would give a derived time for assisting with fire.
The repeat run in the afternoon stage of Te Hutewai found the boys 6 seconds faster than the previous pass and then looking to a clean intercom free run through the final Whaanga Coast stage to achieve the teams’ goal of finishing the rally. This unfortunately was not to be as the N14 ran wide off line and camber resulting in a wheel of the road with progress halted unceremoniously by a small tree on a steep bank with no unaided possibility of getting the car back into the event and to the mystery creek finish ramp.
-Written by Darryl Fernandez
This event was without a doubt the highlight on Tony and John’s partnership together driving Prodrives’ latest Group N spec Impreza with an incredible team in Tony’s home World Rally Championship round, genuinely “A dream come true”.
With no time for rest, the pair head back to China to defend their 2nd place finish from the 2nd round of the China Rally Championship.
‘Special thanks to all the Rally New Zealand organisers and staff. Our new found and existing friends and fans who have stuck with us through thick and thin, lovin’ your work!”