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Waitomo Tarmac Rally 2004
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Turns out tarmac isn't as bad as we expected!

With this to be our second ever rally on notes and our first on tarmac, we headed down to Waitomo rather nervous about this new surface. Andrew from commercial refrigeration had come through at the last minute and offered us the use of his trailer, saving me from an even longer weekend of driving. The car was as prepared as ever and looking mean if not a little rough with the light bar on the front. The stereo had come out the previous night for ‘weight reduction’ the only major concern was the gearbox that had started jumping out of 5th after a drive to Kiataia the weekend before the rally. This didn’t slow us down any in the rally as the box is remarkably long geared and we never had to go for 5th anyway

We got down to Te Kuiti on the Friday and passed scrutineering alright and before we knew it we were sitting in the dark at the start of the first stage, feeling more than a little worried. The first stage didn’t go well, in fact it was a shocker! The start line had been changed from what it said in the notes and that threw us, so we ended up driving blind for the first half of the stage until we came to the first junction. Except that confused us even more and we stopped at the intersection and had a discussion as to which way to turn! The rest of the stage was slow due to a rusty driver, but we got through without to many incidents. It poured most of the night stages and the tires we had were wets so that suited us fine.

The second and third stages went without much drama, but the driving was a bit rusty and we were slowly getting back into it. We started out the fourth stage well, but managed to get a bit lost in the notes for a couple of minutes before having a bit of a blinder to the finish.

It was back to parc freme for the night after removing the light bar and fueling up. With the first car due to start the next day at 7.30am we thought we’d be starting about an hour later so it was a bit of a shock to arrive at 7.30am and find ourselves seeded 18th for the next day! We were amped with this, but figured it was only due to the fact we had wets on during the rainy night stages and with the weather looking pretty clear the next day it looked like we would be dropping down the order throughout the day.

The morning stages went without to many dramas, although one of the sections with loose gravel caused a big opposite lock "oh crap we’re sliding towards the edge!" moment, another bit of an error happened on a 2 right spectator corner just after a fast 7 right, 7 left. We came flying round the 7 left and suddenly there was a 2 right! There was no way we could slow down enough to make it round, but luckily it was at a junction so we could just go straight through. Hard on the brakes then hard on the handbrake and just a tad of driving on the grass and we were back on track.

With the roads being dry, our Toyo FM9R’s, being designed for the wet were moving around lots and every corner seemed to be tearing chunks off the tires. We made the mistake of not checking the stage results at any of the services and we just assumed that we were being hauled in by the cars behind us. It wasn’t until the final service with just 2 stages to go that someone mentioned that we were leading our class by a fairly comfortable amount. This was the worst thing we could have heard, as on the very next stage I took it way to easy and ended up with a bit of an average time. Annoyed with the time we went harder in the last stage with was an extremely fast piece of road, even our under powered wee Corolla managed to have 190km/h on the dash through some parts of the final test.

It wasn’t until we reached the finish and they were organizing the order to go over the finish ramp that we found out we had finished 11th overall and first in our class! We couldn’t believe it! We were fully amped and amazed that we’d finished so high!

Prize giving was awesome as well, with a couple of the other competitors congratulating us on our drive in their acceptance speeches. We came away with a couple of trophies as well as an angle grinder and multimeter thanks to Repco, overall a pretty successful event!

Big thanks to the organizers, as well as Repco and GVI who sponsored the event. Thanks to Manukau Auto and Tyre Centre for free fitting and balancing of our tires, please go down a talk to Nigel if you need any mags or tires and he’s sure to give you a decent deal. Thanks to CPS the top half series sponsor, and to Woody for breaking a CV!

We’re saving hard for our next event at the moment, would love to give the Rally of New Zealand tarmac round a shot and see if we can beat any of the serious guys in a car that’s my road car as well. Will have to see how the old bank balance is looking. Am hoping to be able to afford an LSD in the future to help us on the gravel and twisty stuff but that may have to wait to for a bit of sponsorship.

The door numbers came off the car on Sunday night and I’ve been driving it to work all week, nothing like a Corolla for practicality!