This continued through to Stage 3, where two stage wins by Taylor now saw him 0.1 second behind Argyle. Unfortunately for the crowd of spectators, the mighty Audi Quattro of Hawkeswood suffered engine problems and it was an early trailer home.
When Argyle spun at the start of Stage 4, the 30 seconds of time he lost was enough to drop him from first to third and into the sights of 4th and 5th placed Grant Blackberry and Neil Marshall. Leaving Taylor and Kelsey out in front, even it was only 33 seconds and 17 seconds respectively.
Following the service break Argyle was back on a charge and a string of fastest stage times saw him chasing down the leaders. While Kelsey and Taylor traded stage times, Argyle had closed in to be only 4.1 off Kelsey, and 24 off Taylor.
Such was the heat of battle that a momentary lapse of pace by Kelsey in the 24km Stage 8 saw him drop to third as Argyle shot past. Taylor won the stage, but only by 0.8 seconds from Argyle! This was 27 faster than the rest, meaning that the gap between the podium places and the rest was now out to one and a half minutes.
Mind you the fight for 4th to 6th was just as tight on its own. Blackberry was continuing to show a new level of speed this season as he lead Neil Marshall by 16.6 seconds, with Shannon Chambers recovering from a slow start to be 19.9 seconds behind Marshall.
With just the last two short blasts to come, there wasn’t much expectation for the places to change, however no one told Argyle this and he set out to chase down Taylor. An initial 7.6 seconds cut into Taylor’s lead was matched by a 6.9 cut on the second trip around the McBeth Road stage. However it wasn’t to be quite enough.
The result being that Taylor celebrated two rally wins in a row, with Argyle just 10.2 seconds back in the runner-up position. Kelsey meanwhile was driving for the finish and had settled for third by this time. Even so this was a good comeback from his recent set-backs.
Following this group was the next trio, who had maintained station despite a fight for individual stage times. Blackberry, Marshall, and Chambers ended only 28 seconds apart.
The fight for the fastest 2WD car was also a battle between the local lad, Tony McConachy, and the tourists from the north and south of Craig Stevens and Paul Black. Essentially this was a continuation from earlier in the season, with McConachy eeking out a 13 second lead over Stevens by half time. Black had dropped off the pace of these two, but he had his own chasers behind as Jason Weld and Paul De Rose were threatening to close in.
As another Manawatu local Weld knows these roads well. He is also well known for his spectacular sideways style. However having skids wasn’t being as productive for him as it has been in the past. The result being that by the end Weld was relegated to 5th in 2WD, as De Rose overtook him and into 4th. De Rose’s target had been to catch Black, but Black was on his own charge and he was happy with third 2WD and first in class.
This left McConachy and Stevens battling at the front, but the second half of the rally wasn’t good news for Stevens. McConachy had found his groove and an 11 second lead after Stage 6 was turned into a 41 second lead after Stage 10, giving McConachy a win that wasn’t entirely reflective of the battle earlier on.
As the rain mostly stayed away, and the drivers enjoyed very good road conditions, the spectators got to see excellent competition, which focused on driver ability and outright speed. Making for a fantastic event, and a continuation in not only the revival of regional rally competition but the revival of an iconic event on the NZ rally calendar that is the Daybreaker Rally.
Full results are available at http://www.chrissport.co.nz/