It was a consistent and solid performance from the #39 Vauxhall Chevette driven by ex V8 Supercar driver Greg Murphy at the 2016 Stadium Finance/REPCO Westland Rally on Saturday. Murphy and co-driver Mark Leonard finished 24th after completing the nine Special Stages in their first outing in the Chevette.
“The rally just got better and better,” said Murphy. “We were reasonably steady all day getting to know the car and gaining more experience. It is a fantastic event; the Westland Car Club boys did a great job.”
Fifty-seven cars were entered in the rally which was the opening round of the 2016 Mainland Rally Championship. Murphy and Leonard were the 39th car away from the start. It was a case of continual improvement throughout the day as the pair slowly moved up the leader board. Their best Special Stage finish was the penultimate 22km Ahaura stage where they set the 20th fastest time.
“I was really thrilled with that result,” commented Murphy. “Overall the roads were just awesome, a great mixture of surfaces which I really enjoyed.”
It was Murphy’s fifth gravel rally and the first run in the Chevette prepared by Nigel Barclay and the Stadium Finance Motorsport Team as they work towards the Rally of Otago in three weeks’ time (9-10 April).
“Out of the box the handling was great. It was quite neutral and predictable. There wasn’t a lot of difference to last year’s car but with more grunt and torque.”
“We have a bit of a list of some things to do before Otago which will improve the car and its handling as well as making the job easier for Mark (Leonard)and me.
“At the end of the day we got through the rally without any issues. We didn’t have any moments, but then maybe we weren’t trying hard enough!”
Timaru’s Darren Galbraith/James Bracefield (Mitsubishi Evo 6) were the overall winners, leading from the second of the nine stages. Runner up was Rangiora’s Matt Summerfield/Nicole Summerfield (Subaru WRX) with Christchurch’s Deane Buist/Karl Celeste (Ford Escort) third.