India's Gaurav Gill and Australian based co-driver Glenn Macneall have won the 2016 International Rally of Whangarei - completing a journey of 274.9km in the MRF Tyres ŠKODA Fabia R5 car to win by a margin of 30.4 seconds.
Concluding the opening round (of six) for the 2016 FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC), Sunday's action used gravel roads to the south of host city Whangarei. Tackling six special stages, overnight rain and passing isolated showers dampened the road surface.
Gill, the 2013 APRC champion and 2014 rally winner started second car on the road for the day, behind overnight leader and teammate Fabian Kreim. Overtaking the time deficit of 4.6 seconds in the opening test, it was during that stage his car lost turbo boost.
Rectified during the mid-morning service break Gill pushed hard in the second run of the earlier used stages to extend his margin.
"After I got my car fixed I knew I had to push a bit to get a comfortable gap over my teammate because anything can happen. So when we got the 30 second lead we eased our pace to come back with the car in one piece.
"It is very good to start the year and championship to have this win," said a relieved Gill.
Finishing second, Germany's Kreim and countryman co-driver Frank Christian were pleased with the result - focusing instead on learning to compete on gravel roads, than their placing.
Third was Kiwi pairing Michael Young and co-driver Malcolm Read in the Cusco-prepared EZY Racing Subaru Impreza.
Winning the opening stage of the day Young was regularly mixing it with the higher specification ŠKODA cars.
"Getting third overall has made us pretty happy. After the disappointment on Friday and to be able to come back and finish on the podium is pretty awesome. I think that the speeds that we showed this weekend have been pretty impressive against the R5 cars so we'll be looking forward to the next one now," said the 23-year-old and 2015 APRC champion runner-up.
Only four of the international contending cars made it to the finish with Japan's Makoto Kawahara and co-driver Osamu Yoda focussed on just finishing in their Mitsubishi Lancer EVO VIII.
Competitors in the New Zealand category field were equally challenged by the Northland roads with only 13 making it to the finish.
Mt Maunganui's David Holder claimed his maiden victory of the Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship. Driving the Mitsubishi Lancer Paddon took to his maiden rally victory at Whangarei in 2007, Holder and co-driver Jason Farmer finished ahead of second placed Emma Gilmour and Anthony McLoughlin with Dylan Turner and Rob Scott third.
Also entered in the championship round, Michael Young finished fourth, 6mins13 behind Holder, despite incurring a six minute penalty on the Friday when his car failed to complete the Hella Pohe Island Super Special Stage tests.
WRC Rally Argentina winner Hayden Paddon and John Kennard had a clean run in their New Zealand specification Hyundai i20 - winning all six stages of the day - much to the delight of fans passionate on seeing him on local roads.
Following the ceremonial finish at Whangarei's Quayside Town Basin the series now moves to Australia for the second round, to be contested at the International Rally of Queensland, 17-19 June.