Third round sees fourth-placed Hunt seeking to make up for crash

The New Zealand Rally Championship returns to the South Island for round three at Rally Canterbury.

New Zealand's World Rally Championship contender Hayden Paddon and co-driver John Kennard are back in Europe after contesting the opening two rounds of the national series, so it's down to business for the rest.

Relative newcomers David Holder and co-driver Jason Farmer have made the most of the mishaps fallen to their rivals including Ben Hunt. The defending champion had a massive crash at Rally Whangarei and dropped to fourth place in the title race behind Richard Baddock, Paddon and leader Holder.

"I'm not reading too much into being the championship leader as there's a long way to go yet," said Holder.


"Having said that, we're pretty happy to be were we are.

"We [with co-driver Farmer] were just talking about it and what the plan is going to be for the rally. You still have to get max points at this stage of the game because nothing is sewn up yet. So that's the aim.

"We're going to have to use our heads on the day. We don't want to throw everything at it and crash, or damage the car. We do have a bit of a points advantage [28] so if it gets a bit technical and difficult we can pull back for a couple of corners and then get back on it. That's an advantage for sure.

"We're going in there to give it our best effort. We haven't come here to be last. At the end of the day things will be what they will be."

Holder is being mentored by Paddon but as he prepares for Rally Italy next weekend, Holder is on his own this weekend.

"We've progressed quite a bit recently and Hayden's been a bit busy of late. I did however get an email from him [on Wednesday] and he asked about what road position I was thinking about.

"Forestry isn't my favourite stuff to be honest, I prefer the fast open stuff, but you've to be the best on all different types of roads and we back ourselves that we can do that here."

The 2015 rally Gold Star champion Hunt and co-driver Tony Rawston were the biggest losers at the second round of the series in Whangarei with their rally coming to a rapid halt after a big crash on Saturday's sixth stage. Hunt was airlifted to hospital and released later in the day suffering three broken ribs.

He and Rawston received medical clearance on Thursday to race this weekend and are looking forward to getting back in the hunt for the title.

"In some ways the accident was a good thing as we found out some issues with the car we didn't know about," said Hunt.

"The car has only been running at about 70 per cent, and in a test at the Maramarua Forest in the pouring rain, the car felt really good.

"I can't wait to get back in car and go racing this weekend. I have to finish the next three rallies despite what Holder does. Holder has to drop a round [only four of the five rounds count for points] so I have to make sure I get good results from now on after having the accident."

Another to keep an eye on is Baddock, who will inherit second place due to Paddon's absence. He's been out of the game for 18 months and is driving the oldest car in the national championship. This is his home event so don't be surprised if he again makes the podium.

New Zealand's top female rally driver Emma Gilmour has finally found the speed she knew her Suzuki Swift Maxi had, and is in a confident mood after her impressive second place finish at the International Rally of Whangarei.

The Historic field returns to full strength for this event, with Marcus van Klink leading the way. One of his main rivals, Regan Ross, returns to the event where he's achieved plenty of success in the past.

Bathurst winner and former V8 Supercars pilot Greg Murphy is returning to the scene of his first rallying experience.

He enjoyed the outing so much that he contested a number of rallies over the past 12 months and reckons he feels like a kid again and is enjoying the adrenaline rush of rallying flat-out on gravel roads.

The rally starts today with the top-five start order draw and driver autograph session from 5pm at Lone Star in Christchurch.

The action commences from Joe's Garage in Rangiora tomorrow morning with the first car departing at 7.40am for the nine special stages (171km) in Ashley and Okuku Forests.