A podium finish has moved Mount Maunganui rally driver Dave Holder up the FIA Junior World Rally Championship (JWRC) standings at the weekend.
Holder and co-driver Jason Farmer (Hamilton) survived an eventful third round of the series in Portugal to finish third in the JWRC category in their Ford Fiesta R2. They were 29th overall in a rally that saw 47 of the 85 crews classified as finishers.
Holder, the 2016 New Zealand rally champion, said Rally Portugal and its rock-strewn stages was one of the toughest events he's tackled.
''Of the 14 JWRC crews, I think only one car managed to come through unscathed without some sort of drama,'' said Holder.
''We had our own issues, including the rollover and broken driveshaft yesterday (Saturday), and we battled through them to get to the end. That's what mattered and to get third was great.''
Portugal was the third event in Holder's international programme and his best result to-date. It moves him up to ninth place in the JWRC standings with two rounds remaining.
''We came here with a target of top-five, so this is a really good result for us,'' he said.
When the rally got underway with the Thursday evening super special stage on Lousada rallycross circuit near Porto in the north of Portugal, the Kiwi duo were 12th equal among the 14 JWRC crews.
Friday's itinerary took them toward the Spanish border for three repeated stages. As the rocky roads took their toll on competitors at all levels, Holder and Farmer kept their car on the road with stage times that saw them improve steadily on the class standings to finish the day fifth.
Holder said the rally certainly lived up to its rough nature, having bent the steering rack somewhere on the first stage.
''Then we lost a little time on the second stage with a puncture, but we were able to drive out on it. The third stage of the morning wasn't too bad, nice and clean but you're constantly having to dodge rocks, and I mean rocks the size of your head!
''The second pass was unbelievably rough, these big rocks just come out of nowhere. We spent a lot of time trying to dodge them so the speed wasn't real fast but we got the car home safe and consolidated ourselves in fifth position.''
On Saturday Holder and Farmer tackled six stages totalling 154.64km, improving to fourth place in their class by day's end despite some major issues. They rolled on the first run through SS12 in the morning, and on the repeated run through the same 37.60km stage, had a driveshaft on their Ford Fiesta break.
''The rollover happened coming down to a tight, almost hairpin left. I clipped the corner a bit early – it was marked by a tyre and under the tyre was a tree stump – the car rolled onto its roof. We both managed to get out okay then found a spectator, so the three of us pushed it over – which isn't that easy!
''We got the car going again, managed to finish the stage and got back to service. The M-Sport boys did an incredible job fixing it within the time period allowed for service without any penalties.
''We went back out in the afternoon, actually in third overall. Our plan was just to get to the end of the rally as we had a comfortable gap to fourth but unfortunately, then we did the drive shaft. But not all was lost – we were able to re-join for Sunday under Rally2 regulations, which meant 10 minutes added to our time, to put us back in fourth.''
With five stages to complete on Sunday, the aim was simply to get to the finish.
''[Sunday] was pretty uneventful really, just holding position to make sure we got home to get that trophy. We did have one of our good friends Irishman Callum Devine strike some issues that helped us with the podium position in the end – not the way we normally want it to happen.
"We want to thank everyone at home and all our supporters for helping make this podium result possible and hopefully it's the first one of many more to come.''
Holder returns home later this week and says he has four weeks of work ahead to secure funding for the next event in Finland.