Tauranga's Ben Thomasen has made a winning return to local car club competition winning the Motorsport BOP Inc day-night gravel sprint at the TECT All Terrain Park.
Apart from some co-driver outings Thomasen has been on the sidelines of rally competition for almost five years since crashing his Subaru Impreza WRX at a test day. He has quickly got back up to speed again to win Saturday's event by just over two seconds.
''To be honest I was a bit hesitant before we got started but it all came back quite naturally,'' Thomasen says.
''I didn't realise it had been so long till I looked in the log book and saw the last event I'd entered was in November 2013. Time flies.''
Thomasen says there was no been no rush to repair the Subaru.
''We didn't touch the car for three years while I worked on getting my business started,'' he said.
''Eventually we got it panel beaten and slowly worked away on it without rushing things and we made some changes like a sequential gearbox.''
The car is now rally-ready and Thomasen and co-driver Gavin Haycock are planning two rally outings before the end of the season at the Far North Rally on September 22 and the New Zealand Rally Championship final round at Raglan on October 13.
While the Subaru was rebuilt Thomasen has remained behind the wheel in offroad racing events with major success for the Polaris team including 2015 and 2017 outright wins in the New Zealand 1000 endurance race.
''I'm second in my class going into the national championship finals at Christchurch over Labour weekend. It's double points so I still have a good chance.
''The hard thing for me has been there haven't been any enduros at the North Island championship events this year and that's usually where I do well.''
Saturday's Motorsport BOP event was the second of its 2018 day-night format events on a 4km gravel course at the TECT All Terrain Park. Thirty drivers were in action for the daylight runs with Ben Quin (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 5) edging Thomasen by just 0.202s to win the first part of the event.
Hutt Valley driver Adam Bligh (Lancer Evo8) was third ahead of Jay Pittams, David Loughlin and Mike Torr in a close battle between Subaru Impreza drivers.
When the daylight faded the course was switched to the opposite direction for the night runs with 22 drivers continuing in the event. Thomasen set the pace with his best run 2.045secs quicker than Quin to secure the overall win.
Loughlin was third and as the first round winner back in April he took out the two round series ahead of Pittams and Quin with Rotorua's James West fourth overall and the best-placed 2WD competitor in his Toyota Corolla GT.