Tauranga rally driver Phil Campbell had a smile on his face and a special prize for his efforts at the Hyundai Gold Rush Rally of Coromandel on Saturday.
Campbell and co-driver Matt Hayward finished sixth at the penultimate round of the New Zealand Rally Championship and claimed the Dunlop Drive of the Rally award.
But what pleased Campbell the most was the encouraging pace of his new Ford Fiesta AP4 car. Built to the new local rally car regulations, the Fiesta made a short-lived debut in June at the Canterbury Rally before being hit by overheating trouble.
But it was an untroubled second outing at Coromandel, with Campbell 11th fastest in the opening stage and making a move up the order with increasing pace to finish the rally in sixth place.
''It couldn't have gone better for us and it was great to get a result on the first proper run for the car,'' said Campbell.
''The Fiesta does everything so well because it's built from scratch as a rally car. The brakes and suspension are much better than anything I've experienced and it's an easy car to drive. It feels good when you push it harder.''
The Dunlop prize was a set of rally tyres.
''That's worth having because the roads were pretty abrasive up there.''
Campbell is planning a run at next month's Far North regional rally before the Raglan-based national series finale in October.
''We've got nothing to prove at this point. We just want to get more mileage and have the car sorted out ready for next season,'' said Campbell.
There was also a strong drive on the muddy peninsula roads from Mount Maunganui's David Holder.
Holder and co-driver Jason Farmer are continuing to make appearances in domestic events as ongoing preparation for their Junior World Rally Championship programme. Using a left-hand-drive Ford Fiesta ST they made the most of Coromandel's two-pass reconnaissance opportunity to polish to pace-noting skills ahead of the Junior WRC finale in Turkey next month.
''It was good to get more experience of making notes with a two-pass recce and more time in a left-hand-drive car. Then we sat down with Hayden [Paddon] on Sunday night to work through the pace notes we'd made,'' said Holder.
Holder and Farmer were the top-placed two-wheel-drive finishers ahead of much more powerful cars and 16th overall.
Campbell and Holder were the leading drivers from the Motorsport BOP contingent and there were mixed fortunes for the other five.
Subaru Impreza drivers Phil Macquarie (Papamoa) and David Hearn (Tauranga) were closely matched throughout the rally and finished 26th and 27th respectively. Tauranga's Wayne Pittams was 29th in his Ford Escort and has easily wrapped up the Open 2WD category of the NZ Rally Championship.
Tauranga's Ben Quin started well, moving up from 36th seeding to 21st place after two stages, but he put his Mitsubishi Lancer off the road in stage three. Toyota Corolla driver Daniel Haines (Tauranga) was halted by a broken axle in stage four.
The eight-stage Coromandel event was won by Hyundai WRC star Hayden Paddon who scored his fourth win of the national championship season and wrapped up the 2018 title with a round to spare.
In spite of a recurring turbo hose issue which cost him time on three stages, Paddon led home Subaru driver Ben Hunt (Auckland) by 18.7secs while Auckland's Dylan Turner (Audi) narrowly outpaced Rangiora's Matt Summerfield (Mitsubishi) to take third place.
The final round of the New Zealand Rally Championship is the Hyundai Rally of Raglan Coast on Saturday, October 13.