Dusty Motu madness gave way to mud in the Silver Fern Rally yesterday.

Torrential rain smashing the east coast of the North Island saw three stages cancelled due to rising river levels and poor road conditions.

The four stages that did run proved incredibly difficult and caused a notable spike in attrition rate before overnighting in Napier.

James Hewlett stopped in the first stage of the day when his Escort short circuited. That allowed the Mirage of Trevor Taylor to take the lead, however Hewlett fought back, only to incur more time penalties in the confusion of the afternoon cancellations. That allowed Taylor to cruise into his home town for the Silver Frond win.


Behind these two Jim Robb and his Sunny had been keeping Stuart McFarlane's Porsche at bay, until Robb struck engine problems and McFarlane was able to sneak past for the final podium spot.

In the Silver Fern Challenge the early dramas featured Dave Strong when gearbox problems from yesterday got worse and he had to make an impromptu change, with a resulting time penalty for lateness. However this only dropped him from second to third, now behind Brian Stokes and Brent Taylor. The remainder of the day went to plan for the top runners with Stokes managing to extend his lead over Taylor by more than a minute, to be 1min 52sec ahead.

The top 5 in the Silver Fern Historic Trophy saw another shake up, with Jeff Judd and Neil Allport both off the road in the Cricklewood Stage. While Judd ended up on his side and had to wait for assistance, Allport managed to get unstuck and back onto the road, but his stage time was almost as slow as the penalty time Judd incurred.

This didn't affect the battle for the lead, as Dean Buist tried to reel in some time on Shane Murland. But at only 8sec over the day, Murland still has a 1min 38sec lead. With Judd and Allport going bush, the Englishmen of Vince Bristow and Grant Shand took full advantage and moved up to third and fourth respectively.

And it could have been an English trio in the top five if Graham Samuel had been able to hold off Brent Rawstron. Locked in their own little battle they swapped times and places almost every stage, however Rawstron was the victor for today and he rounds out the top five, with Samuel only 2sec behind.

With the weather forecast to improve for tomorrow the crews will be well pleased to dry out from a very wet traverse of the coast. Today's racing heads south to Waipukurau, then west and back inland to Weber, with six special stages and 140km of competition on the way to Feilding, and an overnight stop at the Manfeild Raceway.

- nzherald.co.nz