Tauranga rally driver Phil Campbell made a solid start to his New Zealand Rally Championship (NZRC) campaign with a podium finish in the Rally of Otago last weekend.

Campbell and co-driver Mal Peden (Cambridge) drove their Ford Fiesta AP4 to fourth place overall at the two-day Otago event, but finished third in the NZRC standings as runaway rally winner Hayden Paddon isn't contesting the national series this year.

''It was an awesome start to the season,'' Campbell said.

''We had clean run on Saturday but a few electrical problems on Sunday that made the car quite hard to drive.


''The engine would cut-out intermittently which wasn't good for the confidence. We were in a secure fourth place and didn't take any big risks.''

Campbell believes aiming for consistency will bring results in the six-round 2019 national championship.

''I don't think we need to be the fastest driver every rally but we need to be consistently scoring points. There's still have a bit to work on with our pace but I think we can be closer to the front guys at Whangārei [the next round of the championship] on roads where I have more experience,'' Campbell said.

Paddon won the Otago Rally by more then seven minutes while Auckland's Ben Hunt (Subaru) was second and took the NZRC victory ahead of Audi driver Dylan Turner (Auckland) and Campbell. Hunt leads the championship with 42 points while Turner has 35 and Campbell is next on 24.

The other strong performance from a Tauranga crew at the weekend came from Ben Thomasen and Gavin Haycock in a Subaru Impreza. Thomasen is competing in the second-tier Rally Challenge category which was decided on the first day of the Otago event.

He completed Saturday's stages holding seventh place overall and won the Rally Challenge category by nearly a minute from Darfield's Garet Thomas (Subaru). Thomasen also leads the NZRC rookie category after the opening round.

Tauranga's Andy Martin and Matt Hayward finished eighth in the International Otago Classic Rally in their Mazda RX3. The event was dominated by Ford Escorts with Norwegian WRC star Mads Ostberg taking the victory while Martin was the best-placed driver not at the wheel of a Ford Escort.

Tauranga's Wayne Pittams and Chris Davison (Ford Escort) finished 30th overall while Phil Macquarie and Noel Moloney (Subaru Impreza) placed 54th while two BOP crews failed to finish.


Mt Maunganui's David Holder and co-driver Jason Farmer (Hamilton) lost time on Saturday with a broken driveshaft and then retired their Holden Barina AP4 on Sunday with fuel pressure problems. Leon Styles and Martyn Stevenson (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo9) retired in Saturday morning's second stage with a broken axle.

Round two of the New Zealand Rally Championship is the Eneos International Rally of Whangārei which runs over the May 4-5 weekend.