There was late-rally disappointment for two Tauranga crews running near the front of the New Zealand Rally Championship final round on Saturday.

Tauranga's Phil Campbell briefly led the Waitomo Rally but retired just 2km into final stage when he clipped a rock and damaged the front suspension of his Ford Fiesta AP4.

READ MORE:
Tauranga's Phil Campbell all smiles after Rally of Coromandel
Rally driver wows world champs.
Tauranga's Ben Thomasen in running for two NZ titles.

Campbell and co-driver Mal Peden (Cambridge) had just taken the lead of the rally from 2019 champion Ben Hunt.

Advertisement

Hunt's Subaru WRX STI was halted with a turbo failure in the penultimate stage, promoting Campbell to the lead after running second for most of the event.

With Campbell's's Fiesta unable to go any further the rally lead moved to Auckland's Raana Horan who pipped Kingsley Jones (Auckland) by 18.1secs. Both drivers were in Skoda Fabia R5s.

Tauranga's Ben Thomasen (Subaru Impreza) finished sixth on Saturday but missed out on clinching the Gull Rally Challenge title by a fraction of a second after a season-long battle.

Ben Thomasen drove his Subaru to second place in the Gull Rally Challenge and won the NZ Rally Championship rookie award. Photo / Photography Inmotion Greg Henderson
Ben Thomasen drove his Subaru to second place in the Gull Rally Challenge and won the NZ Rally Championship rookie award. Photo / Photography Inmotion Greg Henderson

Thomasen and co-driver Gavin Haycock had started the series finale tied on points with rival Matt Adams (Auckland) and held a slim lead for most of the rally. But Adams was fastest in the 43km final stage and grabbed fifth place by just 0.3secs after 198km of competition.

''I struggled to find my usual pace most of the day and in the end I must have backed off just a bit too much,'' Thomasen said.

''I'm gutted but my hat's off to Matt, he drove really well and deserved it.''

The Gull Rally Challenge provides a second tier of competition in the national championship for older cars. It's delivered a competitive contest with five different drivers posting wins in six events — with Thomasen the only driver to win two rounds.

''I'll plan to have another shot at it next year. It's a good series with plenty of competition and you don't need a $200,000 car, so that makes it a bit more accessible. I think it will continue to grow next year.''

Advertisement

Premium gold newsletter


Thomasen has won the 2019 NZ Rally Championship Rookie award.

Tauranga's Wayne Pittams completed his championship campaign taking 16th place on Saturday in his Ford Escort and finished the season third in the 2WD Championship.

Two Tauranga-based Subaru crews had a close battle throughout the rally with Andy Martin and Matt Hayward finishing 22nd overall, one place and only 8.9secs ahead of Phil Macquarie and Marty Stevenson.

The rally provided a first with a class for ''Side-by-Side'' off roaders running behind the rally field. Mount Maunganui's Dyson Delahunty finished second in his Polaris Turbo behind Joel Giddy (Yamaha).