The Leadfoot Festival Rally title is one which has evaded Rotorua's Sloan Cox so far. Three consecutive second place finishes have him more eager than ever to finish atop the podium this weekend.
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When it comes to the Leadfoot Festival Rally, Alister McRae has been a constant thorn in the side of Rotorua's Sloan Cox.
For three years straight, Cox has finished runner-up to the British speedster. However, it is not for a lack of trying.
Cox has improved his speed with every appearance at the hill climb sprint event. Last year, he was less than a second behind McRae, who became the first driver to break the 48-second barrier.
With work done during the last six months to improve the handling of his already powerful 2004 Evo 8 Hillclimb Special, the 28-year-old felt this weekend's edition of the event, held at the Hahei property owned by Rod and Shelly Millen, could be the one.
"I'm really excited for it this year, I feel like we've done a lot of work since last year and we're more prepared than we've ever been so I really think we can take this one out this year.
"This is the year for it, we really want that top spot so we're going to go and take it. We know the car has good power and it always has - we've actually managed to get more power low down which is a bonus - but the handling is what we've really worked on.
"It got sent back to Australia to the company that made it and had a good talk with them about the car and where it should be at, that should be a big positive change. We've also got more aerodynamics on the car - bigger wings, bigger front splitter, to really make the car stick to the road."
Last year was a quiet one for Cox, racing in the Leadfoot and Ashley Forest rallies, but in 2018 he had the experience of a lifetime when accepted into the highly-regarded RX Academy in Finland, providing him with an opportunity to build an international career in the growing motorsport of rallycross.
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While not directly related to hill climbs, the experience he gained on that trip helped him mature as a driver.
"This weekend, the biggest thing for me is concentrating and getting that perfect run in. I know where the car should be on every corner. I have to concentrate on earlier runs to work the best lines out so I can put that one quick run together and keep momentum up the whole hill.
"That's a big part of why we worked on the handling, because got a bit fidgety and harder to keep on the best line. This year the car should be a lot better at keeping its line."
Racing starts at 8am on Saturday and wraps up at about 6pm on Sunday. Drivers get one practice run before racing in three qualifying rounds. The drivers with the 10 fastest times qualify for the final shootout.
About the Leadfoot Festival
The Leadfoot Festival is a unique weekend on the New Zealand and international calendar which brings together a unique mix of classic cars, vintage motorcycles and motorsport legends.
New Zealand motorsport legend Rod Millen opens his private grounds at the Leadfoot Ranch to host more than 150 participants.
The event was initially intended to celebrate Millen's 60th birthday in 2011. However, the event was so popular the businesses of Hahei, motorsport clubs around New Zealand and the general public asked him to consider making it a public event.