Rotorua rally driver Sloan Cox is getting faster every year, but a Leadfoot Festival hill climb title continues to elude him.
At the weekend he finished second behind Alister McRae for the third consecutive year, but could not have done much more. He was less than a second behind McRae who became the first driver to break the 48 second barrier.
It was the fifth year Cox had raced at Leadfoot, held at the Hahei property owned by Rod and Shelly Millen, and he was thrilled with his performance, during which he set a new personal best.
"It was a blast, of course going for that win again - we didn't get there, but we were closer than we've ever been and we were going faster than we ever have so it's very promising. We had a wicked weekend and don't mind getting second again."
Drivers were allowed one practice run before racing in three qualifying rounds. The drivers with the 10 fastest times qualified for the final shootout. In the shootout, McRae made history when he finished in 47.99s, closely followed by Cox in 48.67s.
"Everyone picked their pace up, times were consistently faster than last year. I had never been below the 50 second bracket, but this year we got 48s three times, which was pretty consistent.
"My last run was the fastest which shows when it does come down to crunch time we can get a faster time in."
He said there were a number of factors helping him race faster, including changes to his car and the experience he gained at the RX Academy last year, a five-round competition and coaching programme based in Finland designed to help competitors develop a career in rallycross.
"We have made a few changes, we had a fresh motor - that was another key, having smoother power. We really concentrated on the handling of the car. A hill like Leadfoot, you can't really test anywhere else, so you have to really use the practice run and early qualifying runs to get your car dialled in as fast as you can to get it going smoother and faster.
"It was about the second qualifier that we thought the car was where it should be so we used that last qualifying run to make sure the car was fine and practise lines - we got our second 48s time so we knew for the shootout we had the best package possible for this year and gave it our best shot."
Cox said all of the experience he gained last year had helped him be more calm behind the wheel.
"Usually I'm quite nervous in the shootout, but this year I felt more relaxed than in the past and I felt really positive heading into that last run. All that time behind the wheel helps, being more comfortable in the car and getting the car dialled in early so we're not making changes late."
Cox's plans for the rest of the year are still up in the air, he does not want to rush into anything, but he will continue to accumulate time behind the wheel and work on being a more well-rounded driver.