David Holder became the New Zealand Rally Champion at last weekend's Rally of Gisborne but he didn't know he was about to wrap up a maiden title until driving on the road section to the final stage.

Holder held a slender lead over Emma Gilmour and other title contenders going into the penultimate event in Gisborne but when one rival after another endured problems, the 27-year-old emerged as the winner of the event to take an unassailable lead with one round left in the Championship.

"On the last service we had one stage to go and the Volt television camera guys starting putting extra cameras in my car and that made me wonder what this was about," Holder tells herald.co.nz.

"On the way to the last stage on the touring section my co-driver told me we were in with a shot of winning it if we completed the stage clean and hold on to that minute lead we had.


"We took a real cautious approach. You can have bad luck mechanically as well - a gear box go or something like that."

The Tauranga driver negotiated the final test and was greeted by his team at the finish line to celebrate his first national title.

"It actually feels really strange," he says having had a few days to let the achievement sink in. "We have been working towards this the last couple of years and now that it has happened it was great and it is satisfying but we have already looked on to where we want to move to now that we've ticked that box.

"It certainly makes up for all the low points getting to that stage. You enjoy the moment while it is there."

One of the first people to congratulate Holder was fellow Kiwi rallying star Hayden Paddon, who was mid-way through the WRC Rally Poland. Paddon has followed Holder's career closely and been a mentor of sorts for the budding star.

"Hayden is doing some pretty big things for a lot of people in the sport at the moment. We have been involved with each other for the last four years - pretty much my first year rallying in the nationals he saw some in-car footage of me competing and got in touch and he's been willing to help wherever he can."

Holder is now faced with a big challenge - he has a national title but taking an extra step overseas comes with significant costs attached.

"I am still really inexperienced - I've only done about 30 rallies - writing notes and stepping into international events is a big thing," he admits.

"We would still like to be doing the New Zealand Championship because it is probably the cheapest way we can get some more experience.

"We have put our sights onto trying to find some opportunities overseas and I guess the instant point we look at is the Asia Pacific championship. There is a bunch of teams around and we will contact them all to see if we can get a subsidized drive or even if we have to pay some money to get over there at least it is the next step and we can prove ourselves in front of some teams that have budgets to run cars."