Holden rolls back the years

By David Thomson on Sat, 9 Jun 2018

This winter is throwing plenty of early challenges at Otago motorists, but based on what I observed driving to and from Queenstown last weekend, most folk are responding well.

Icy mornings and freezing fogs during the day were the main driving hazards over that period. Vehicles generally seemed to be to travelling at speeds appropriate to the conditions, with my only piece of advice being that it is much better to make use of one's proper head lights than rely on side (or parking) lights to be seen when visibility is poor.

Challenging conditions were also the order of the day a little further north last weekend, as Canterbury's Ashley Forest played host to the third round of the national rally championship.

With Hayden Paddon in Europe preparing for this weekend's round of the WRC on the Italian island of Sardinia, the race for top honours at Canterbury was wide open. Even so, few would have picked Josh Marston to emerge triumphant, nor fellow Holden team driver Greg Murphy to have been leading the rally at its halfway point.

The win was an historic one for Holden, their first on the national rally championship scene. It's come almost a half century since Holden last featured at the very top of a leader board on a major New Zealand rally. That previous occasion was the inaugural Rally of New Zealand, won by Grady Thomson (no relation) in a Holden Monaro.

Marston's victory along with retirements for Ben Hunt and Emma Gilmour and a poor result for Matt Summerfield, has rather played into Paddon's hands, allowing him to keep his national championship lead despite missing the Canterbury event.

Marston has every reason to be delighted, and Murphy, who eventually came home fourth, will feel he is finally starting to get to grips with the challenges of rallying, a sport he has enthusiastically embraced since calling time on his glittering circuit racing career. Holden, too, will take heart at a great reward for their backing of the sport with the Barina AP4 kit car.

Kiwi motorsport interest this weekend will be focused overseas, and not only on Paddon in Sardinia. We've also got Brendon Hartley lining up for the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal, and Scott Dixon in action as the 2018 Indycar series heads to Texas.

Dixon, now third equal on the all time Indycar winners list after his victory in Detroit last weekend, is second in the Indycar championship, a few points adrift of series leader Will Power.

Paddon and Hartley, meanwhile, are much more obviously fighting for survival as frontline drivers in their chosen codes. Paddon needs to show the same stage-winning pace he displayed in Portugal last month, but make it to the finish, while Hartley needs to take his Toro Rosso F1 car beyond the first round in qualifying, and press on for a top-10 finish in Canada.

David Thomson