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Clinical Clendon clicks

A clinical drive by Jackson Clendon in his first outing in nine months in his Ford Fiesta Rally4 saw him come away from the Rally of Otago with maximum points.

The Masterton driver hadn’t competed in the Fiesta since it was badly damaged when he rolled it in Rally South Canterbury last June. Despite the car being fully repaired, racing in last weekend’s opening round of the national championship looked in serious doubt after the cancellation of the Cook Strait ferries from last Wednesday afternoon because of southerly gales.

“We had to ring around the trucking firms to see if they had an open slot for a crossing, and thankfully PTS Logistics in Palmerston North had a slot on Wednesday they could get us on, and luckily, we were on the last ferry over,” Clendon said.

Once on the fast gravel roads of North Otago, the 20-year-old had little trouble finding his groove in the 2WD FIA Fiesta Rally4 and held a 53-second lead over Dylan Thomson, with Jordan Grant close behind in third after the eight special stages on the first day.

“I was happy with the Saturday, we just eased away back into it, and when we were comfortable, we started setting pretty good stage times, and I think we won every stage that day,” he said.

Clendon said that the car was mechanically 100 per cent, but at the end of Saturday, the intercom between Clendon and co-driver Tania Cresswell began cutting out intermittently, making it difficult for the pair to drive at full pace.

“It was cutting in and out, and it progressively got worse during the day, and into Sunday, it got quite bad, and I was missing quite a few pace notes, so we just cruised through from then.”

Fortunately for Clendon, Thomson and Grant went off the road on Sunday’s second stage in the Berwick Forest, which he described as terribly slippery and like driving on grass after rain, and the 4WD cars had torn up the surface.

Thomson and Grant’s demise gave Clendon a five-minute advantage over rival Brad Jones, resulting in him taking a conservative approach for the remaining five stages.

“With the intercom issues that we had, and there were some really tricky and slippery stages on the last day, we decided just to get to the end and not worry about stage times but just get good points for the championship.”

Clendon took the maximum 44 points from the rally, giving him the lead in FIA Category Two for front-wheel drive cars and the overall 2WD class in the NZ rally Championship. He is also 10th in the overall national championship and third in the junior drivers’ championship, behind Ari Pettigrew and Jack Hawkeswood, who both compete in the higher-powered 4WD cars. Woodville-based Cresswell leads the 2WD categories’ co-driver championships.

Overall, Clendon was happy with the performance of the Fiesta, saying that improving his driving and building confidence to push the car a bit harder, and working on his combination with Cresswell is the focus for the second round of the championship, the International Rally of Whangarei in five weeks.

Chris Cogdale
Chris Cogdale
Chris “Coggie” Cogdale has extensive knowledge of sport in Wairarapa having covered it for more than 30 years, including radio for 28 years. He has been the sports guru at the Wairarapa Times-Age since 2019.

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