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Confident Clendon targets win

Masterton rally driver Jackson Clendon is uncertain what will confront him in this weekend’s International Rally Whangarei, given the heavy rain that battered Northland this week.

Fine weather is forecast for the first day of the two-day rally, and Clendon is hoping there hasn’t been too much damage caused by flooding.

However, he also felt driving on wet roads had its advantages.

“It is better to have a slightly damp road than a rock-hard road, but we don’t know what it’s like if there’s been some flooding that has cut up the roads,” Clendon said.

“The roads are fast but still technical and have been used for a long time now, but they’re usually bad for tyre wear, and the roads are really abrasive, so hopefully, with the damp weather, it helps, and we don’t go through so many tyres.”

Clendon comfortably won the FIA category two and the overall 2WD class at last month’s Rally Otago in his first competitive outing in his Ford Fiesta Rally4 but wasn’t prepared to sit on his laurels, and he and co-driver Tania Cresswell tested out some different suspension settings at the recent Wairarapa Car Club’s Tea Creek gravel hillclimb.

“I think we found a bit better feeling in the car. We’re going to try that out at Whangarei, and I’m a bit more confident in my driving with those set-up changes, so hopefully, all the things click.

“From Otago, there’s been a lot to improve on, but I’m quietly confident for the weekend, and I think we’ll do pretty well.”

Clendon took the maximum 44 points from Rally Otago and is targeting another victory in Whangarei, which is the last of the two-day events in the national championship, and where he won in his first outing in the Fiesta last year.

However, he anticipates a fierce challenge with his two nearest rivals, Dylan Thomson and Bryn Jones, having their first outings in their newly acquired Fiesta Rally4s, identical cars to Clendon’s.

“It will be interesting to see where we sit, but I’m pretty confident, and a good points haul will set us up nicely for the rest of the championship,” he said.

There will also be plenty of interest in the open class of the championship.

Australian Super Car star Shane van Gisbergen will have his first of four starts in the championship in an Audi S3 AP4 and is expected to pose a serious challenge to five-time and defending champion Hayden Paddon.

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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