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Nailbiter finish at Whangarei

Masterton driver Jackson Clendon raced home to a nail-biter second-place finish at the weekend’s International Rally Whangarei.

The 20-year-old finished seventh overall and second in his class, a mere 35 seconds behind class winner Christchurch’s Dylan Thompson.

Clendon fought a close battle with Thompson throughout the event, both driving 2WD Ford Fiesta Rally4s, but a developing hole in Clendon’s car’s exhaust set him back towards the end of the second day.

“We weren’t getting full power, and it was heating up the engine bay. But aside from those issues, the car went really well over the weekend,” he said.

Despite the close second place, Clendon still leads the national rally championship overall for 2WD and category two and is sixth overall across all classes.

The event covered eight stages on Saturday and six on Sunday, totalling 707.99km – 225.80km being competitive sections.

Heavy rainfall battered Northland before the event, before dispersing for a mostly fine weekend of good driving conditions.

“There were a few slippery bits and still some road damage and slips from the big weather event they had up there,” Clendon said.

“But when there’s a little dampness, it binds the gravel together and grips better, so that was better than we expected.”

Despite the good conditions, the race had a high attrition rate, with only 25 out of 48 cars finishing the event, due to
crashes or mechanical issues.

Motorsport star Shane van Ginsbergen raced in an Audi S1 AP4, and Clendon said it was a great experience to race with such a legend.

“SVG is probably one of the coolest characters in New Zealand motorsport, and just having him around, driving past and seeing him around the event, it’s cool,” he said.

“You do feel like you are getting somewhere when you’re starting to sort of compete against those sort of guys.”

Five-time national champion Hayden Paddon won in his Hyundai i20n Rally 2, finishing three and a half minutes ahead of overall second place Ben Hunt.

Clendon’s pace improved compared to last year’s, beating some of his 2022 stage records by twenty seconds, which he attributed partly to excellent notes from Woodville co-driver Tania Cresswell.

“I think we developed a lot more confidence in the car – driving a bit more flamboyant and a bit more sideways.”

The next event in the national championship is the Rally of South Canterbury, scheduled for June 17 in the Timaru area.

Clendon is hoping for another good result to keep climbing the table.

“Obviously, we need to get the car back to 100 per cent, but from now we don’t have to win every round; if we keep consistent, finish every event and bank some championship points, then we’ll be in with a good shot.”

Flynn Nicholls
Flynn Nicholls
Flynn Nicholls is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age who regularly writes about education. He is originally from Wellington and is interested in environmental issues and public transport.

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