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Stokes too quick for rivals at Mainland Rally Series round in South Canterbury

Robbie Stokes and Sarah Brennan (Ford Fiesta AP4) have won the second round of the 2024 Mainland Rally Series at the South Canterbury Rally on Saturday. Second home was Caleb Macdonald/Larisa Biggar (Mitsubishi Lance Evo6) ahead of 2023 MRC winner, Dylan Thomson/Bayden Thomson (Ford Fiesta Rally4) with James Macdonald/Josh Edwards (Subaru Impreza H6) fourth.

Having dominated the opening round at the Otago Rally in April, Stokes and Brennan continued their form winning all eight stages of the rally. The round also doubled as the second round of the NZ Rally Championship which saw Stokes and Brennan finish second to Hayden Paddon/Jared Hudson (Hyundai i20 AP4).

“Pretty good result,” commented Stokes. “Near on perfect as we had no issues, the roads were great and had a lot of fun.”

It’s been a turn around in form for the Stokes team after a couple of seasons with reliability issues.

“We have now got a reliable car and that is now our strength,” said Stokes. “We’ve done a lot of work in the off season getting in the miles and getting faster and faster, so the seat time has really helped.”

Second in Otago was Andrew Graves/Hayden Graves (Mitsubishi Evo 3) who also carried on their form and looked like finishing runner up again. However, this came to an abrupt halt in the penultimate stage, SS7 (Cricklewood Road) when a gear box isue forced them out of the rally and off the result sheet.

This opened the door for Macdonald/Biggar to improve on their fourth placing in Otago to finish second after consistently finishing in the top three in all eight stages in South Canterbury. This result has now placed them second overall 14-points behind Stokes.

As well as the overall leaders board, there are seven separate Class titles for both driver and co-drivers to be decided on the best five results from the six rounds making up the MRC.

Mike Matheson (Toyota Vitz) continues to lead Class A (2WD 0-1300cc) with a 11-point lead over Pat Norris while Jack Stokes (Ford Fiesta R2) is now tied for the lead in the very competitive Class B (2WD 1301-1600cc) with Thomas Paul (Honda Civic) while James Worker (Ford Fiesta R2)

Dylan Thomson (Ford Fiesta Rally4) and Deane Buist (Ford Escort) are tied on 36-points each in Class C (2WD >1601cc) with William Hawes (Toyota 86) jumping up into third. Thomson and Buist are also on equal points in third on the overall points table.

Stokes (Ford Fiesta AP4) also leads Class D (4WD) with Caleb Macdonald (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo6) second and Mark McMillan (Subaru Impreza Sti) third.

Graves’ retirement sees him slip to second behind Nigel Ede (Subaru Legacy RS) in Class E (Pre 1996 Classic 4WD) with 2023 Class winner Hayden Shakespeare (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 3) third.

With the absence of several Historic Class F competitors from the South Canterbury Rally, Stephen Gill (Ford Escort Mk2) leads the class from Paul Fraser (Ford Escort Mk2).

James Macdonald has strengthened his lead in the Subaru H6 Class from Paul Cross with Ian Elliot in third.

Drivers and teams now prepare for the third round on Sunday 2 June 2024 (King’s Birthday weekend).

The 2024 Mainland Rally Series has the support of RDL Performance, Brita Safety Ltd, Palmside NZ Ltd, Christchurch Building and Decorating Ltd, Thomson Rust and Repair Services Ltd, Rally Drive NZ.

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