Young gun Ari Pettigrew on target for Rally Whangarei

Ari Pettigrew may not have had the ideal start to his rookie national rally championship campaign, but studying his performance before engine failure robbed his car of a finish, showed why he is regarded as a future rally star.


The upcoming International Rally of Whangarei will be Pettigrew's next chance to shine in the Stadium Cars Ford Fiesta ST, and although his Rally Otago debut was halted after four stages, the 18-year-old from Rangiora showed championship winning pace.


Pettigrew's total rally experience is limited to just six events, four contested in his club-spec BMW 318i with Rally Otago only his second in a front-drive car, with left-hand drive.


The pace Pettigrew showed over the stages before retirement puts him odds-on favourite for the New Zealand Rally Championship Category 2 title for two-wheel-drive cars.


Over two of the stages Pettigrew and co-driver David Calder went faster than the current NZRC 2WD record, and won their class on three stages before retiring within sight of the finish line of stage four.


"A radiator fan resistor dislodged and got flicked up by the fan and into back of radiator, holing it and draining all the water. Engine cooked and we were forced to retire," said Pettigrew.


Discovering the engine in the Stadium Cars Ford Fiesta is specific to the ST cars, finding an engine proved more difficult than first expected.


Former Fiesta ST driver, now television rally commentator, Patrick Malley provided the team with his spare engine. 


"Patrick had the engine at his place in Whangarei so thanks to Silcock Transport we were able to get it down to Nelson where Dad picked it up. It's now fitted [in the car] and I tested it last week."


Rally Otago was also the start of a new partnership with DMACK tyres and Pettigrew is delighted with their performance.


"The DMACKs have a really positive feel," he said. "We had no tyre issues and no punctures. The stage times were good so I can't wait to get a decent run in Northland."


The International Rally of Whangarei, April 28-30, is a round of the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship and Round 2 of the New Zealand national series.


Photo: Euan Cameron