Dylan Thomson (Ford Fiesta ST150 2.3) has won the 2023 Mainland Rally Championship overall title after finishing third in the final round, the Palmside NZ 2023 Westland Rally on Saturday. Second overall was Josh Marston (Holden Barina AP4) who won the event, with Caleb MacDonald (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo6) third ahead of Ally Mackay (Ford Escort Mk1) and Tim McIver (Ford Escort Mk2).
“It’s awesome,” commented Thomson. “It was always our objective to win the title although we thought it may be unrealistic in a front-wheel-drive car.”
Consistency across the season has been the key for Thomson and co-driver Richard Fairhall, finishing four-times on the podium out of six rounds.
“Our fifth place at the opening round in Otago was a good start,” said Thomson. “Then two second placings at both Rally Canterbury and two-weeks later in South Canterbury really bumped us up the table and then we knew we were in with a chance.
“Unfortunately, we had to retire from the Nelson Rally due to a new part failure but then finished third in the penultimate round, Rally Lawrence.”
It was Thomson’s first time competing in the Westland Rally.
“Ideally, we should have been confident heading into the weekend but I hadn’t done Westland before and I knew traditionally the speeds were high so we had our work cut out,” said Thomson. “I did some research and found that four of the Special Stages had never been run before so really no advantage to the others. We knew we had to finish in the top nine if Josh (Marston) won or fourth if Caleb (MacDonald) won.
Westland Rally winner Josh Marston and Andrew Graves, who won the overall title for co-drivers, won all eight stages, which took in both public and forestry roads in the Grey and Westland Districts. Heading into the event, Marston, along with Caleb MacDonald (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 6) both had a mathematical chance of also winning the overall title. Unfortunately, MacDonald retired halfway through the rally with a coolant leak.
“We had a dream run,” said Marston. “The car was perfect; the roads were mint and everything clicked. We knew Dylan had it (the title) in the box seat as he’s fast in that car, so we went out to enjoy it and do our own thing and really happy with the result.”
It has been a neck-and-neck race over the season in Class A (2WD 0-1300cc). The best four results from the six rounds sees Mike Matheson (Toyota Vitz) finish ahead of rival Pat Norris (Toyota Yaris). Gordon Legge takes home the Class A co-driver’s title.
David Birkett (Toyota Levin) wrapped up the Class B (2WD 1301-1600cc) title finishing three points ahead of Kerry Sloan (Toyota Starlet) with Dean Schoder (Toyota Trueno) in third. The co-driver title went to Jack Birkett.
Dylan Thomson also won the Class C (2WD >1601cc) title while his co-driver, Richard Fairhall was first in Class.
With MacDonald retiring from the event, Marston finished first in Class D (4WD) with Graves also winning the co-driver class title.
Hayden Shakespeare (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 3) secured the Class E (Pre 1996 Classic 4WD) title with rival Mike Barltrop (Subaru Impreza) not having entered the final round. His co-driver, Chris Sunman won the co-driver title.
Finishing first in class, Ally Mackay’s (Ford Escort Mk1) held his lead to win the Historic Class F title from Tim McIver (Ford Escort Mk2) with his co-driver, Mikko Johnston winning the co-driver class title.
Tom Milliken (Subaru H6) had secured the Class H (Subaru H6) title at the Nelson Rally with an unassailable points lead over James Macdonald (Subaru H6). While neither of these drivers entered the Westland Rally, Nick Marston did turn up and was able to finish the season second in Class. Chris Cunningham won the co-driver Class title.
The Mainland Rally Championship coordinators, along with competitors and teams, express their appreciation to the Westland Car Club for the joint venture of organising the successful running of the Palmside NZ Westland Rally, a highlight of the rally calendar.
Words & Images: Supplied