Andy Gillies and Nathan Pilcher enjoyed their strongest performance so far in the New Zealand Rally Championship over the weekend at the ENEOS International Rally of Whangarei and now sit in second place in the class points in their ex-Paddon Toyota Levin.
The duo – who reside almost the length of the country apart with Gillies based in Arrowtown and Pilcher in Auckland – also put the ghosts of a roll over and retirement from the 2018 event behind them as they revelled in the handling of their car. It was ‘smiles all round’ after the event according to co-driver Pilcher.
“We had focused very much on developing confidence in the car and it was really great to sit alongside Andy and see him have the confidence to throw the car around much as he did with the Nissan Sunny after seven years in the driving seat,” he said.
“Being comfortable in the car and having everything within easy reach gave us much more confidence as well as the ability to simply focus on the job. Our goal was consistency and we managed that and made sure we made it to the finish.”
Last year the duo came unstuck on the first day, but this time around weren’t intimidated passing the scene of their roll. “We both had a wee chuckle every time we went past that formidable corner,” said Gillies. “But at the end of the day we are now fighting for a championship which means we have to be fast but consistent. The championship is never won in the first stage but it can certainly be lost, and I think that is the lesson we took away from last year.”
The international rally included some big names in the entry list, and there was plenty of interest in the iconic Commercial Hire NZ Levin. “With it being Haydon’s dad’s old car, it was nice to show him around it at the shakedown,” added Pilcher. “Alex Gelsomino, who was co-driving for Ken Block, was also interested in the car.”
The stages were not without their challenges for the duo, who picked up a puncture on the first tour through Crow’s Nest. And is if that wasn’t enough, the car also lost its oil filler cap soon afterwards, which meant plenty of smoke billowing out from underneath the bonnet as they toured towards Helena Bay One. ‘Other than those issues, which were relatively minor, the car was faultless and a credit to Andy’s preparation,” added an elated Pilcher.
The crew now sit second in the Category 5B table with the next round in Canterbury Rally over the Queen’s Birthday Weekend and the crew’s first foray into forest stages.
Gillies and Pilcher’s Commercial Hire NZ Toyota Levin is supported by ENZED, Total Lubricants, Wurth NZ, Wet&Forget, MG Minerals, Superfinishing NZ, Arrowtown Bakery, Base Contracting, Brian Scott Motors and Prestige Commercial Vehicles. After the Canterbury Rally in June, the team take part in the South Canterbury Rally later that month before heading north again for the Rally Coromandel in August. The season then has a free September before concluding with Rally Waitomo in October.