Toyota crew Andy Gillies and co-driver Nathan Pilcher made the podium for the third rally in a row over the weekend in the Canterbury Rally, taking second in class despite it being their first time together competing in forest and night stages.
The pair enjoyed a virtually trouble free run after overcoming a broken alternator bolt on the first stage.
The Gillies and Pilcher duo – who come from Otago and Auckland respectively – now sit at the head of the Category 5B table with a 12 point lead after three rounds of the Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship, the only crew in the class to have completed all three of the rallies.
“The most challenging part was the unknown with the weather,” said a delighted Gilles afterwards. “Unfortunately the organisers had to cut the first stage short by about 18km in the forestry as well as the whole of another stage. Luckily though the roads we did use were in surprisingly good condition which made for great rallying. Heading into the rally we knew we just had to finish and that was our aim, so it was very rewarding to get a clean run and come home in second place.”
Co-driver Pilcher had been cautious about his first run on night stages, but the crew were able to maintain their position. “The night stages made for a challenging and absorbing experience,” he explained. “Having just run SS6 in the daylight before we ran it in the dark, it made it a bit more predictable but at the same time we had to focus on remaining cautious. We had a good gap on the third place crew and we knew there was no way we could catch Andy Martin ahead.”
Although they now lead the class half way through the six round championship, Pilcher believes the crew is only just scratching the surface of their potential as a driver/co-driver combination and that of the ex-Chris Paddon Toyota AE85 Levin.
“Every time we head out in the car we learn something new.” he added. “Andy tried a new tyre package on the car which he liked and which made a big improvement. Looking at our times we certainly made massive improvements since the last time Andy was here so that’s extremely positive as we gel as a team and unlock more of the potential of the car.”
The team now heads to the South Canterbury Rally later this 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.