Toyota Levin crew Andy Gillies and Nathan Pilcher survived their most challenging rally together so far in this year’s Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship to take another class podium result.
A bizarre electrical glitch and a broken exhaust added to the already challenging conditions and roads of the South Canterbury Rally last weekend, but the dup came through their own dramas to secure third place in Category 5B. They have extended their points lead too, though with only their three best scores counting towards their final championship result, they need to keep the pressure on as the championship heads towards a conclusion.
The ex-Chris Paddon Commercial Hire NZ backed Toyota Levin, which has been completely rebuilt for this season, has proved ultra-reliable for the duo in rallies contested so far. However, even before the start of the rally, it became home to a couple of unwelcome gremlins.
“Unfortunately this weekend we did have a couple of issues,” explained a relieved Gillies after the rally. “We had the car cut out no fewer than five times on the way to the first stage and continued to do it during touring stages but never during the special stages. We had a spin during one stage losing a bit of time too but that was more down to the effort going in.”
Co-driver Pilcher had an additional problem to contend with when the exhaust failed and made communication between the two significantly more challenging. “Just after the start of Stage 4 we had the exhaust break off at the headers which made the car very loud,” he explained.
“Andy struggled to hear any of the notes which made life very difficult. Knowing that we had more than three stages to go before we could get into service and fix the exhaust meant we had to resort to me yelling at the top of my voice and adapting some hand signals as we went. I continued to lose my voice for the rest of the day and we both had a ripper of a headache afterwards, but it was great to get through despite the issues.”
Despite the issues, the crew maintained a unique record in their Category 5B class in this year’s championship. At each of the four rallies so far, Wanaka-based Gilles and Aucklander Pilcher have not only completed the event, but also finished on the class podium. And despite the issues, the duo put South Canterbury at the top of their list for enjoyment so far in 2019.
“We really enjoyed this rally,” added Gillies. “I think we’d both put it as one of the best of the year so far. The roads had parts of twisty forestry and then had flowing public roads. To us it seemed like a combination of Otago and Whangarei and really enjoyed that challenge. It’s certainly one to look forward to next year.”
The team head north again for the Rally Coromandel in August giving them plenty of time to sort out the car and add a few more performance upgrades. The season then has a free September before concluding with Rally Waitomo in October.