Change of settings key for Summerfield

A spin in the first stage and encountering slippery roads at times did little to hamper the speed of Christchurch driver Matt Summerfield.

He won the 20th Catlins Coast Rally title on Saturday at Owaka, winning by just under 40sec from Andrew Graves, of Gore.

Summerfield’s crew changed the settings of his car early in the day and that led to him getting in front and not being headed.

“It was an excellent day overall. It started off a bit interesting when we had a really big spin in the opening stage [Puaho] so we had to tone it down and chip away at Andrew Graves’ lead,’’ he said.

Trailing back in third spot overall, 10sec behind Graves and Waikuku driver Robbie Stokes (Ford Fiesta AP4) at the end of the first stage, Summerfield put his head down and started chipping away at the lead.

By the end of stage two, the 26km-long Catlins Valley run, Summerfield had passed the faltering Stokes, whose car had suffered an oil leak and he had retired, and pared back Graves’ lead to just 8.7sec.

At the first service break at Owaka after stage two, Summerfield’s team quickly changed some of the settings in the car and he started to make good gains from then on.

Summerfield finished the next stage, the long 37km McNabs Farm stage, 14.7sec up on Graves.

Matt Summerfield and Jared Christofferson, of Christchurch, drive their Mitsubishi Mirage AP4 to...
Matt Summerfield and Jared Christofferson, of Christchurch, drive their Mitsubishi Mirage AP4 to win the Catlins Coast Rally on Saturday. PHOTO: JOHN COSGROVE

While admitting he tweaked his speed back a little bit for the next three stages, Summerfield still managed to increase his lead to 46sec by the end of the 24km-long Tawanui stage four and took it out to 52sec on the short 15km-long Cannibal Bay stage five.

Graves pulled 20sec back on the final 36km-long Romahapa stage as Summerfield looked to maintain his lead and bag the win. He won by 38.8sec.

“They have stunning roads to rally on down here. The competition today was very strong. I know Andrew has won it quite a few times before so I knew he would be fast, he showed that in the first stage, so Jared [Christofferson, Summerfield’s co-driver] and I knew we would have to push him hard. It was good to get one over him.”

Summerfield said the win had helped the team learn quite a bit about their new Mitsubishi Mirage AP4 rally car, which ran faultlessly.

"We only got it at the start of the year. It was already made up so we didn’t have to do much to prepare it for the Catlins.

“It’s a bit odd. We have never had such a big break during the season. It is pretty exciting today as the Catlins was my first big rally of the year. It is a nice rally to do and the Cannibal Bay stage is a favourite as it is good fun.”

Graves was trying to make up for last year's last-stage stoppage while leading and said the rally this year was stunning.

“Over the years I’ve had a good look at the roads but there are still some corners that can catch you out and give you a heck of a fright,’’ he said.

“Matt was on his game all day. We can’t fault the result, but it has been great out driving with my son Hayden [17], and I’m very happy with second.’’


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