Holder and Farmer survive rock-strewn Rally Portugal to take third in JWRC

pic: Honza Froněk

Kiwi rally driver Dave Holder and co-driver Jason Farmer have taken their first podium finish in the 2018 FIA Junior World Rally Championship at Rally Portugal, one of the toughest events they’ve tackled to date.

To finish Rally Portugal was an achievement in itself – only 46 of the original 85 entrants completed the rally. To finish on the podium in the JWRC category was even better, exceeding Holder’s goal of a top five result. Holder and Farmer, from Mt Maunganui and Hamilton respectively, were also making their debut on the rock-strewn Portuguese event, which is the third round of their first international rally campaign.

Holder says: “We’re really stoked to finish the rally third in JWRC. We came here with a target of top five, so this is a really good result for us. An incredibly tough event for everybody. Of the 14 JWRC crews, I think only one car managed to come through unscathed without some sort of drama. We had our own issues, including the rollover and broken driveshaft yesterday, and we battled through them to get to the end. That’s what mattered and to get third was great.”

When the event got underway on Thursday evening (CEST) with a 3.36km super special stage on Lousada rallycross circuit near Porto in the north of Portugal, the pair were 12th equal among the 14 JWRC crews.

Friday’s itinerary took them toward the Spanish border for three repeated stages. As the rocky roads took their toll on competitors at all levels, Holder and Farmer kept their car on the road with stage times that saw them improve steadily on the class standings to finish the day fifth.

Holder said the rally certainly lived up to its rough nature, having bent the steering rack somewhere on the first stage. “Then we lost a little time on the second stage with a puncture, but we were able to drive out on it. The third stage of the morning wasn’t too bad, nice and clean but you’re constantly having to dodge rocks, and I mean rocks the size of your head! The second pass was unbelievably rough, these big rocks just come out of nowhere. We spent a lot of time trying to dodge them so the speed wasn’t real fast but we got the car home safe and consolidated ourselves in fifth position.”

On Saturday Holder and Farmer tackled six stages totalling 154.64km, improving to fourth place in their class by day’s end despite some major issues. They rolled on the first run through SS12 in the morning, and on the repeated run through the same 37.60km stage, had a driveshaft on their Ford Fiesta break.

“The rollover happened coming down to a tight, almost hairpin left. I clipped the corner a bit early – it was marked by a tyre and under the tyre was a tree stump – the car rolled onto its roof. We both managed to get out okay then found a spectator, so the three of us pushed it over – which isn’t that easy! We got the car going again, managed to finish the stage and got back to service. The M-Sport boys did an incredible job fixing it within the time period allowed for service without any penalties.

“We went back out in the afternoon, actually in third overall. Our plan was just to get to the end of the rally as we had a comfortable gap to fourth but unfortunately then we did the drive shaft. But not all was lost – we were able to re-join for Sunday under Rally2 regulations, which meant 10 minutes added to our time, to put us back in fourth.”

With five stages to complete on Sunday, the aim was simply to get to the finish and that’s what the pair managed to do.

“Today [Sunday] was pretty uneventful really, just holding position to make sure we got home to get that trophy. We did have one of our good friends Irishman Callum Devine strike some issues that helped us with the podium position in the end – not the way we normally want it to happen.

“We want to thank everyone at home and all our supporters for helping make this podium result possible and hopefully it’s the first one of many more to come. We’re jumping on a plane back to New Zealand tomorrow and have to work hard for the next four weeks to make the next event in Finland possible.”

Holder and Farmer are the first New Zealanders to enter the JWRC, the entry-level WRC category, an important first step in their bid to create a full-time WRC career. The JWRC comprises five events – Sweden, Corsica, Portugal, Finland and Turkey.

Holder acknowledges the continued support of HWR Group, Mt Wheel Alignment, Chicane Racewear, Magnum Compliance, Farmline Machinery, Mt Bikes, KPMG Tauranga, Cooney Lees Morgan, Bell Booth, Thurlow Building & Construction, Monit Rally Computers and Amplified Customs.

More information about Holder’s world rallying journey can be found on the website, www.daveholderrally.com or their social media channels: https://www.facebook.com/DaveHolderRally/, https://twitter.com/DaveHolderRally and https://www.instagram.com/daveholderrally/.

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