Round 2 of the 2012 NZ Rally Championship, Rally Wairarapa, has ended in disappointment for Timaru driver Chris West. An ongoing problem sidelined Westy and Palmerston North based co-driver Chris Cobham on the third to last stage of the rally, soon after they had set a record time on the previous stage of the event.
West was troubled throughout the two day event by an issue thought to relate to the fuel tuning. It is an issue that the team has encountered in the past and one that is not consistent. The Andrew Simms Mitsubishi EVO 9 ran well during parts of this weekends event while at other times the car was down on power. Consequently Westy's stage times during Rally Wairarapa were inconsistent.
However despite that frustration Westy and Cobham were in second place at the end of Leg One on Saturday evening. On Sunday they had just won Special Stage 13 in a new record time which put them back in second place on Leg 2 when the car stopped on the following stage, ending their rally and seriously jeopardising their championship hopes.
"The car started misfiring badly and then it lost all power - we just got slower and slower," said a very disappointed Westy at the conclusion of the event. "It looks fuel related or electrical. The car would start and idle but there was no throttle response."
Westy, the 2004 National Rally Champion, went on to say that on some of the early stages on Sunday morning he struggled to coax a top speed of 150 kilometres per hour from the car.
The fuel that competitors use at international events such as the opening round at Whangarei, which is a round of the Asia-Pacific Championship, differs from that used at solely National Championship rounds such as Wairarapa and the problem that undermined Westy's efforts this weekend has surfaced at Wairarapa and other rallies in the past. With different fuel at Whangarei earlier this month Westy was on fire, winning ten of the thirteen stages against his NZRC rivals.
The Andrew Simms Mitsubishi Rally Team tried desperately to solve the problem throughout the event. "'We made a fuel map change at the overnight service and then again at the lunchtime service on Sunday. "It is just so hard to tell what the problem is from our logging as things change due to factors such as road position and the amount of gravel on stages," explained Westy.
"Unfortunately we couldn't get a result with what we had this weekend. When things were going well we were reasonably competitive but the problem is not consistent. I feel sorry for the boys in the team after all their hard work."
The focus for the Andrew Simms Mitsubishi Rally Team before the next round of the championship, the Rally Of Otago from 25-27 May, is to find and fix the problem. However the solution will not be easy. "The fact that the problem is inconsistent makes it more difficult. However we have a clearer picture now and some understanding of it," says Westy.
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