A runner-up finish in New Zealand for Andritiana Matthieu was enough for the Ford Fiesta R5 driver to win Jon Armstrong’s Thrustmaster eRally Series. Japanese driver, Kazunokota, had been leading the championship before the final round but a fourth stage accident gave Matthieu the advantage.
Meanwhile, Armstrong bounced back from a disappointing Rally Spain to cruise to his first event win of the four-round series.
Kazunokota made the perfect start to the championship decider by winning Rally New Zealand’s opening two stages. A fastest time on Stage 3 gave Armstrong the rally lead but Kazunokota was still doing enough to keep ahead of title rival Matthieu.
But the next test, Waimarama Point Forward, was to prove decisive not only for the rally but also for the championship. Andritiana went quickest and more importantly for the Malagasy driver, an accident for Kazunokota meant the title was now his for the taking.
A punctured Mitsubishi was a further consequence of Kazunokota’s mistake and the double rally winner lost over 20 minutes on the grueling 16-kilometre gravel stage. Finishing in 239th position, Kazunokota decided to retire from the championship.
Armstrong and Andritiana continued to fight for the rally win as the pair traded fastest times over the remaining stages. It was Armstrong though who came out on top and finally took a rally win in his inaugural Dirt Rally 2.0 championship, finishing the two-day event 11 seconds ahead of the series champion.
“It was an incredible championship with very talented pilots,” said Andritiana. “I thought I had a good fight with Kazunokota in the last rally but too bad for his DNF.
“His reaction was not fairplay. When I saw his DNF I immediately lowered my pace to ensure victory.”
Poland’s Tus Dabby rounded out the podium just ahead of Belgium’s Sim Vansevenant. Vansevenant’s consistency through the series was rewarded with third place in the championship’s final standings.
With Armstrong opting out of the Thrustmaster prizes, the Belgian received the runner-up prize with fourth-placed Nathan Bates receiving the final prize.
Photo by Mark Breen