For Frank Cunningham and Welsh co-driver Ryland James, their epic first adventure on the Silver Fern Rally in New Zealand has come to a sudden and scary end, thankfully with-out injury to either of the crew. On the final stage of the third day they crashed their MK2 Escort RS1800 out in spectacular fashion, cartwheeling down a mountainside.
It had been a fabulous start to the rally for the New Zealand novices, mixing it with the local hot-shots in similar BDA Escorts, and Frank had moved up from ninth to an impressive fourth place. Indeed he had closed the gap to third placed Brett Rawstrom to just seventeen seconds before entering the twenty-nine kilometre Ashley Gorge stage.
However it all went wrong in that stage, as Frank explains. “I just misjudged a corner and ran wide, but the car had an impact on Ryland’s side. Fortunately he is ok but that also sent us down a mountain-side. It was a while before we came to rest, and I’m afraid that’s it all over. It’s hugely disappointing especially for the team, however it’s a credit to C-Sport how well the car stood up, and the car and ourselves will live to fight another day. I guess we were getting onto the stages and maps and making up ground. I was really enjoying it, and hoping to move up even further, but that’s rallying!”
New Zealand driver Jeff Judd in another MK2 Escort holds a 1 minute 12 second lead over English driver Vince Bristow in another MK2 with the third of eight legs completed.