Recently, I received a phone call from Cameron Vernon, who asked if I'd be able to shoot some video footage for Ben Hunt last week. I had briefly heard of Ben, but wasn't sure of what he did. After finding out that I'd be shooting at the Rally of Whangarei in a few days time, I was quite enthused. I haven't been to a rally event since the days of Possum Bourne and Colin McRae, so the idea had me quite pumped. Here's a little behind-the-scenes set of photos from my travels.
We arrived late Friday night. Just enough to see some of the special stage action taking place at the Te Matau ā Pohe Bridge in Whangarei. The drivers had already done autographs, opened the event, and were racing through 1.25km of gravel track, underneath the bridge and around with very little lighting.
For many, the night was an easy excuse to see Ken Block in action. For me, it was about meeting the team, learning some names, and gathering ideas for the weekend. It's amazing to see how a whole town comes about and sees the action. Whangarei City must've been rather empty that night, as the area compacted with crowds.
An interview with Ben happened after that, and then we went to bed. It was a late night for an early start. We got up at 6am and were faced with Ben's Impreza ready to go.
The team walked around, checking the car out and making sure that it ran properly and had plenty of life in it for the weekend.
While the team sprinted around the car ensuring not to break their time limits, Ben watched over the shoulder of Dan, aka Beano, as he checked the ECU in the car.
He had a focused eye as he searched through the system to make sure it was running properly and up to Ben's standards.
The girlfriends kept a watchful eye over the team as they worked early in the morning. By this point it was nearly 7am.
A clean set of wheels really makes the car, and every little bit of weight needs to be taken off. The team gave each wheel a quick waterblast and back on the road.
We headed out and watched some stages. We were never there for very long as we had to keep moving progressively to get footage of Ben racing. Hence why there's no photos — only videos. Here's Andrew Hawkeswood laying down a killer run in his little Mazda 2.
Alex Kelsey had a great start to the weekend in his MC2 with a 20 second(ish) advantage, but sadly took a few sour turns and dropped back in positions. He later retired with mechanical issues, notably in the clutch and suspension.
Well known rally driver Emma Gilmour put her little Suzuki Swift through its paces, and pushed the course well. She, too, was later faced with mechanical issues, and did not place as well as I'm sure her team had hoped.
We found ourselves back at the pits for the end of the day, and watched as other teams wrangled to fix cars within time limits.
While other teams kept on banging out their cars, Ben's team was complacent and ready to go onto the next stage the following day.
We watched and waited to see Ben come through the corner, only to capture the video footage, and be gone seconds later.
With the day coming to a close, the car was back at service and we were ready to hear the announcements.
The boys had done it. Cracked second place overall, only second to Ken Block — so, on that note, I'd count it as a win. Ben now sits top place in the NZ Championship, and is off to Otago for the next round on May 9–10.