HAVING now had time to reflect on what was a very controlled drive over the eight-day marathon Silver Fern Rally in New Zealand, with 800 stage miles and 48 special stages completed, Herefordshire farmer Roger Chilman looks back on a very satisfying result.

"Before the event started, we would have been happy with a top five finish, given it was our first visit to the event, but after the opening stages were far more technical than we expected, we settled into a good rhythm and built our pace steadily and it went on from there really," said Chilman.

It wasn't all plain sailing though as having settled into fifth place early on with former winner and team-mate Meirion Evans leading the way, Evans then crashed out, moving Chilman up to fourth after the opening four days, behind new leader Matt Robinson and two very quick New Zealanders Shane Murland and Jeff Judd.

The event was then turned on its head with Robinson sliding off, Judd blowing his engine and then Murland rolling on the same bend as Robinson.

Chilman found himself with a narrow lead, this unfortunately evaporated quickly when he ground to a halt with a broken shaft, and having to be towed out of the stage and the time loss dropped them to second now over eight minutes behind Robinson.

He added: "It was frustrating to break the shaft, having taken the lead, but the boys did a great job changing a complete rear axle in under 15 minutes, to get us going again."

With the weather now changing and rain in the air, the duo were caught on the wrong compound tyres but still set about setting a string of fastest times to halve Robinson's lead to just over four minutes at the end.

The Securcom, Connop & son, Haywood Demolition, Pirelli backed RS1800 apart from the broken shaft hadn't missed a beat.

"I must say it was a great event, with a fantastic atmosphere," Chilman added.

"A massive thank you to Meirion and his Wales Motorsport team for putting a superb car together and all my sponsors as without them I couldn't do this.

"They play a huge part in my success, and finally Max who again did a superb job in the left hand seat. "

When pressed on what his plans are for 2019, Chilman was clear on what he wanted to do.

He added: "I really enjoy the longer events now, with third on last year's RAC, now second in New Zealand,

"Next year's RAC will again be based in Leominster and offering over 300 stage miles so I have put an entry in.

"I will do only a few national rallies that I enjoy, to build up to that."

One place behind Chilman were Simon Tysoe co driven by Ross on Wye based Paul Morris in there RS1800, this was Tysoe's fifth attempt at the event.

The duo started steadily given the Leicestershire driver hadn't driven on gravel for two years, holding a top 10 place from day three.

As the event wore on the stages opened up and on day five, the duo set a fastest time and two second fastest times to move into the top five.

"Those stages really suited us they were fast and flowing not so technical," said Morris.

Day six saw a few minor issues with a failing alternator and a vibrating propshaft which were quickly changed, but by now they had moved up into third position.

Day seven saw more drama as they looked to consolidate their podium finish, when a clutch release arm broke, so they had no clutch for 12 kilometres, but the final leg was drama free and an excellent result awaited at the finish in Hamilton.

Morris added: "The stages were pretty much very technical which doesn't suite Simon, he likes the faster stages in the South.

"We were very pleased to finish in third place, we had a few minor issues but otherwise the car had been faultless."

The third member of team Herefordshire was veterans Ken Davis and Alan Jones who at the last minute switched to a lovely two-litre mk1 Escort RS1600.

After an excursion into a ditch on stage four the duo settled into a good rhythm, and climbed up to 10th in the KGD Services backed car.

A spin and stall on Friday dropped them back to 13th, but by midday on Saturday, with just four stages remaining they were back up to eighth overall.

But sadly with just two stages to go the Escort's back wheels dropped into a collapsed culvert and flipped the car into a roll, sadly they were stuck fast, and it was game over after nearly 800 stage miles.

Jones said: "It was so disappointing not to finish, the back wheels just dropped into this culvert and over we went and sadly we were stranded.

"It has been some adventure and I think we will be back in two years time."

The overall rally winners were Matt Robinson and Sam Collis in another Escort RS1800.