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K&N-Supported Sloan Cox Wins Prestigious Ashley Forest Rallysprint In New Zealand

Cox believes there is more performance available from his EVO 8

Cox's and his well-developed EVO 8 hillclimber were up to the challenge of the 2017 Rallysprint

One of the longest-running events in New Zealand motorsport is the Ashley Forest Rallysprint. Now in its 30th year, the 2017 winner is K&N-supported driver Sloan Cox in his Mitsubishi EVO 8. Cox made history last year when he did what many considered to be impossible - broke Kim Austin’s 17-year-old course record of 56.57 seconds. The event is held near Loburn, New Zealand on a 1.7 km gravel loop.

Cox broke the record not once but three times at the 2016 event, with a fastest time of 55.23 seconds. Unfortunately, despite his record times in the heats, he suffered a mechanical failure on the last elimination run. However, during this year’s final two, Cox again faced Mike Summerfield, but this time Cox both broke his own record with a time of 54.96 seconds and won the event overall.

The official name of the event is the 2017 Motul Possum Bourne Ashley Forest Rallysprint, named after the late Peter “Possum” Bourne. Bourne earned his nickname as a teen when he drove his mother’s car into a ditch to avoid a possum on the road.

Bourne’s driving improved greatly and he won the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship three times, the Australian Rally Championship seven times consecutively, and was the first driver from that part of the world to earn a works drive in the WRC with Prodrive Subaru. Sadly Bourne lost his life in a road accident while planning the route for an upcoming rally in his native New Zealand in 2003.

Besides Bourne, who won the Ashley Forest Rallysprint three times, other winners include: Steve Millen, Rod Millen, John Woolf, and Hayden Paddon. The most recent three runnings have been won by Matt Summerfield, but the course record Cox broke last year went back to 1999. That previous record was set by Kim Austin in a V8-powered AWD Mitsubishi Starion who covered the course in 56.77 seconds.

Local driver Paddon returned to his home country to take a shot at winning the prestigious event

WRC Superstar Hayden Paddon navigates the hairpin, but his special Hyundai wouldn't finish the event

The heavy favorite going into this year’s event was local-boy-turned-WRC-factory-driver Hayden Paddon. A one-off 600 horsepower Hyundai i20 AP4++ was constructed for the Rallysprint to give him an extra edge, but a lack of testing became evident during the event. The Hyundai suffered engine issues that knocked Paddon out from the elimination rounds.

And how did Cox feel about Paddon dropping out so early? “I was disappointed that Hayden’s car never made the distance. I knew before the event that there was a good chance he would have problems as they built the car to a high power in a short period of time. We've learnt over the last two years that it takes time to get it right. But I really hoped we would be in the final together,” Cox responded.

We asked Cox what outcome he would have expected if he’d faced Paddon in the finals? “If Hayden had made it through all of the runs, the pace by the end of the day would’ve stepped up a level. We would have pushed each other even more as the day went on. I still believe Cox Motorsport would have won and kept our record. We didn’t take the car to its limit and it has a lot more left,” Cox responded.

And after losing last year in the finals after breaking the old record, this victory must be especially sweet. How does it feel? “It’s an amazing feeling to have won the event now and even better to hold the record and knowing Cox Motorsport is the fastest at the prestigious Ashley Forest Rallysprint. Breaking the 17-year-old record last year was an awesome feeling and to do it again this year making it even harder for others,” Cox added.

Cox is looking forward to next year, hoping to have a face-to-face run-off with Paddon

After setting a new record last year only to break in the final, Cox is victorious in 2017

And a little shout out from the winner to one of his supporters: "We have always run K&N filters in our race cars as they work so well and we know we can trust them to keep all of the mess out of the motor. Racing on gravel roads it's always very dusty and dirty so it’s important to have the best filter on the market that doesn't cause any lack of air flow. So running K&N filters isn't a hard choice."

Thanks Sloan and congratulations!

Cox Evo Photograph by Euan Cameron Photography

Group & Hayden Photographs by Geoff Ridder


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