New Zealand Classic Car - - EDITORIAL - Words and pho­tos: Rod Peat

For the North Is­land tour, the venue for the doc­u­men­ta­tion and driv­ers brief­ing in Welling­ton was changed at the last minute to Gas­works in Mi­ra­mar. This proved to be an ex­cel­lent choice, and all the as­sem­bled tour par­tic­i­pants, in­clud­ing some of the South Is­landers, had a great first night af­ter re­ceiv­ing their or­ange caps and walkie-talkie ra­dios.

Mur­ray O’don­nell told of his ex­pe­ri­ences while run­ning in­ter­na­tional ral­lies, and the Camerons and the Pesters — one of two tour teams to do both is­lands — gave an in­sight into their rallying ca­reers. Mur­ray O’don­nell, part­nered with Frank Milligan, was to act as lead car for the tour, a lux­ury Stu and I did not have down south.

Next morn­ing, it was off to the old show­grounds car park, where a driv­ing test had been set up. Mal Clark in Mark Par­son’s Prado showed why he should stay driv­ing Rovers, when he sent the cones fly­ing in all di­rec­tions. Andy Walker, who, along with John Statham, com­prised the other team to have done both is­lands, took his Subaru around the course very smoothly.

The first four stages of the tour proper were Makara, Moon­shine, Paekakariki Hill Road, and Akatarawa Road. These were all tar­mac stages, all tight and twisty, and all a great opener for the week. It was Mart­in­bor­ough for lunch, and then up and over Ad­mi­ral Road, which fin­ished the day off nicely. Sol­way Park was the din­ner venue in Master­ton, and we were joined by Neville and Anne Har­lick. That night, the Des Bradley and Peter Woller­man team and the Rob Brown, Mike Gibbs, and Huti Payne team told us about their rallying his­tory.

Day two started with a tour­ing stage out to Coast Road, which started in the small vil­lage of Pon­garoa, and, as the road’s name sug­gests, it took us out to the rugged east coast, through places I was as­ton­ished to find — we New Zealan­ders should get out more, our coun­try­side is amaz­ing! We had lunch at Wim­ble­don pub, where there is a round pool ta­ble. Black­head Road and Kahu­ranaki Road, El­sthorpe, fin­ished the day off, be­fore we headed into Napier. At din­ner that night, we were treated to a talk by John Dork­ing, Gor­don and Sue Gandy, and Mark Par­sons and Mal Clark, all re­call­ing their rallying past.

Day three took us over Darkies Spur, just out of Napier, then up to Old Mo­haka Coach Road — both ex­pe­ri­ences in them­selves for the na­ture of the roads and the views ob­tained from the high points. Crick­le­wood took us into lunch at Wairoa, then Here­here­tau and Ruakaka, took us in to Gis­borne, where we all as­sem­bled at the Cos­mopoli­tan Club for din­ner. Blair Rob­son; Ray Stone; and the Scott fam­ily of Jim, Rob, Neil, and Shel­ley joined us there. Neville Har­lick kept the crowd en­ter­tained with his life ad­ven­tures, as did Tony Ruther­ford and Bob Vardy,

and Bob Vardy, the lat­ter pair be­ing the event pho­tog­ra­phers.

The next day, when we ar­rived at the first stage — Rere, a 100km mon­ster — Jim Scott came on the ra­dio and an­nounced that, 40 years ago, al­most to the day, he had sat at the same place next to Ari Vata­nen in the Mas­port Es­cort. They went on to pass three Fi­ats in the stage, a feat that is etched in rallying his­tory.

Af­ter lunch in Matawai, we tack­led the mighty Motu. We had the sun in our eyes and lots of dust, and there was the odd log­ging truck com­ing through. We all crawled through the stage, so, con­se­quently, ar­rived too late at the Manawahe stage to drive through in day­light. Thus, re­luc­tantly, we toured di­rectly into Ro­torua.

At the Cit­i­zens Club that night, we were joined by Alan and Colleen Woolf, Neil Johns, Grant Liston, and Kevin San­der­son. Stumpy Holmes came in and en­ter­tained us with his rallying ca­reer.

The next day, we toured over to Aotearoa Road. The next stage was Old Moun­tain Road, and then we went through Whaanga Coast Road, a clas­sic stage and well worth the rep­u­ta­tion it has as one of the best rally roads in New Zealand.

As we had a huge night or­ga­nized at the North­ern Sports Car Club (NSCC) rooms that night, we canned the Te Akau stage and drove straight back to Auck­land from Raglan.

The night at NSCC can only be de­scribed as awe­some. Mike Mar­shall, Rod Millen, Reg Cook, Paul Adams, and Mor­rie Chandler were all there min­gling with Alan Woolf, Neil Johns, and Blair Rob­son. Alan Strong had brought down Pos­sum’s Subaru coupé, and Ross Clarke had brought in his im­mac­u­late Toy­ota, which he hopes to run in clas­sic ral­lies. All the stars spoke, and the old ri­valry be­tween Reg Cook and Paul Adams was rekin­dled.

Day six started in Al­bany, and took us through Burnside Road, fa­mous for the pop­u­lar view­ing spot on the rail­way over­bridge. Then on to Mount Auck­land — Kaipara Hills Road should be driven over just for the mag­nif­i­cent views it pro­vides. Ryan and Burnside Roads brought us out in Kai­waka, and lunch was at Maun­gatur­oto. The fa­mous Bick­er­staffe Road was next. The Woolfy car holed its sump, but they had it welded up and fin­ished the event — the com­pet­i­tive spirit is alive and well in that fam­ily. Next, we took on Ar­ca­dia Bull Road, which has the fa­mous Kanga Cor­ner where sev­eral cars landed on top of each other in one of the in­ter­na­tion­als.

That fin­ished the tour. We had handed out awards to all the par­tic­i­pants the pre­vi­ous evening, so a loyal key din­ner at Jacks Rib Shack fin­ished off the event nicely.

By all ac­counts, all in­volved re­ally en­joyed the tours, and it was grat­i­fy­ing for me and the team to get a lot of pos­i­tive re­sponse. It was a one-off event, and I’m cer­tainly happy with the way it went.

Above: The par­tic­i­pants in Master­ton, ready for day two Be­low: Rod Millen re­lat­ing some of his many rallying ex­pe­ri­ences

Above left: The pub in Wim­ble­don, south Hawke’s Bay, with the round pool ta­ble Above: The tour par­tic­i­pants at the NSCC clu­b­rooms, Mount Rich­mond Do­main, Auck­land

The road around Lake Ro­toroa was typ­i­cal of the roads we used

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