RALLYING IN NEW ZEALAND 50TH ANNIVERSARY NORTH ISLAND TOUR
IN THIS ISSUE, ROD PE AT TAKES US NORTH FOR THE SECOND LEG OF THE RALLYING IN NEW ZEALAND 50 TH ANNIVERSARY NORTH ISLAND TOUR
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