NORTH CANTERBURY RURAL RUMBLE
Words and photos: Trevor Stanley-joblin
On Sunday, September 24, the second annual North Canterbury Rural Ramble was held on a day that could only be described as perfect as far as the weather was concerned. Starting from St John Amberley, the Rural Ramble route included two sections of fine gravel, so the event was open to all moderns if the owners of classics did not wish to travel over unsealed roads in their restored classics. Our other two classic rallies, the North Canterbury Classic Tour, held in March, and the Christmas Picnic run, never include gravel.
The oldest vehicle entered was a 1928 De Soto, while the latest was a near-new Maserati. New to the classic car scene, Miranda and Johnny Sanders bought out their 1968 VE Valiant after having it in storage for nearly 20 years, and, a few days later, they emailed me to say how much they had enjoyed the day and were looking forward to the next North Canterbury events.
The first gravel section of 19km, which was 18km from the start venue, was over a twisty and undulating scenic section, behind and above Amberley. Many participants, even locals, commented that they had never travelled over here before. The icing on the cake was the fact that the last of the seasonal snow was still on the mountains beyond — a scene like an advertising picture enticing overseas travellers to visit the South Island. I’m not experienced enough to put words together here to best describe the overall scene, with dozens of classic vehicles travelling at a slow speed so the occupants could able to take in the magnificent views.
Exiting on to the flat once again, through Pyramid Valley, the route sheet was peppered with historic information as participants passed places of interest — “Pass the Hurunui Racecourse, established in 1874 and still used once a year” was typical of many route instructions enjoyed by all.
About 30km further on, the instruction sheet read “Heading toward Hot Springs Hanmer, look for a blue sign 10km north reading Leslie Hills to turn right here.” This section of road is another that most had never travelled before. Containing no fewer than seven one-way bridges with no on-coming traffic, this was like driving over a section of a national competitive rally but with only 5.8km of fine gravel.
The ramble finished at the Waiau Motor Camp — a venue the group had not used before in 43 years of rally route planning — which proved to be an ideal place to lunch. The sausage-sizzle proved to be popular, as did the coffee/ tea car, both getting plenty of sales. After lunch, there was a short walk to view the magnificent display put on by the Forbes family of Waiau comprising an electronic 1950s-style Christmas Gala plus a miniature railway.
The old historic cob cottage right next door and the 105-year-old hotel opposite still show signs of severe damage from when the 7.8 earthquake struck at two minutes after midnight on November 14, 2016, its epicentre under Waiau, not Kaikoura as reported by the media. We also saw an historic stone church badly damaged and many private homes still unrepaired after almost a year! When this earthquake hit, it claimed two lives, trapped residents, destroyed roads and buildings, and raised parts of the seabed by several metres. We saw earth where road should be and twisted steel snaking away from what was once a railway line. Those of you who have travelled the scenic route to Kaikoura would be dismayed and devastated at the sight. But work is well underway to repair and restore the rail and road routes. The rail opened in late October while the plan is to have the main road from Picton to Kaikoura open by Christmas.
Very few people are aware that the original rail route from Christchurch to Picton was to run through Waiau via what is now known as the inland road. In fact, the line was already laid and in use up to Waiau before a decision was made by the government of the day to go the coastal way. Maybe a wrong decision as it turns out. The rail from Christchurch to Waiau was then used as a Sunday scenic outing for families, right up to about 1978. On weekdays, the line was used to transport lime from the hills nearby to Christchurch — in fact, the concrete loading hopper is still there as part of an historic view point for tourists.
the atrocious conditions, with the final race for the series cancelled. Most of these guys are there for the fun of participation and, as one can imagine, it wasn’t much fun participating in Lake Hampton!
The ERC cars are split into two fields, with the AES category being for the slower cars and the Arrows Wheels for the faster cars. One of the standout vehicles in this field over the weekend was the beautifully restored black and silver ’65 Ford Cortina GT of John Honore. The Icebreaker is first event that Johnny has had it running at, having purchased it in May this year. It is what he considers a “true barn find” and “a real honey”. He is looking forward to further testing and practising to get the most out of it.
Darron Curphery once again shone through in this class with the new Alfa GT, winning races one and three. He may well find himself in the Arrows group next time around.
The Arrow Wheels races saw three different winners, with the first race being won by Bruce Manon. He drove well to get the number-one placing, having started in second but dropping down to fifth place by the end of the first lap, before managing to work his way back through the field. Race two was a handicap race and was won by Nigel Patterson in a BMW 335i. Having started 8th, he was in the lead by lap three and didn’t look back. The third and final race for the Arrows Wheels cars had Mal Clark taking to the chequered flag before the rest of the field by a mere .256 of a second in his astounding Rover P6 3500.
Over the years, the BMW Race Driver Series has built a reputation for cheap, exciting, fun racing, as well as a possible means to a career in motor racing and not to mention marriage proposals. The latter was witnessed on Saturday when BMW Race Driver Series driver Simon Burke proposed to partner Raewyn Anderson, who also races in the series. Split into three categories — 2.0 Litre, E30, and Open, the E30s, with a full field of 32 cars vying for the same piece of tarmac, made for some exciting viewing and probably a cash cow for the panel beaters! Of the E30s, it was Jackson Power who powered home to gain an early lead in the BMW E30 Championship. Meanwhile, in the 2.0 Litre class, Graham Ball, having won race one and two, gained an early advantage. The Open class, which is where money talks, features cars such as the 4.5-litre 2006 M3 E92 coupé of Kent Baignet, who, in fact, won this round. The oldest car in the field was Michael Delmont’s 1975 2002 Turbo.
Having endured a weekend full of aquaplaning and close calls with wipers on flat stick and headlights ablaze for the most part, I’m sure everyone will be looking forward to finer conditions at the next race weekend.