New Zealand Classic Car - - Contents - Words and photos: Steve Ritchie

Rally Waitomo was round five of the sixround New Zealand Rally Cham­pi­onship (NZRC) and was or­ga­nized by the Hamil­ton Car Club. It took place on Oc­to­ber 14, with the large 81-car field uti­liz­ing roads around Pio­pio, two hours south of Hamil­ton. Many of the roads were those used back when the In­ter­na­tional Rally used to fre­quent our shores. The six stages were real en­durance stages, hav­ing an av­er­age dis­tance of 30km with a to­tal of 207km of gravel.

The rally kicked off with the cer­e­mo­nial open­ing on Fri­day evening at Ro­to­tuna Shop­ping Cen­tre ahead of the overnight rain. How­ever, come Satur­day, the rain had gone and we were left with nearper­fect con­di­tions.

First on the road were Andrew Hawkeswood and co-driver Jeff Cress in the AP4 Mazda2. Be­ing first on the road all day, they were the un­for­tu­nate gravel clear­ers, mean­ing they were never re­ally able to chal­lenge for the lead; how­ever, they did put to­gether wins in Special Stages (SS) 1 and 6. Mean­while, the ever-en­ter­tain­ing Sloan Cox, who even­tu­ally fin­ished sec­ond af­ter post­ing best times for SS 4 and 5, was lucky to get away with a brush against an em­bank­ment of the fi­nal corner of the fi­nal stage. Even­tual win­ner Ben Hunt and Tony Raw­storn in the Subaru WRX STI had a stel­lar week­end, win­ning two stages and hav­ing two sec­ond plac­ings. This has now placed them nicely in reach of cham­pi­onship leader Andrew Hawkeswood go­ing into the fi­nal round.

The His­toric Class once again saw Tony Gosling and Blair Reid com­mand their Es­cort around the twisty Waikato roads with barely any com­pe­ti­tion to be first home. Al­though it wasn’t plain sail­ing — they had a punc­ture on SS4 which cost the pair ap­prox­i­mately seven min­utes, then, in SS5, were forced to drive on with a steer­ing fault. The two other cars en­tered in the His­toric Class were the Mazda RX-3 of Paul Fraser and Chris David­son and the Mit­subishi Lancer of Mr and Mrs Cameron. Un­for­tu­nately, the Lancer started miss­ing on the fi­nal stage, which put an end to their race. They were one of 23 re­tire­ments.

Two of the stand­out cars this time round were the MR2 of Brian Terry and the TR7 of Leon Styles. The Rally Waitomo was the first rally out­ing for

the V8 TR7, with Leon hav­ing pur­chased it just seven months prior as a Targa car then promptly con­vert­ing it for rally. Al­though it reached the end, there were some teething is­sues, but Leon did have fun get­ting side­ways more of­ten than not. Brian Terry’s MR2 has been in his hands since 2005, which is when he con­verted it for ral­ly­ing, start­ing by re­duc­ing the weight down to 850kg. Be­tween the weight re­duc­tion and the Toy­ota 2ZZ-GE that now pow­ers the car, it makes a healthy 137kw at the wheels. One of the vis­ual as­pects that make it stand out is the fi­bre­glass back end, which is com­pletely re­mov­able, al­low­ing for easier main­te­nance.

Next time out for the ladies and gen­tle­men of the NZRC will be the Rally of New Zealand, based in Tau­ranga, on Novem­ber 23, with this round be­ing the fi­nal of the cham­pi­onship.

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