The 60th Ir­ish­man Creek Rally

Classic Driver - - NEWS - My nav­i­ga­tor for Ir­ish­man tak­ing sen­si­ble pre­cau­tions to en­sure none of his friends or as­so­ciates know he spent three days in a Ford Model A

Now held on Queens Birth­day Weekend, the Ir­ish­man Creek rally is quite likely the best known VCC event in the coun­try and this year was its 60th run­ning of the rally.

The first “Ir­ish­man” was Easter 1955 when VCC founder Rob Shand had some­how wran­gled an in­vi­ta­tion for the club to have the weekend event at Ir­ish­man Creek Sta­tion.

The McKen­zie Basin is home of one of New Zealand’s ear­li­est rac­ing mo­torists, C.W.F. (Bill) Hamil­ton who at this time was in the midst of de­vel­op­ing the jet boat so he would be able to nav­i­gate the shal­low up­per reaches of the lo­cal rivers and lakes.

Four­teen cars set off from Christchurch and made their con­vo­luted way to Ir­ish­man with not all the cars suc­cess­fully mak­ing the jour­ney in one piece. The high­light was an evening around the fire with Bill Hamil­ton telling tales of his Muri­wai Beach rac­ing ex­ploits (even get­ting to Muri­wai from the McKen­zie would be an ad­ven­ture in it­self in the 1920s) and his Brook­lands suc­cess when the colo­nial boy, dis­missed by the “right crowd and no crowd­ing” Brook­lands set pro­ceeded to as­ton­ish them all by win­ning three races in the one day in his newly pur­chased 4½ litre Bent­ley, a feat which had never been achieved be­fore and would never be re­peated.

2014 and while some things have changed, some have stayed con­stant. The Easter date has been re­placed with Queens Birth­day and in­stead of 14 cars, this year there were 140. The rally is still run for vin­tage and vet­eran cars only (pre 1932) and de­spite the sup­po­si­tion that vin­tage cars are now only driven by old codgers, Ir­ish­man would have the youngest aver­age age of any VCC event and prob­a­bly most car clubs of any kind, just as it was when a bunch of young hooli­gans in old bangers sal­lied forth to Ir­ish­man 59 years pre­vi­ously.

For rea­sons which are lost in the mists of time, the rally has not vis­ited Ir­ish­man for many years and has not been based there for even longer (I be­lieve the rea­son may have some­thing to do with the con­sump­tion of al­co­hol and a fire mys­te­ri­ously break­ing out in a farm build­ing) and now we take over Fairlie for the weekend.

One of the pe­cu­liar­i­ties of the event is the pre­vi­ous year’s win­ner has the du­bi­ous hon­our of or­gan­is­ing the fol­low­ing year’s event but the ba­sic for­mula is the same. The start point on Satur­day morn­ing may be any­where in the South Is­land but some time in that evening af­ter a full day of back roads, farm tracks, goat tracks and river beds a bunch of dirty cars and weary driv­ers will de­scend on Fairlie for a short sleep be­fore an­other early start and a long and tough drive to some des­o­late out­post for lunch and a se­ries of driv­ing tests in a pad­dock.

My plan was, while I was in the North Is­land work­ing on a cou­ple of sto­ries for Clas­sic Driver I would col­lect my Du­rant from my fa­ther’s shed in Bulls and get back to Christchurch just in time to col­lect my nav­i­ga­tor James Palmer, brother of last year’s un­for­tu­nate win­ner Tim (this is not a com­pet­i­tive event, the win­ner is gen­er­ally cho­sen a month be­fore the rally based on their per­ceived

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