Graves wins his third Catlins Coast Rally
Top seed Andrew Graves, of Gore, with co-driver Jared Leebody, won his third Catlins Coast Rally with a commanding drive in his Mitsubishi EVO 3 on Saturday.
Graves forged into the lead from the start, opening a good margin over second seed Jeff Judd, of Christchurch, in a Subaru Impreza WRX.
He continued to build the lead, winning five special stages, before Judd took the sixth and final stage.
Graves, who won the event in 2010 and 2013, won the Darryl Robinson Memorial Trophy for the third time with a 1 minute and 2.9 second margin over Judd and co-driver Grant Marra, with another Christchurch driver, Michael Tall, and co-driver Matt Richards, in a four-wheel-drive Mitsubishi Mirage finishing third.
‘‘We had no problems,’’ Graves said.
‘‘The car was fine, the weather was fine. I kept my nose clean all day.
‘‘I was trying reasonably hard until we got a good buffer. I backed off a little but the pace was still pretty hot later in the day. I was trying not to make mistakes.
‘‘There was heavy gravel near the end on Hunt Rd and it would have been easy to throw it away.
‘‘I’m absolutely stoked for my service crew and sponsors. It is as much a reward for them as it is for me.’’
Deane Buist and Karl Celeste, of Christchurch, were fourth overall and the first twowheel-drive in a Ford Escort, while Carter Strang and Stewart Robbie, of Wallacetown, were fifth in their EVO 6.
The current leader of the New Zealand Rally Championship, Matt Summerfield, of Christchurch, was sixth.
Gore’s Derek Ayson and Gav McDermott, in their Ford Escort FJ MK2, placed ninth.
Ayson also won the class he sponsored, the Derek Ayson Farmlands Real Estate Class G (1701cc & over classics).
Last year’s winners Vaughan Edie and Tony Johnston, of Invercargill, finished tenth.
As always, there were several hard luck stories.
Two of the four North Islanders in the field were forced to retire, David Wright, of Te Aroha, after a fire in his Ford Escort BDA in Stage 1, and Neil Dodds, of Gisborne, with his car overheating late in the day.
Sixty-seven entries started the day, with 53 making it to the end.
More pictures, page 8
Andrew Graves, right, with his co-driver Jared Leebody, both of Gore, with the Mitsubishi Evo 3.