Sta­dium Cars Otago Clas­sic Rally

New Zealand Classic Car - - Nationwide Events - Words: Blair Bar­tels Pho­tos: Euan Cameron

The Sta­dium Cars Otago Clas­sic Rally, still widely re­garded as one of the best of its type in the south­ern hemi­sphere, took place on April 8–10.

Day one

Each year, the event brings an in­ter­na­tional star driver and 2016 was no ex­cep­tion, with Es­to­nian Markko Märtin, five­time World Rally Cham­pi­onship (WRC) event win­ner, lin­ing up in the Rosendale Ford Es­cort RS1800.

Be­hind him was a strong field of 43 other cars, in­clud­ing top driv­ers from New Zealand and Aus­tralia. Lead­ing the lo­cal charge was for­mer event win­ner and three­time New Zealand clas­sic rally cham­pion Mar­cus van Klink in his Mazda RX-7, as well as the MKII Es­corts of Re­gan Ross, Derek Ayson, Jeff Judd, Brian Stokes, and Tony Gosling, while, from across the ditch, Jeff David’s Porsche, Ben Barker’s BMW, and Ste­wart Reid’s Es­cort held the best chances of vic­tory.

While he de­clined van Klink’s of­fer of set­ting his tyre pres­sures for the first stage (the de­fend­ing New Zealand clas­sic cham­pion told him that Kiwi tra­di­tion sees car num­ber two set the top seed’s pres­sures) Märtin showed his class right from the open­ing stage as he opened up a 16-sec­ond lead, while a spin on the sec­ond stage from van Klink saw Ross claim a com­fort­able sec­ond place. The drive of the morn­ing came from Gosling, to move into fourth.

Märtin con­tin­ued to dom­i­nate through­out the day, in what was only his sec­ond clas­sic rally, and he won six of the day’s seven gravel stages to open up a 42-sec­ond lead

over Ross’ in­jected Es­cort — Ross was the only other driver to win stages across the day, in­clud­ing the tar­mac su­per spe­cial. The fastest non Es­cort was van Klink’s RX-7 in third, a fur­ther 37 sec­onds back.

There was plenty of drama across the open­ing day, the worst of which saw Jim Ten­nant’s Nis­san 240RS replica de­stroyed on the sec­ond stage, while sus­pen­sion prob­lems saw class B (1301–1750cc) leader Jake Thomas re­tire on stage six, hand­ing that class lead to Miles Mcel­wain in a sim­i­lar Toy­ota Corolla. Class A was led overnight by Peter Fridd’s Star­let.

Day two

Day two’s stages, held near the home of the Otago Rail Trail in Mid­dle­march, saw Märtin start the way he in­tended to carry on with a stage win, but the leader board was to re­ceive a shake-up on the sec­ond stage when Ross’ foot missed the brake pedal and he fired through a fence. De­spite quickly find­ing the gate, which was po­si­tioned a mat­ter of me­tres from the stage fin­ish, it was pad­locked shut, and the Kaik­oura builder was forced to bust the chains be­fore he could re­join three-and-a-half min­utes later.

Van Klink cap­i­tal­ized with the fastest time, his first of the event, de­spite an en­gine that was los­ing com­pres­sion, while Gosling was as sur­prised as any­one to move onto the podium in the car WRC star Hay­den Pad­don drove to out­right vic­tory in the Otago Clas­sic Rally last year.

As the event moved to past favourites like Waipori Gorge and Kuri Bush, Märtin ex­tended his lead as he con­tin­ued to fall in love with the event, com­ment­ing at prize-giv­ing that he needs to find out who to bribe so he can re­turn next year.

The big mover across the af­ter­noon was Judd, who moved into fourth when Ayson suf­fered elec­tri­cal prob­lems in his Nis­san-pow­ered Es­cort, but the last roller-coaster stage that is Kuri Bush had a fi­nal sting in its tail, and Judd lost more than five min­utes parked be­tween the trees. He wasn’t the only one who nearly failed at the fi­nal hur­dle, with Al­lan Dip­pie rolling his Porsche, escaping with plenty of cos­metic dam­age and a sev­en­minute time loss.

There were no such is­sues for Märtin, who, along with co-driver Stephane Prevot, took vic­tory by more than two-anda-half min­utes over van Klink’s Mazda, while an ec­static Gosling came home in third place. Judd’s fi­nal-stage mis­ad­ven­ture al­lowed Ross to climb to fourth, won­der­ing what he has to do to win the pres­ti­gious event, while the top Aus­tralian was Ben Barker in the M3-pow­ered BMW 320is in fifth. Reid; Judd; Gra­ham Fer­gu­son in the exMas­port Es­cort; Grant Walker; and the top fe­male driver, Deborah Kib­ble, rounded out the top 10.

The class bat­tles went down to the wire, with Mcel­wain hold­ing on by just 13 sec­onds from Bren­don Mitchell’s Dat­sun 1600, while the small­car class also went Toy­ota’s way when Fridd’s Star­let headed home Greg Noye’s Dat­sun 1200.

The 14th North Can­ter­bury Clas­sic Tour was held on Sun­day April 3 and at­tracted 115 en­trants. The old­est clas­sic was a 1946 Austin Eight, while the lat­est was a three-day-old Jaguar coupé.

Credit must go to Barry and Alayne Mcroberts from Paroa in Grey­mouth. They travel over the pass from the West Coast each year to par­tic­i­pate in their im­mac­u­late and orig­i­nal Mazda MX-5 V-spec Lim­ited Edi­tion model. The mayor and may­oress of the Waimakariri Dis­trict, David and Mar­i­lyn Ayres, have en­tered their very rare 1968 Ford 2000E Cor­sair V4 for about seven years in suc­ces­sion, [if you know where David could buy a new wind­screen for the Cor­sair, please email us].

Start­ing from the premises of Ste­warts Clas­sic Car Col­lec­tion in Rus­s­ley, the route took a tour through the Mclean’s Is­land area, then along the Old West Coast Road as far as the pic­turesque vil­lage of Waddington. A stop at the Waimakariri Gorge bridge area to view the jet boats in ac­tion was a high­light for most driv­ers and crew, a to­tal of 268. We then pro­ceeded on, trav­el­ling through the quaint lit­tle nar­row back-coun­try roads around the vil­lage of View Hill.

Dur­ing the two-hour lunch break at Ox­ford, par­tic­i­pants were able to view the Ox­ford His­toric So­ci­ety’s mu­seum, which now in­cludes a brand-new ex­ten­sion just re­cently opened. This new sec­tion dis­plays the early days of clear­ing the bush and milling the tim­ber, with life-size horses, men, and their bug­gies. The dis­play brings to life the tough con­di­tions men had to en­dure in those early days of set­tle­ment. Also open for in­spec­tion was the new Ox­ford Menz Shed, show­ing what re­tired men in the area make from wood to raise funds for their com­mu­nity projects.

The re­turn route was via the lovely drive through the Ash­ley Gorge area. Driv­ers were asked to be aware of the 80-strong cy­cling race com­ing in from the op­po­site di­rec­tion.

Driv­ing via the lower Loburn area to Ran­giora, the fin­ish venue was the his­toric Ran­giora Rail­way Sta­tion, built in 1909. The sta­tion was of­fi­cially closed in 1988; how­ever, since that time, it has been home to cafés and a gar­den cen­tre. More re­cently, it has re­opened as a rail­way sta­tion for peo­ple who want to catch or em­bark from the pop­u­lar scenic Coastal Pa­cific pas­sen­ger train that trav­els be­tween Christchurch and Pic­ton daily.

The Sta­tion Café proved to be a pop­u­lar place with all North Can­ter­bury Clas­sic Tour par­tic­i­pants, who en­joyed a chat out­doors in the sun, dis­cussing the day’s ac­tiv­i­ties over a cup of cof­fee and a cake or two. A great way to wind up the day, be­fore re­turn­ing home to face an­other week of stress!

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