Stadium Cars Otago Classic Rally
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.
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’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!