Rally of Coro­man­del

Words: Steve Ritchie

New Zealand Classic Car - - Nationwide Events - Photos:

TSteve Ritchie Pho­tog­ra­phy

his round of the Mahin­dra Gold Rush Rally of Coro­man­del was the fi­nal of a five-round cham­pi­onship, and was held on Au­gust 20 as a one-day event. It was based in Whi­tianga, and the roads used were hard-packed gravel, wind­ing into forestry.

The event con­sisted of 10 spe­cial stages around the Whi­tianga area and north to Waikawau Bay and fi­nally fin­ished with a su­per-spe­cial stage in Whi­tianga town­ship. Al­though the cham­pi­onship was de­cided at the last round in Gis­borne, there was still plenty at stake. Sec­ond and third places were up for grabs in the over­all cham­pi­onship, while the His­toric class had Mar­cus van Klink claim­ing the cham­pi­onship for the third year in suc­ces­sion, al­though sec­ond and third places were still on of­fer for the tak­ing.

Hav­ing ar­rived in Whi­tianga on Fri­day, I was of­fered the op­por­tu­nity to tag along with clerk of the course Steve Foster for the re­con­nais­sance, which al­lows all the driv­ers to as­sess the spe­cial stages and check their pace notes. This gave me the chance to view the stages while scout­ing for the best po­si­tions to pho­to­graph from.

The next day, my jour­ney to track the event be­gan at 5.30am when the alarm clock sounded, and I left Cooks Beach to be at spe­cial stage two — Port Charles — by 8am. Over from Aus­tralia, Bren­dan Reeves was show­ing off how good he is by win­ning this spe­cial stage in the over­all clas­si­fi­ca­tion, while John Sil­cock clocked the fastest speed in his Mazda RX-7 in the His­toric class. Next on my agenda was spe­cial stage five, the 309 Road. By now, the rain had set in, cre­at­ing some very slip­pery roads. Reeves, who had won all the stages prior, only man­aged sev­enth on this stage (pos­si­bly he was not used to rain!), which was won by newly crowned New Zealand Rally cham­pion David Holder, while Tony Gosling, fur­ther back, won for the his­torics.

I then made my way to the ser­vice park in Whi­tianga to find a good van­tage point for the su­per- spe­cial stage. Mean­while, the cars were com­plet­ing stages six and seven, with Reeves back on it again up front, and the His­toric class heat­ing up be­tween Gosling and Sil­cock. Van Klink en­coun­tered an elec­tri­cal grem­lin, forc­ing him to re­tire on stage six, but, with the prob­lem fixed, he was back on track for the re­main­der of the day — not quite the way he would have wished the last race for the RX-7 to go be­fore re­tir­ing her from the New Zealand Rally Cham­pi­onship (NZRC) for good. Next year, he will com­pete in a triple-ro­tor RX-8.

The su­per-spe­cial stages were just 1.05km long and were more for the spec­ta­tors to view the cars in ac­tion with­out hav­ing to go into the forests, so times did not mean a lot. That said, I wit­nessed one car rolling onto its roof, an­other driv­ing straight through the makeshift chi­cane, and sev­eral oth­ers tak­ing the in­cor­rect way through the hair­pin.

Fi­nally, with those stages fin­ished, it was off to the prize­giv­ing, where Reeves and co­driver Rhi­anon Gel­somino were pre­sented with the win­ner’s tro­phy (the first time a Mazda has won an NZRC round in 23 years) while Matt and Ni­cole Sum­mer­field in their Subaru Im­preza fin­ished the day with a com­mend­able sec­ond, fol­lowed by Dy­lan Turner and Rob Scott in third. The His­toric class saw Gosling and Blair Read win the tro­phy in their Ford Es­cort RS1800, with Sil­cock and Rocky Hud­son sec­ond, while Jeff Judd and Grant Marra fin­ished third in an­other Ford Es­cort RS. This re­sult also en­abled Sil­cock to se­cure sec­ond place in the cham­pi­onship for the His­toric class and Judd third place.

This fin­ished off what was an en­joy­able two days in the Coro­man­del, and we now wait in an­tic­i­pa­tion for next year.

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