Rally of Coromandel
Words: Steve Ritchie
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.