International Rally of Whangarei
Words and photos: Steve Ritchie
The International Rally of Whangarei was once again the opening round of the Asia Pacific Championship, as well as being round two of the New Zealand Rally Championship. The rally consisted of 16 special stages totalling 263km over the two days of competition, including the two one-kilometre super special stages on Friday night on central Whangarei’s Puhoe Island.
Weather conditions were rather average, to say the least, making it extremely difficult for the cars to stay on the gravel. As an example, at the conclusion of Saturday’s racing, just 37 of 61 starters actually finished the day, such were the conditions.
Although the main drawcard is usually the modern cars, such as the AP4 and the APRC cars, spectators are often drawn to the event to watch the older rally cars. These included vehicles such as Mike and Helen Cameron’s 1977 Mitsubishi Lancer. The pair won the 2009 Classic New Zealand Rally Championship in this car. For this round, it was running a standard 1597cc 4G32 unit, of lower spec compared to the higher spec 4G32 motor that they normally run, which meant they were not really able to challenge for the Classic class win — although, unlike many, they did make it to the end, in 26th place overall.
Another of the older generation was the 1969 Hillman Hunter (Mr Shifta) of Murray O’neill and Jeff Ward. This car is powered by a 4.4-litre Rover V8 engine, and was regularly rallied in the central North Island, even winning the Taranaki Rally on one occasion. Jeff has owned it for nine months, having purchased it to race in the Ashley Forest rally. The owner prior to Jeff taking over the keys had owned it for 40 years! The Skoda 130 LR of John Coker and Mike Mack is another to have made an appearance, along with the usual Escorts, the RX-7 of John Silcock and Richard Atkinson, and a Mitsubishi Starion.
In the Classic class, the main fight was between John Silcock’s RX-7 and Tony Gosling’s Stadium Cars Escort RS1800, with Silcock taking out the first stage, while Gosling came back to take out the second stage, with the two finishing the night stage just tenths of a second apart.
Saturday’s stages were run north of Whangarei on four different pieces of road, with each run twice over. Special Stage 8 was cancelled due to some unforeseen circumstances. Once again, the Escort and RX-7 were trading places, although throughout the day the Escort built a handy gap from John’s RX-7. With the clouds very low overhead, the final stage of the day finished in darkness. Several retirements occurred on Saturday, and the service park was a hive of activity that night. Most did well to repair their cars for the following day.
Sunday was another day of difficult conditions, although the weather did slowly fine up, with the afternoon’s prize-giving undertaken in sunshine. Gosling and Silcock once again had a fierce battle, trading stage wins.
With all stages complete, and times confirmed, Tony Gosling and co-driver Blair Read, with their total time of 2:57:58.2, were the winners of the Classic class. Second place, as expected, went to the pairing of John Silcock and Richard Atkinson. To be eligible for the Classic class (Category 4: Historic), cars must hold a Historic Technical Passport compliant to the FIA European Historic Sporting Rally Championship or the Sporting Rallies of the ASN.
In the main New Zealand Championship class, Matt
Summerfield and co-driver Nicole Summerfield had an outstanding drive to come in as winners after a hard-fought battle with Dylan Turner and Malcolm Read in a new Audi S1 AP4. This was a tremendous effort, as it was their first time racing the car. In third place, and a minute behind, were Darren Galbraith and Rocky Hudson in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VIII. Several contenders for the coveted title fell victim to the conditions or mechanical issues, including Greg Murphy, Emma Gilmour, and last year’s champion, David Holder.
In the group of overseas cars racing in the APRC, the pairing of Gaurav Gill and Stephane Prevot had a fight on their hands to fend off their Team MRF Skoda teammates Ole Christian Veiby and Stig Rune Skjærmoen for the win.
The New Zealand Rally Championship will now head to the Lone Star Canterbury Rally for round three of the six-round championship, to be held on June 4.
The MTA (Motor Trade Association) celebrated its centenary with a show of past, present and future cars at TSB Arena and Shed 6, Queens Wharf, Wellington, on Saturday April 29 and Sunday April 30.
The display actually began on the wharf, where a glass-sided case housed what is believed to be New Zealand’s oldest car, an 1895 Benz Velo from the Southward Museum, at Paraparaumu.
In Shed 6, visitors commenced the tour at ‘Great Kiwis and Great Cars’, where they joined exhibition staff in enthusing over a 2009 Hulme Bear One. Add the Trekka, the amphibious Aquada, and a 1964 Mini Cooper that broke a world speed record in 2016, at the age 52, to the motorbikes of Bert Munro and John Britten for a nostalgic walk around New Zealand’s motoring heritage.
It was then into the TSB Arena for ‘The Future Today’, to see the Swiss-built Rinspeed Budii self-driven concept car and current petrol and electric models. According to publicity releases for the event, this was the first time a Rinspeed had been displayed anywhere in Australasia.
The tour concluded in the underground car park with the classic and vintage cars in a rather sparse layout called ‘For the Love of Cars’. Included were Mark Sainsbury’s 1962 Lincoln Continental four-door convertible and a 1931 Hispano-suiza, two cars that had been the subject of pre-show publicity. New Zealand Classic Car readers who attended British Car Day at Trentham in February may have remembered seeing the Hispano-suiza there.
Another Aquada was based at Freyberg Lagoon, a few minutes away from the show venue. On the Saturday, it performed turns around the harbour. When it was parked up on land between turns, families lined up to be photographed with it for a souvenir of the soon-to-end school holidays.
For me, the highlight of the MTA 100 was the Anziel Nova, tucked away among the vintage and classic cars. This 1967 fibreglass prototype is a reminder of the car manufacturing industry New Zealand could have had if the government of the era had been more supportive.
Whether the overall experience lived up to its promotion as the Car Show of the Century will be one of personal opinion.