8 September – Autosport At Nelson Rally

Sunday the 8th of September dawned wet and misty, and with heavy rain overnight the clay based roads of the Golden Downs Forest promised some interesting conditions. Stage 1 was very slippery in some parts and this saw the demise from the rally of Autosport club captain Dermot Martin and co-driver Bede O’Connor’s Evo 4. Leaving the road on a tightening downhill left hander and rolling into the forest, the crew scrambled back onto the muddy road with no injuries sustained.

After performing some pre-rally alterations to the suspension geometry in the carpark of the scrutineering venue, Geoff Bone and co-driver Sue France had a rather forgettable time. Getting a bit loose and out in the soft stuff, Geoff wedged the car in a ditch with the two right hand wheels still on the road but not providing enough traction to extricate the Mazda. After losing more than half an hour another 323 came to their rescue. A couple of stages later, and with the car in FWD after the efforts to get out of the first ditch wrecked something in the drivetrain, it would all be over. An overcooked left hand downhill and the rear of the car stepped out. The resultant trip into the ditch and ensuing collision with a rock put paid to the front suspension, tearing it from the car.

On a more successful note, Glenn and Brent Buist finished 11th overall and first in the big classic class. This was despite the accelerator cable sticking in SS1.

Leigh and Josh Marston finished in 16th place, and while their brake rotors held together this time, the car had other problems which slowed them down. He lost a lot of time on stages 3 & 4 when the left front axle broke at start of SS3. This meant they had to drive both stages (a total of 54km) with the axle flailing around under the car. As a result about 12 minutes of stage time were lost, dropping them well down the order and ruining any chance of having a go at the Club Rally Championship. Fortunately the crew changed the axle and they just avoided incurring any further lateness. Leigh was having some difficulty getting the car to turn in which has been traced to diff settings being too tight. He assures us it will all be right for Hanmer!

Bruce and Vaughan France took out a good second place in the small classic class in the Starlet. Garry Cliff brought the Stanza home in 17th overall and third in the big classic class with a consistently paced run of stage times.

Merv Hatcher suffered from an unfortunate series of events whereby his service crew went to his rescue when he didn’t need it, he turned up to service and with no crew, borrowed some fuel, only to find that the fuel was the wrong mix for the Lancer and it sputtered to a stop soon after. This after setting the third fastest time on SS2! Ryan Berry and John Giltrap failed to finish the last stage after both posting some very impressive stage times throughout the rally. John went well in the first stage apart from two big “moments”. The WRX driver had no problems and was pushing hard to make up the time lost in the first stage but come the 4th stage had nearly lost all the brakes and then the complete exhaust system was ripped off on a large bump. After service he was going better and were catching Malcolm Stewart when the left front wheel studs broke and the wheel came off, so their rally ended watching other cars go by.

Andrew Reid’s Corolla broke a driveshaft universal in SS4 and missed stages 5 and 6 while a replacement was found and fitted. Les Summerfield’s brand new Impreza WRX suffered suspension problems and missed SS5 and 6 while intensive servicing was being carried out. The crew had been working hard to finish the car for the event, having to put a new engine in it immediately before traveling to Nelson as the original lunched itself on a test drive two days prior to the rally.

Deane Buist and Rocky Hudson had yet another good solid run finishing 4th overall. Deane also cleaned up the 2WD Club Championship for the 2nd year. The pair were consistenty faster than their competitors throughout the day. An amazing 3rd fastest time through the slippery 1st stage, and another 3rd fastest through the long 59km last stage were the stand out performances for the Autosport Club president. They had no real dramas, with the car running faultlessly – again.

Chris West secured a convincing victory in the event, followed by seasoned campaigner Hugh Owen in the Evo 6.5. Only 28 seconds back separated Owen from Deborah Kibble.