It was an early morning start for the organisers and crews competing in this favourite North-Canterbury event. A great day in the heart of the Hurunui greeted people arriving at the start, and recent rains had not filled the ford at all to everyone’s surprise (given the amount of water in the Hurunui River!).The indian file confirmed to everyone what great condition the road was in, and some fast times were on the cards with all the drivers fired up to have a crack at the 5-odd km of flowing road, with some fast straights and a couple of tricky tighter corners thrown in for good measure, and both up and down hill sections. A relaxed atmosphere pervaded the event with the sprint series tied up for the year, and the crews were out to have a good bit of fun. Although the gloves soon come off when there are club championship points at stake!
There was concern afoot at the double entry in the same car of Dunedin’s Emma Gilmour, and it was decided that in fairness to all, only the visiting driver’s first three runs through the road would count towards the result. Emma was using the event to gain valuable experience in driving with pace notes, and it is great to have drivers from further afield competing in these great club sprints. Other visiting drivers were Nelson’s Sara Randall, Geraldine’s Haydon Paddon, and Grant Fisher from the West Coast. Brent Sibley may well have been a visiting driver with the distance he travelled to get to the event! The Escort pilot heading for the other end of Kaiwara Road near Culverden, before turning around and eventually making it to the right side of the ranges!
Merv Hatcher in the Lancer opened the scoring with fastest time in run 1, 2 seconds clear of nearest challenger Dermot Martin in the EVO 4. Deane Buist, driving Dermot’s car, was less than half a second behind the vehicle’s owner. A further second back was Emma Gilmour, driving very quickly for her first time on this road (admittedly on pacenotes but going very quickly nevertheless!). A characteristic cautious first run saw Justin Prattley slightly off the pace, with Nigel Beck also taking a steady-as-she-goes approach to the first run. Top 2WD after run 1 was Blair Logan in the 1600cc Corolla FX-GT, laying down the gauntlet for other 2WDs. Clutch problems in the Escort BDA saw Glenn Buist start later than expected and the car was a little down on pace according to the driver however the timesheets still showed a very respectable score albeit 3 seconds behind Logan. Grant Goile again leapt into the lead straight out of the blocks in the 0-1300cc class in his KE25 Corolla, 5 seconds ahead of David Fletcher in the Corolla and Don Mathias’s Starlet who were tied for second place. The leading drama of run 1 was had by Michael Rope, braking too late for the downhill left into the bridge with no sides resulting in the Corolla going straight on, hitting a fence post and spinning the car around. A bit of a surprise and some panel damage were the only “injuries” sustained in the incident.
Run 2 saw the times steadily decrease in all classes. The road had stood up well to the rigours of 35 competing rally cars and was still in great condition. A few big rocks had started to emerge from the verges being cut but these were removed from the road by drivers returning from the turn around point. Deane Buist scorched through the course, shaving 9 seconds off his run 1 time and winning the run by nearly two seconds from Dermot Martin. Ryan Berry and Leigh Marston were separated by only 5 hundredths of a second, effectively tied for third place, with Merv Hatcher a mere tenth of a second behind the pair. Nail biting stuff at the pointy end of the field! Justin Prattley took 5 seconds off his run 1 time to be off the pace again. Conversely Nigel Beck had the hammer down, improving a massive 17 seconds between passes! Blair Logan and Glenn Buist were almost tied for top 2WD again this run, this time the BDA leading by just a 10th of a second. The top three remained the same in the small engined class, although Don Mathias extracted more from the go-pedal and pulled 3 seconds clear of the challenge from David Fletcher, to come within 2 seconds of Grant Goile.
The final pass through the road, which was still in very good shape, saw Deane Buist again win the run with a 4 second improvement over his hot run 2 time. A tenth of a second saw Dermot Martin take 2nd place ahead of Merv Hatcher with Nigel Beck breathing down both their necks only 2 tenths in arrears. Emma Gilmour in the EVO3 scored a fine 5th place. In an uncharacteristic move, Justin Prattley did not pull out the traditional late charge, although having sewn up the Autosport Club’s sprint series the Mazda GTR driver was perhaps a little more restrained than usual. Glenn Buist came out on top of the 2WD battle in the 2 litre Escort BDA, 6 seconds clear of Andrew Sim’s 1600cc FX-GT Corolla. Sim’s result of first in the mid-sized class confirming his comment that this is his favourite piece of sprint road! Wayne Julian in a rare outing in the Peugeot 306 2 litre was a second behind Sim and second in the big 2WD class. Carl Balani’s drive of the RX7 improved in leaps and bounds throughout the day and was third of the big 2WDs on the scorecard. Behind Andrew Sim in the 1301-1600cc class was Blair Logan who had done enough in his first two runs to secure the spot from Stewart Bufton in the Starlet 4AGE. Logan did not take the start of run three due to missing bolts from the gearbox mount. The 1300cc class went the way of Don Mathias after an extraordinary run which saw him improve nearly 6 seconds from run 2 and overtake Grant Goile by 3 seconds. David Fletcher showed good form in his best Autosport Club sprint result to date, coming home in 3rd, a second behind Goile in the hotly contested class. The rotten luck of run 3 was had by Brent McAllister with the Escort stopping just after the start.
There were a few sunburned faces at the prizegiving at the Woodend Hotel, and the beer tasted good after a hot day of competition. Thanks went to Leigh Marston and his helpers who organised the event, Gavin Henson for the timing, and the marshalls, first aid and radio crews who made the event possible.
Overall and 4WD 1601cc+:
Deane Buist (Mits EVO4) 3m12.06s – 1,
Dermot Martin (Mits EVO4) 3m14.10s – 2
Merv Hatcher (Mits Lancer) 3m14.21s – 3.
Glenn Buist (Escort RS2000) 3m20.58s – 1,
Wayne Julian (Peugeot 306GTi) 3m27.17s – 2,
Carl Balani (Mazda RX7) 3m30.90s – 3.
Andrew Sim (Toyota Corolla) 3m26.40 – 1,
Blair Logan (Toyota Corolla) 3m27.27s – 2,
Stewart Bufton (Toyota Starlet) 3m37.71s – 3.
Don Mathias (Toyota Starlet) 3m37.55s – 1,
Grant Goile (Toyota Corolla) 3m41.28s – 2,
David Fletcher (Toyota Corolla) 3m42.28s – 3.