25 May – Mt Grey Sprint

It was a dull and cold Christchurch morning when the townie crews headed out dodging elderly church goers who like to get their pews early and runners with headphones on who assume that no-one else will be using the road at that time of the morning. Cruising out through Rangiora the dull and cold turned into sunshine and colder! With the damp dew (formerly frost) on the ground the road was sure to be in great condition with little or no dust for the day’s event. It was brass-monkey conditions at the service area but clear as a bell. The scene was set for a great day.

There were some new faces at the event which is always great to see, Ben Pankhurst was driving the ex-Steve Carr RX7 (Steve is very enthusiastic about his project car that is coming along well at the moment, a peripheral ported 13B RX7 weapon that he expects to have on the road “all in good time”). Richard Scholes was another new competitor in a Toyota Sprinter, along with Chris Hughes in the ex-Nigel Beck EVO 2. Incidentally, also building a new toy is Jonathan Bradshaw who is putting a 4-AGE into his Starlet.

The indian file revealed a very fast piece of road sweeping along a valley floor, with some blind crests to charge over, and the only tricky bit being a dry ford with a gravel base and a mild right over a crest on the exit. After a 90° right that tightened afterwards it was off up a hill with a couple of tight lefts and rights and then a more sweeping section, then along the top on a wide a fast road with a couple of deceptive corners taken at high speed over long crests. To finish was a 90° right into a downhill straight to the finish with an interesting tight right just after the line. Spectators had a bit of a hike to find the good spots but there was some action. Some competitors out-braked themselves going into the final right hand corner before the finish and lost a bit of time, and the tight right after the finish certainly came up fast at race speed. There were a few people going fairly sideways into that one, some accelerating and some hard on the anchors!

Out of the blocks on run one and Merv Hatcher in the Lancer RS notched up the quickest time by a whisker from Glenn Buist (driving the blue Bertbuilt BDA), showing the course was more about power and top speed than about traction. Les Summerfield cranked the WRX into third after the run, and the top three cleared the rest of the pack by 5 seconds. Brent Buist (also in the blue BDA funnily enough), Ryan Berry in the Mirage EVO and Jeff Judd in the Hannu Mikkola Escort BDA (or is that the other way around?) led the chase. In the classes Toyota FX-GT’s were to the fore with Blair Logan showing he’d lost none of his pace from missing a few events and led from Andrew Sim. Don Mathias predictably led the small cars but not by much from Bruce France and Grant Goile. Jason Clark had a wee moment at the last intersection, the car swapping ends and going backwards down the slippery road for a bit. Ross Teesdale squeezed into the top 10 in a rare outing for his Toyota Sprinter.

Les Summerfield came out swinging for the second round and absolutely blitzed the field, nearly 4 seconds in the clear at the top.  Trevor Crowe had the big banger WRX out for a blat and scorched through the second run improving 15 seconds from run 1 to sit in second place. Merv Hatcher’s grip slipped as he had to swtich his anti-lag off for the run and the resultant lack of response saw him nudge a bank in the uphill twisty section and lose time. Brent Buist reversed the battle of the blue BDA and beat his brother into third by a couple of ticks. Jeff Judd found some inspiration from the name on his car and was about to come knocking on the Buist’s door by the end of the run. Andrew Sim closed the gap on Blair Logan to 2 seconds, with Stewart Bufton’s Starlet 4AGE third in the class after a good improvement between runs. Andrew Bufton was also driving the car and showed good progress in this event, piloting the car into 4th in the class and a mid-field position overall. Michael Rope had a great run, improving 14 seconds from his run 1 time. Hayden Spatcher found a turn of speed also and took 11 seconds off his previous run, and James Holder continued to come to grips with front wheel drive, 12 seconds better than before. Hard luck hit the small car class, with Grant Goile trailering the car after a broken valve forced him to retire from the event. Don Mathias extended his lead from Bruce France and Barry Deuart who were locked in a very close battle for second and third in the class, less than half a second separating the Starlet from the Datsun. David Fletcher braked far too late for the first intersection, having blasted through the ford and at full tilt the whole time along the valley floor he got a bit carried away and hit the now-slippery t-junction going too fast, and with not enough drive the car sledged into the boggy muck on the outside of the corner and into the ditch.

Someone must have tweaked something the right way in the blue BDA because on run 3 both of the car’s drivers showed a clean pair of heels. Brent cut 7 seconds from his run 2 time but it was Crusty who sealed the win by 2.5 seconds with an improvement of 11 seconds from his previous best. It turns out that Mr Crusty Buist was somewhat lucky on two accounts to have the opportunity to actually complete a third (and winning) run. On the very wide section of road through the logged out area there was a fast open right-hander (5 tightening to a 4 over small crest in safety notes vernacular) where he was seen to exit the corner a minimum of 2 car widths wider than anyone else and within 6 inches of a 6 foot bank – with Crusty half way through the corner and obviously well out of shape, spectators were either hurriedly heading for higher ground and/or eagerly anticipating souveniring various parts of the car – fortunately neither was either necessary or possible as catastrophe was avoided by the smallest of margins, some would say down to blind luck and others no doubt down to consummate skill.  On the same run the same driver had the misfortune to spin up on the final right hander before the short straight to the finish – in itself no great thing other than there was a very large tree stump hidden in the broom fringing the inside of the corner – reverse gear was clearly indicated but for unexplained reasons our experienced master-driver selected first and proceeded to see if he could move the offending stump out of the way for following competitors!

Merv Hatcher had the Lancer back on song and set a great time although two seconds behind the second Buist to complete the podium. Other standout runs this time were Andrew Bufton going 12 seconds faster than his run 2,  Ben Pankhurst lopping a whopping 25 seconds from his card, Andy Reid going 13 seconds quicker (coincidentally David Fletcher in the same car took the same amount off his previous time), and Chris Hughes getting more comfortable in his recently acquired EVO with a 20 second better time. John Giltrap had a problem and didn’t take the third run in his WRX and Bruce France lost oil pressure in his Starlet before run 3 and had to sit it out.  Barry Deuart in his 120Y over-drove the final run and let a class placing slip through is fingers after a great drive in the previous two runs. Various passengers had a great day being scared by the blind brows that the drivers knew well. Taken flat out, crests are a bit disconcerting for someone going over them for the first time!  By this time the drivers were fast and smooth, cutting the corners in all the right places and making good time, and the spectators were loving it in the sunshine. When all was said and done the results came out as followsm

Glenn Buist (Ford Escort BDA) 4m06.72s – 1,
Brent Buist (Ford Escort BDA) 4m09.30s – 2,
Merv Hatcher (Lancer RS) 4m11.98s – 3.

4WD 1600cc+:
Merv Hatcher (Lancer RS) 4m11.98s – 1,
Les Summerfield (Subaru WRX) 4m12.70s – 2,
Trevor Crowe (Subaru WRX) 4m16.22s – 3.

2WD 1601cc+:
Glenn Buist (Ford Escort BDA) 4m06.72s – 1,
Brent Buist (Ford Escort BDA) 4m09.30s – 2,
Jeff Judd (Ford Escort BDA) 4m15.34s – 3.

2wd 1301-1600cc:
Blair Logan (Toyota Corolla) 4m20.40s – 1,
Andrew Sim (Toyota Corolla) 4m24.29s – 2,
Stewart Bufton (Toyota Starlet 4-AGE) 4m33.35s – 3.

2WD 0-1300cc:
Don Mathias (Toyota Starlet) 4m35.77s – 1.
Andrew Reid (Toyota Corolla) 4m44.29s – 2,
David Fletcher (Toyota Corolla) 4m47.74s – 3.

Northern Exposure in Rangiora sponsored the class winner’s prizes, and Castrol and Motor Up provided the placegetters spoils, thanks to them for that. A big thanks again to to Gavin Henson for operating the timing system, and to the Sefton Girl Guides for the BBQ. Thanks also to Simone Trezise for documentation, Leigh Marston and Les Summerfield for organising, and to Bart Simpson’s dragon-boat team for supplying marshalls. Barry Deuart supplied the Tait radios for the event comms and these worked exceptionally well, thanks for that Barry. It was a very successful blue-sky day in the Ashley Forest for most of the crews. With a well timed après’-event screening of the Otago Rally on the big screen at Northern Exposure to finish the prizegiving the day rounded off just nicely. Bring on the Rally!