After a lousy Saturday there was concern that the Mt. Alexander Road would be snowbound but as it happened the worst of it missed the hills behind the Hurunui Hotel and it was all on for Sunday’s sprint. A frozen paddock greeted the 30 or so crews arriving at the pits on a crisp clear morning. Like last year there was a threat of roaming stock so the marshals on the course were keeping a close eye out. The road was a bit greasy to start with and while some parts dried out as the day progressed others got even more so, making for an interesting road with plenty of skill tests for the drivers.
Glenn “Crusty” Buist charged into the event taking line honours in the first run, the only driver to go under 3 minutes straight off the bat. “As greasy as a butchers apron” was the call from the blue BDA as it passed the finish. Although we lack video evidence of it this year, Crusty himself though he was all over the shop but the run time proves it may have been a bit tidier than he made out. Merv Hatcher was next, five seconds behind the flying Escort, Merv commenting that it felt like there was a problem with the rear diff in the Lancer as it was being very tail happy. Grant Fisher from the West Coast cranked up the 323 to sit in third overall after run 1.
Merv Hatcher came out swinging (a little less in the rear end this time!) and set the benchmark a hair’s breadth in front of Crusty after run 2. He revised his earlier comment about the car being a bit off as it seemed better that time now that the road had dried out a bit and perhaps it was just the “butchers apron” effect playing tricks earlier on. These front two were now some seven seconds clear of the chasing bunch, still led by Grant Fisher.
By run three the times were dropping like a stone, and Crusty took out his second sprint win in a row with an impressive performance in the Escort. Three seconds behind was Merv Hatcher who was taking it a bit easy as the car’s diffs weren’t quite set up right and he didn’t want to do any damage. A fine second place seeing him safely extend his lead in the club championship. Both Robert McCallum in the Escort and Blair Logan in the Corolla turned up the heat in run 3 and both overtook Grant Fisher in the standings, the Eccy seeing the Corolla off by 1 second to take 3rd overall. Logan scoring yet another class victory in the 1301-1600cc class.
In the other classes, Steve Carr was really close to cracking three minute barrier despite the RX-7 having a slight turbo problem. The crew from Waipara were glad they got up early and tested the car on taking it off the trailer, as the oil cooler packed a sad and Steve had to rush back to Waikari to get another one and fit it. Steve was able to post a time that would see him take third spot in the big 2WD class, before the unfortunate accident that saw the car wrecked. Andrew McIntosh had the biggest off of the day, rolling the RX-7 severely after mounting the bank on one side of the road after the haybarn and then rolling onto the road and off the other side into the paddock. The car landing on it’s wheels was small consolation for the crew who now had a very bent car to drag home. Brent Sibley in his Escort steadily improved between runs 1 and 2 but run three saw him fall well back in the placings.
Andrew Sim took second in the mid-size class, and John Weir was less than a second behind him in the rear-engined Accord. Scott Reid had a good day in the Escort, with a new diff ratio making the car perform much better than it had done, he beat Grant Restall’s Corolla by just 6 hundredths of a second. Luke Thelning was having a bit of an off day, off the pace in the tricky conditions. Peter Quinn came out for a skid in the AE86 looking pristine again with a new windscreen after the Canterbury Rally. Dave Pettigrew had his misfire problem from Canterbury return and trailered the 4-AGE powered Escort before finishing the first run. Dave’s trip wasn’t in vain however, he scored a ride with Crusty and had a pretty big smile on his chops after that.
The small car class was once again dominated by Don Mathias, the Starlet looking nice and aerodynamic again after it’s “thank goodness for that tree” incident at the Canterbury rally. Don was 5 seconds ahead of closest rival Grant Goile, Grant’s Corolla having had some head-work done on it after breaking a valve spring at Mt. Grey. Andy Reid had a great third run (it must have been those tyres that Dave F. bolted on for his last run coming into their “zone”) and beat Bruce France by a mere 12 hundredths of a second into 3rd in the class. Michael Rope had a great drive in his KE25, beating other class contenders Barry Deuart and David Fletcher for the first time. According to his crew Dave Fletcher should have been at home in bed sucking down the Lemsips and chicken noodle soup but with club points at stake they would never have heard then end of it if they had left without waking him up.
Newcomer Geoff Hughes driving Chris’s Evo 2 had a taste of the action, getting in 2 full runs after a DNF in run 1. Josh Marston was suffering in the Orange Starlet, his suspension being too soft saw the car bouncing out of the fords almost uncontrollably and losing lots of time. Leigh was sharing the car for the day and despite taking his time to remember how to how to handle a more modestly powered 2WD, he had a grin from ear to ear and showed that there’s nothing like just having a go for the fun of it! “So that’s what those corners look like” he exclaimed, referring to the relative speeds of the Starlet vs. the WRX.
As Derek Simpson said, the organisers were running a show – not a circus, and the show rolled on with the runs being completed in quick succession. A fun run to take some of the helpers for a ride followed the competition which went like clockwork. Bulletin editor Haydo unfortunately had a CV joint blow out in his 323 and it was left sitting in the pits as everyone departed for the Woodend Hotel prizegiving. Steve Carr’s crew called in a mate with a hi-ab from Waikari and the stricken RX-7 was retrieved from it’s (hopefully not final) resting place. When the results were counted they came in thusm
Glenn Buist (Ford Escort BDA) 2m47.84s – 1,
Merv Hatcher (Lancer RS) 2m50.31s – 2,
Robert McCallum (Ford Escort) 2m56.58s – 3.
Merv Hatcher (Lancer RS) 2m50.31s – 1,
Grant Fisher (Mazda 323 GTX) 3m00.36s – 2,
Chris Hughes (Mits EVO 2) 3m17.17s – 3.
Glenn Buist (Ford Escort BDA) 2m47.84s- 1,
Robert McCallum (Ford Escort) 2m56.58s – 2,
Steve Carr (Mazda RX-7) 3m00.42s – 3.
Blair Logan (Toyota Corolla) 2m59.27s – 1,
Andrew Sim (Toyota Corolla) 3m04.98s – 2,
John Weir (Honda Accord) 3m05.91s – 3.
Don Mathias (Toyota Starlet) 3m06.52s – 1.
Grant Goile (Toyota Corolla) 3m12.06s – 2,.
Andrew Reid (Toyota Corolla) 3m14.58s – 3.
It was an awesome day in the hills, and the scenery was great with snow on the mountains. A big thanks went to Gavin Henson for operating the timing, Derek Simpson for his work on the start line and Glenn Simpson and his dragon boat team for the communications and marshalling. Thanks to Simone and Lynne McKenzie for documentation. Thanks to St. Johns, they almost had to go into action this time but thankfully Andrew MacIntosh and his passenger were OK after the roll. Thanks also to the Woodend Hotel for sponsoring the event.