There were mixed fortunes for the Autosport Club members who went south to contest the fantastic Catlins Coast Rally this year. With 72 entries this was the biggest event the Catlins had seen and everyone was really looking forward to it.
The great news is that Deane Buist in his Lancer EVO IV with Rocky Hudson alongside won the rally! The win extended Deane’s lead in the Palmside Mainland Rally Series. He took a one second lead after Special Stage 2, extended it in the next stage and then proceeded to pull away to win by 53 seconds. After the rally he said “we had no real problems today, we took it easy at the start and then once we had a lead and John (Silcock) went out we eased off a bit. Then we had a go in the final stage again”. For his efforts in winning the event Deane was presented with the Darryl Robinson Memorial Trophy. It was Deane’s first attempt at the event and he won by 53 seconds from Wayne Muckle of Ashburton. Local hero Derek Ayson from Clinton was third overall in his Nissan powered Ford Escort. Ayson set the fastest time on Special Stage 4 and said later “The car never missed a beat, it was very strong. We gave the car a fair thrashing. It was all or nothing today, I’m third in my class in the series and we were either going to crash or finish. I had a ball”.
Other Autosport members finished well, with Merv Hatcher and James Cowles 4th overall even after suffering many mechanical woes in the Lancer throughout the day, he was 18 seconds in front of Dermot Martin and Andrew Wells. John Giltrap and Grant Marra in the WRX rolled in Special Stage 2 but after a delay continued on and finished the rally in 11th place overall! Luke Thelning and Will Johns in the FX-GT were 25th overall. James and Tom Holder were 31st overall and Andy Reid and David Fletcher were 33rd, and took second place in the 0-1300cc class. 40th place went to Kieron Telford and Shane Thornley in the Pulsar. Wayne Julian and Chris Saville had a problem in SS5 which saw them fall to 41st overall. Hayden Spatcher with David Sidery alongside missed a corner and put the car into a bank in the first uphill section of SS5, but got back on the road and finished the event if well down the board. Barry Varcoe and Andrew Bulman had a number of ‘agricultural moments’ throughout the day which saw them roll two tyres off the rims in one stage and limp to service, but like Spatcher he was able to get going and finish the event. Geoff Bone and Murray Brown went off the road and hit a fence, tangling wire around the rear suspension and stuck on a strainer post the car was unable to be moved and they retired.
Andrew Sim and Tony Witheridge had the diff fail in the FX-GT a short way into SS5 while fighting for second place in their class. Dave Pettigrew had a recurrence of a serious sounding engine noise and parked the Escort for the day after SS4. Bryce Biggs and Richard Cocker had a huge crash in SS3, the Otago Classic winning BDA was left a wreck but thankfully the crew were able to walk away from the accident. Les Summerfield and Paul Millar’s Subaru WRX was out early in Special Stage 3 when the main shaft through the gearbox broke. The crew frantically fought to change the gearbox and rejoin the event, and Les was able to complete a couple of the final stages. John Silcock trailered his Mitsubishi Lancer EVO VI with a blown rear diff in Special Stage 5. Brent and Glenn “Crusty” Buist went down a bank in Special Stage 5 and were able to rejoin after being pulled free, but the car suffered a broken half-shaft another stage down the track. Royce Watson and Sue France had the gearbox fail in the Corolla DX-4AGE turbo in SS4, the drag race of Hunt Road. At one point earlier in the rally people thought the car had blown a motor as the car had been beached at the side of the road and Sue gave it heaps while Royce shoved to try to free the car. All the smoke from the tyres caused confusion in the passing cars!
Congratulations to all the Autosport members who came away from the Catlins with trophies, and to those who finished the event. Commiserations to those whose luck failed them. With the event now a round of the Mainland Series the friendliness and hospitality shown by the organisers and stage crews ensured that the club feel of the rally was retained, and it’s popularity will no doubt continue to grow as a result.