10 August – Sefton Autocross

A huge field of 38 drivers took to the flowing course laid out in Michael Price’s paddock near Sefton. It was a foggy morning to start with but as the day progressed the sun came out, the ground dried out and lots of fun was had. With the large number of entries it took a while to get everyone entered and scrutineered but with a nice day to sit in the sun this didn’t matter at all. Many of the first competitors on the course went the wrong way near the end, all in the same place. There were marks on the ground from the last event held in the field and this meant people were following the wrong tracks. The organisers decided to put some more markers and tape into the course and re-run those people who had already run. More than one competitor was relieved, it was the right thing to do.

John Beasley had the WRX suited up in it’s snow tyres and even with his broken hand in a cast from a skiing accident, managed to set the fastest time for the run. He repeated this feat in run 2 and run 3, taking smooth and fast lines and so took the 1st overall placing for the second autocross running. Somebody put that man in a rally car! In one of the more interesting penalties we have seen in a while Grant Goile was docked 5 seconds for taking the indian file run twice. Grant was on a mission to get those 5s back and cranked around the course to set 6th fastest even with the penalty in run 1, and continued to gain time throughout the day to take out 3rd place overall in the event and first in the small-engined class. Mike Barnes from the Canterbury Car Club in a very lightweight looking Honda CRX took the next spot after run 1, and continued on his way to take second overall in the event with a consistently fast drive. Scott Reid in the 4AGE powered Escort was next behind Barnes after run 1, sadly an engine misfire appeared for the next couple of runs and Scott dropped to 6th overall but still managed to win his class, from Luke Thelning in the front-drive Corolla with the same powerplant. Thelning rolled a tyre off the rim of the FX-GT and changed to his spare and went and got the flattie pumped up agan at the local garage, all sorted! Steven Loomes steadily climbed through the ranks throughout the day, and with rally tyres on the front of his Integra was setting some great times. He came through to win the big 2WD class. Chris Hughes got the hang of things in the Lancer EVOII and won the 4WD class. Run three saw the two course lapped twice and unfortunately Nathan Brownlee driving Chris Hughes’s EVOII forgot about this, and came in after 1 lap, getting a slowest time penalty for taking the wrong course and dropping to third in the 4WD class. Nathan was a bit bummed out but had a laugh about it anyway.

The course was holding up remarkably well, and only a minor change to a couple of corners was required before things got underway for the second run of the day. Brent Sibley continued his good form at paddock skidding events and brought the Escort to the line in good time in all three runs, earning him a good second place in the big-engined 2WD class. Stewart and Andrew Bufton had a Corolla Sprinter road car out for a blat as the Starlet was still out of action. Suffering from marker trouble, not to mention a blown head gasket in his Starlet, was Don Mathias, who lamented that the course was just not one he could find a rhythm on. Merv Hatcher was also driving Don’s Starlet and commented as to the length of first gear, obviously the rev limit was not being reached as fast as in his Lancer! Also sharing a Starlet were Josh and Leigh Marston, and this was a hum-dinger of a scrap with Leigh taking an early advantage thanks to Josh hitting a marker. Josh took the fight to Leigh by pipping him in run 2 and Leigh came back to beat the younger driver by just over a second in the final 2-lapper. The penalties were really taking their toll all round, Leigh beating Josh overall by less than 4 seconds. Gavin Henson had the Now TV Starlet out for a skid after an absence from competition since the Dunlop sprint. He was running third in the 0-1300cc class until being beaten at the last hurdle by a charging Andy Reid. Reid was all fired up however he hit a marker in his first run and undid all his good work. He was going great guns for the rest of the event, impressing the crowd and new son as well (at least we think the kid was impressed, it’s hard to get any coherent comments from him at present). David Fletcher avoided the markers to take second place in the small-engined class by less than 4 seconds from Reid in third.

Geoff and Gemma Bone were sharing Royce Watson’s Corolla DX turbo for the day, the 323 still a bit bent after the wee off in the Catlins. Both had not competed in an autocross before and enjoyed the day out having a skid. Gary Hawkes and Nic Mulholland had a shiny red WRX entered in the road car class and all was going well until the car suffered a puncture in Nic’s third run. The trouble for the pair was that the space saver spare didn’t fit the car! John Beasley lent them the spare from his car to get them home so all was well in the end, although the rescue was not soon enough for them to complete the runs. Among the three driver cars was Nick Marston, also sharing the orange Starlet. Nick drove well, clearing each course and continuing to learn sliding the car around. Another driver sharing with 2 others was Michelle Reid in the TeamRFR Corolla. Michelle’s second run improved a second over her first and she was happy with things were going but disappointed in that she would not be able to do run 3 due to having to leave for a prior commitment. Ben Pankhurst and Kent Nurse were having a contest to see how many markers they could hit and how many donuts they could do in the RX-7, and provided a good show for everyone if not good times for the event! Of interest was the entry of a Nissan Navara ute with a 4l Lexus V8 under the bonnet, and a very nice job of it at that. The ute was not the ideal weapon of choice for autocrosses though.

Thanks go to clerk of the course and co-organiser Simone Trezise; Andrew Wells and Gavin Henson for the timing; Hayden Riddle, Don Mathias and Grant Goile for spotting the course; organisers Stephen Loomes and Josh Marston; Lynne McKenzie for helping with documentation and the start line; and David Fletcher for de-arrowing and taking the club van back to Christchurch. Special thanks to Michael Price for the use of his fantastic paddock; as Grant Goile said, it’s the best we’ve had for ages!

Note The organisers extend their apologies to Chris Hughes and Nathan Brownlee for not giving them their certificates at the prize giving.