15 November – Autosport At The Westland Rally

John Silcock’s run of good luck that started at that Tarn Road Sprint continued for the rally, with the EVO 6 holding up very well. John was able to develop a lead by winning the first three stages and held onto it to win the rally – Congratulations John! Deane Buist won the final stage of the rally but it wasn’t enough to overhaul Silcock, and the EVO 4 finished in a creditable second place. With that Deane claimed the Mainland Series overall title for 2003. Congratulations on that Deane!

John Giltrap found good speed (could have had something to do with Possum’s bumpers attached to the car?) and finished the rally in a solid third place overall. John ran a wet SS1 on hard Silverstones and was happy to emerge only a second behind Deane. On the second time through Kaniere in 5th gear and heading towards a tightening corner, Grant Marra in the co-pilot’s seat braced himself, they got around by a whisker and John asked Grant “Didn’t you think we were going to make it” – there was no reply and John admits he didn’t think they would! Grant did a good job of settling the driver down and the finish meant 1st for Grant as Mainland Series navigator and 2nd for John as driver. Les Summerfield had a good rally and was snapping at the heels of the top three all day, finishing in 4th. Merv Hatcher finished one place behind Summerfield in what could be his last outing in the Lancer, and Dermot Martin came home 17 seconds behind Merv in 6th after a good battle in his EVO 4.

Brent Buist brought the BDA home in 7th overall and first of the big classics, and in doing so took the first place in the class in the Mainland Series. Well done Brent! Alec Doig was rumoured to be hitting 230kph on the Old Christchurch Road stage in the v8 Escort Mk1 and had a great run to finish in 10th overall. Garry Cliff driving his Stanza was 4th in the big classic class. Andrew Sim suffered in the convoy that came out of SS1 after a car became stuck in a ford and was given a slow assessed time which dropped him down the field a bit. The car went well and he did enough to win the class B Mainland Series for the year. Well done Andrew! Hayden Spatcher also got a slow assessed time on SS1 and remained in contention all day, finally finishing 4th in class. Geoff and Gemma Bone had another fun time in the Corolla, finishing well and having a drama free day saw Geoff all smiles at the after party. Bruce and Nicole France were another crew to suffer the slow assessed time in stage 1 but Bruce overcame this to finish 2nd in the 0-1700cc classic class.

Luke Thelning had random electrical problems causing car to not go well and finished the rally but well down on where he’d usually achieve. John Weir made it to the start of the rally long before his car did, it showed up with the crew just before he was due to start. Unfortunately he lost a lot of time in SS1 and SS2 due to punctures but made it to the finish of the rally. Steve Carr broke the throttle cable on start line of SS2 losing a lot of time, and also had fuel problems from crud in a jerry can. Eventually getting the RX-7 to the finish, Steve and co-driver Craig Millar were happy to get a result if a little lower in the order than expected. Ben Pankhurst blew apex seal in his RX7 in SS1 and retired early in the event. David Fletcher hit the same bank as Paul Dickson did early in the Lake Kaneire stage and lost 20 minutes extracting the car, co-driver Andy Reid repaired the broken suspension. They made it to service and fixed the car as best they could with the help of Ben Pankhurst and Kent Nurse, and finished the rally. A the time they were locked in battle with Bruce France for a class place and unfortunately the slip cost Fletcher 3rd place in the Mainland Series 0-1700cc class. Tom Pritchard in the ex-Berry Mirage Cyborg EVO with Glenn Simpson in the co-pilot’s seat also hit the same bank, the car was too damaged to continue.

Robert McCallum had the gearbox being to stick in every gear and rather than risk blowing it he withdrew after SS2. Wayne Julian put the AE86 down a bank on a tightening left in Mitchells SS3. They rejoined after the car was extracted. John Giltrap mused that he told Clinton Anderson of the corner where Paul and he stopped last year to look at the scenery, but it seemed that Clinton wanted to wash his car anyway! The EVO 6.5 ended up a long way under the lake. Leigh Marston had ongoing computer problems, right from the start of stage 1 the Impreza was way down on power and very lethargic, only managing 130 kph on the long straights. The problem got worse until eventually the computer shut the motor down on the touring stage from Kaniere to Hokitika and at this stage they withdrew, not wanting to risk damage to the engine. While being towed back to Greymouth behind the RDL service truck the tow rope broke and as the Impreza coasted off to the side of the road the truck disappeared into the distance, totally oblivious to the load not being there! The service crew got about 5km down the road before realising the car wasn’t there any more!

The Westland Rally is an institution in the Mainland Series that everyone would like to see retained. The roads used are fantastic, the environment is amazing and it’s a real adventure. Long may it continue.