7 March – Rakaia Zig Zag Sprint

This year’s Rakaia Zig-Zag Sprint was held in good conditions this past weekend. The road was in great condition (if a bit corrugated as usual – but that cleared throughout the day) after being resurfaced a month or so ago. The weather was great, not too hot and not raining although the lack of much wind meant the dust was a problem for the spectators but not too bad for the drivers as it slowly drifted off the road. The event ran pretty much to schedule all day, largely to the small number of on-the day entrants being able to be entered quickly into the timing computer, so thanks very much to all those who pre-entered.

There was some pretty fast drivers and machinery lined up among the 34 entrants and the fastest of the day proved to be the lightweight and grunty “Mazaru” of James Marshall, who picks up the very impressive Zig-Zag trophy this year. Congratulations James! John Giltrap pulled out the stops in run 3 and scorched to within less than half a second of Marshall into second place. Stu Weeber’s very quick flame-spitting Subaru WRX came home in 3rd place, witnesses to Stu’s driving around the last corner and down the straight to the finish confirmed just how much boogie that car and driver combo has got. Les Summerfield had been the pace-setter all day, but was pipped at the post into 4th in the final run. Sean Gray was driving smoothly in the yellow Lancer Evo VI and ended the day less than a second behind Summerfield in 5th. Leigh Marston had entered twice to get more experience in the new Subaru WRX STi and the car certainly looked the part as it headed up the hill. Allan Geddes has purchased Jeff Judd’s WRX and was out for a blat for the first time at Rakaia in the car. His final run a great improvement over his first run time showing his coming to grips with the car well, swapping times in a good battle with Brent McDonald’s Lancer Evo to beat the Mitsi driver by less than half a second. Chris Hughes was all smiles as usual in the Lancer and drove solidly although a couple of seconds off the pace in the class as the road is definitely one that is hard to get just right and experience counts for a lot on this hill. Kieron Telford was back in the GTiR after his off in the Nelson Rally and was understandably tentative but happy to be back in the drivers seat.

The dust proved a problem for the timing beam at the finish and where any doubt existed about a result the competitor concerned was allowed a re-run. Tony Witheridge did a great job in the timing van all day, keeping a close eye on proceedings to ensure the results were out in a timely fashion (excuse the pun!). Trevor Crowe’s Skoda must be particularly shaped to avoid timing beams as he had two re-runs before leaving the event early having done enough to win the big-2WD class. Steve Carr had the RX-7 well prepared for the event, with no dramas throughout the day he cranked along into second in the class, followed in third by Robert McCallum who had his family out for the day and all seemed to be enjoying it. Brent Sibley in the Escort and Ben Johnson in the Pulsar GTi were running very close on the scorecards all day, the Eccy coming out on top but only by two-tenths of a second. Alec Doig had been up on the pace with the Escort V8 until a suspected broken valve spring brought his day to a premature end in after run 2.

Tom Penrose made a triumphant return to the sport in his 1500cc Starlet taking out the mid-sized 2WD class in a close battle with Luke Thelning in the FX-GT. It didn’t take long for Penrose to jump back into contention after Thelning set the pace in run 1. John Weir improved well throughout the day to take third in the class. The Accord had dropped a bit of oil at the start after problems with a half shaft but John overcame this well to take on all three runs. Stewart Bufton and Grant Restall were exceptionally close in the final run, with Bufton eventually taking 4th by a bumper width. Peter Quinn had a consistent day in his immaculate Corolla AE86. Andrew Bufton was getting used to the new locked diff in the Starlet and his 8 second improvement throughout the day was a good start to the process. Jonathan Bradshaw had his now 4AGE powered Starlet out for the first time and liked the extra power afforded by the upgrade from the old 4K. Mike Barnes was having a bit of a troublesome day, being fined for leaving his logbook at home and then hitting a bank didn’t make for the most enjoyable time for the CRX driver. Mike’s off threw a big rock into the path of Grant Goile who suffered a very badly bent tie rod and the very unusual sight of the red KE25 Corolla on the end of a tow rope greeted the last of the drivers on the line for run 3.

In the 0-1300cc class things were really hot with Grant Goile and Andy Reid eight hundreths of a second apart at the pointy end after run 1. Josh Marston, David Fletcher and Barry Deuart were locked in a battle for third all within a second of each other. Run two saw a surge from Graham Wilson in his Swift GTi engined Starlet, lopping a huge 15 seconds off his run 1 time to take the lead in the class and he’d hold it in the final run, pipping Reid by a second with Goile in third after his mishap making his second run his last. Shane Thornley was enjoying his day, and improved 8 seconds over the three runs.

The prizegiving was held a bit late as the number of helpers to clean up after the event were few so keep in mind that there’s a lot to be done after events wrap up and many hands make light work for the organisers. The Hororata Hotel was used this year as it’s on the way home for most competitors, and is certainly a nice place to stop off for a beer and a pie. The results were as follows:

Overall and 4WD
1st James Marshall (Mazaru) 1m32.59s
2nd John Giltrap (WRX) 1m32.98s
3rd Stu Weeber (WRX) 1m33.53s

2WD 1601+cc
1st Trevor Crowe (Skoda V8) 1m38.41s
2nd Steve Carr (RX7) 1m40.23s
3rd Robert McCallum (Escort) 1m41.55s

2WD 1301-1600cc
1st Tom Penrose (Starlet) 1m41.17s
2nd Luke Thelning (Corolla FX-GT) 1m42.10s
3rd John Weir (Honda Accord) 1m44.19s

2WD 0-1300cc
1st Graham Wilson (Starlet) 1m45.50s
2nd Andy Reid (Corolla KE20) 1m47.09s
3rd Grant Goile (Corolla KE25) 1m47.53s

Thanks go to Repco Wairakei Road and the Hororata Hotel for sponsoring the prizes, Don Mathias and sons for helping both set up the event and clean up afterwards, Tony Witheridge for operating the timing equipment and helping clean up the event, Andrew Sim and David Fletcher for organising the event, Simone Trezise for advice on organising the event, Michelle Reid and Andrea Summerfield for help with documentation, Kieron Telford for handling memberships, Rangiora Rotary for supplying marshals, Les Summerfield and John Weir for scrutineering and thanks also to MSNZ Steward Peter Ward.