26 April – Ashley Forest Club Rally

A glorious warm and sunny morning set the scene for the Autosport Club Clubman’s Rally on Sunday. ANZAC day provided crews with an opportunity to reflect on what was sacrificed by our forebears in order that we can enjoy days like this one skidding around the excellent and varied roads of the Ashley Forest.

Deane Buist and Rocky Hudson started the day as they would end it, in first place. Most of the EVO4 driver’s overall lead was gained in SS1, where he finished well clear of the chasing pack. Deane was narrowly beaten by second place getter Wayne Muckle in SS2 but showed a clean pair of mudflaps in the last two runs to take the rally win. Trevor Crowe and Dermot Martin had a great battle for third place going on, Crowe coming out on the podium in his WRX.

Talking point of the prizegiving was the drive of the day from Tom Penrose in the 5K Starlet. 5th overall in a performance that impressed the socks off spectators, crews, and competitors alike. It was mentioned that there were a lot of beehives in that part of the forest and given John Silcock wasn’t running Tom was the likely owner of those, but all jokes aside the drive was extraordinary as one still has to pilot the car around the corners and that kind of pace from a 1500cc rear wheel drive is amazing. Congratulations and well done Tom!

Simon and Sarah Curry had the ex-Possum Bourne recce WRX out for a blat and were showing a good turn of speed considering the lack of practice in the car. Sean Gray in the EVO had a tentative day out, getting a feel for the EVO on the slippery and tight forest roads. Regan and Nigel Ross had their WRX back in action after a break following a crash last year and were glad to be getting some time in the car. Leigh Marston and Dave Gallagher in the Group N WRX were keeping just ahead of the Subaru of Paul Dickson and Robin Wooding and extended the margin in SS3, Dickson losing almost a minute.

Ashton Wood with Ross Dixon alongside were having a skid around in preparation for the upcoming Otago Classic Rally where the ex-Vatanen BDA will be a top contender, and didn’t disappoint, taking out the big 2WD class. Jeff Judd and Richard Atkins in the BDA were second in the class with Robert and Fran McCallum rounding out an Eccy clean sweep. Garry Cliff brought the Datsun Stanza home in 4th in the class. Brent and Glenn Buist were off the pace in the class due to a slight problem with Crusty’s carsickness patch, it had fell off, and he was not a well man. Unconfirmed rumour also suggests that the pair’s intercom had stopped working and Crusty was dispatched to the back seat of the car to repair it while Bert kept driving! Brent Rawstron had a nightmare SS1 but demonstrated his prowess to score a fastest stage time for the big 2WD class the second time through the stage. Geoff Bone started the day late and unfortunately it just kept getting later. The Corolla was off the pace, but the time comparison between the first time through the first stage and the second time was favourable so Geoff could take something positive from the day. Jim and Tony Hewlett in the Escort also showed good improvement in times between first and second runs through the stages, as did Brent Sibley and Sean Sands.

The mid-sized class was dominated by the aforementioned drive of Tom Penrose, in second was Andrew Sim and Tony Witheridge in the FX-GT, and in third was Hayden Spatcher and Ian Brough who were pleased to get the Corolla into a class placing. Stewart and Andrew Bufton had a few problems with the Starlet and were down the order, the exhaust breaking off didn’t help matters much. Jonathan and Paul Bradshaw were a wee bit behind the sharp end of the class likely due to lack of miles in the car. In the small-engined class Bruce and Nicole France had a blinder to score top of the timesheets, staying comfortably ahead of the Suzuki powered Starlet of Graham Wilson and Chris Herdman in second. Bruce admitted to having a bit of an off at a tight corner in the twisty slippery bit, but other than that the rally went well for the father-daughter pair. Third in the class in his first rally driving the ex-Don Mathias Starlet was Josh Marston with Glenn Simpson alongside. Even with the Bart-ballast, Josh drove well, coming back well from an off in SS1. Barry Varcoe had a few troubles in SS1, losing a minute and a half, and he tried valiantly to make up time throughout the rest of the day, getting in the top three in class in the remaining stages, but it wasn’t quite enough. Barry Deuart and Sue France brought the Datsun 120Y SSS to the finish after losing some time in SS3 dropped them down the cards a bit. Andy Reid and David Fletcher’s Corolla bent a ball joint and accelerator linkage seeing them lack both wheel alignment and full throttle so were well off the pace.

There were a good many crews getting some experience and for some an introduction to motorsport at the back of the field. It’s great to see people out participating and we were all in that position sometime in our careers (although some have more selective memories than others!). Shane Thornley with Nicole Summerfield in the co-driver’s seat thought he had a puncture in SS1 and stopped only to discover the tyre was fine, he just wasn’t used to the car’s behaviour in the lumpy stuff. A lack of intercom in the Starlet also made for an interesting day for the pair!  Mark Taylor and Grant Paine were out for a skid in the Leone, Ben Johnston and Johnathan Hawke in the FWD 2 litre Pulsar caught the bug at Rakaia and came out for a fun day in the forest, and Shane McKenzie with Michael Marsen alongside showed massive improvement between first and second passes through the runs so had to be happy with that.

Coming out of stage 1 and driving across rutted paddocks with little evidence of a road one really felt “out the back”, adding to the sense of adventure. There were a few that never made it out of stage 1, Luke Thelning with Haydo Riddle alongside went off the road just after the cautioned cattle stop after the long downhill. The brakes were not working quite right and Thelning threw the car sideways to slow down for a tightish right hander but it was too late and over it went, rolling twice and catching fire after ending up upside down well out of sight of the road. The crew were OK, the fire was minor, and they even had a hand in Josh Marston having a wee off into a tree on the corner after, Marston looking over and waving to Thelning and Riddle as he went by must have put his concentration off a bit. Another talking point was the hairpin that came out of nowhere on the slippery grass covered section after the fords in SS1 and 3. Many a handbrake got a workout at that one. A bank shortly after that was used as a bermed corner by someone, the tyre tracks up and around it testified to what must have been a fairly wild excursion. The fords were a bit rough but very passable, and a couple of deep rutty rough bits through gates in the forest didn’t slow too many people down. Ben Pankhurst had another dose of bad luck, he and Kent Nurse’s RX7 sidelined with oil pressure problems. Rene Spijkerman and Geoff Adams in the Escort Mk1 had an off into the bank at the top of Paringa Road and rolled the car onto it’s side. Steve Carr and Craig Millar made it out of SS1 in the RX7 but a lack of third gear forced their retirement. John Weir and Tony Morrison broke a driveshaft in the Accord after SS2, Alec Doig holed his diff housing on one of the big rocks that appeared on the road in SS2, Fred Merkin’s ex-WRC recce WRX was parked at the start of SS2, after his co-driver was so ill they decided not to continue. Chris Hughes displayed excellent parallel parking skills at the top of the hill in SS3, but people were wondering if it was an inappropriate time to be practising that. Unfortunately a turbo pipe had come loose and the EVO kept surging in power but this was not visible until they got back to the service park after withdrawing.

The weather, the relaxed atmosphere, the pleasant and smiling marshals and timing crews, and the great roads, made for an excellent rally. The prizegiving at the Southbrook Hotel was a good mix of humility and humour. Thanks went to Dave McCahon, our ever keen Clerk of the Course, also to Les and Andrea Summerfield, with Leigh Marston for their work in organising the event. Thanks to the MSNZ steward for the day Barry Higham, and the crew from Rangiora Rotary (organised by Graham Wilson) for the fantastic job marshalling and timing, Dave Lee for leading the marshals, John Silcock as Safety Officer, Scott Smith for arrowing the course, Derek Simpson for being safety car, Paul Stanley for putting the radio repeater on the hill and being sweeper car until a wheel on the Escort went manky, Paul Robertshaw for being the recovery vehicle. The Red Cross need thanks also for their presence, which is always reassuring. Assistant C of C’s Steven Stokes and Gary Mechan, CRO Geoff Combe, and of course a huge thanks to Royce Watson for scrutineering (the man was everywhere at service too, seen under Barry Deuart’s and Andy Reid’s cars,… did he wear a cape and his underpants on the outside in a past life?). Thanks also to all the competitors and crews who helped make it an enjoyable day for everyone involved.

For the use of the forest, without which we would be severely lacking in roads to use, a huge thanks go to: CARTER HOLT HARVEY,    FBI RURAL FIRE SERVICES,    TAGGARTS EARTHMOVING