15 August – Loburn Autocross

The proper title for this report should be “Loburn Mud-plug”!  Conditions for the event can only be described as diabolical. It was raining heavily travelling there and the paddock was saturated. What was amazing was that 30 competitors showed up – mad dogs and Scotsmen eh?! (Well, we didn’t have an Englishman, and you definitely can’t say “Englishman” when you’re referring to a Scotsman, right Kieron!?). The greater number of entrants wanted to proceed with the event so on went the show. Timing was by stopwatch as getting all the cables and electronic gear out in the wet was deemed more effort than it would have been worth, and it shortened packing up time considerably. Leigh Marston’s  E-Z Up became the covered grandstand for the event and crews kept out of the rain while watching the mud fly and the cars get stuck. Brent Tiney related the days of Autocrossing in snow so everyone considered that this was a bit better than that.

The indian file was too much for Jamie Fisher’s Commodore road car that withdrew after not being able to get going in the queue for the start line. The course was well and truly rutted even after the one-pass look by all the competitors. Things were going to be very interesting indeed, then it started to sleet. Grant Goile got things off to a flying start, setting a time an amazing 14 seconds faster than anyone else! Phillip Sloan in the newly built Legacy was coming off a good run at the Taumutu Sprint and was the best of the rest for the first test. Kieron Telford drove well to put the Pulsar into third spot. Andy Reid had a blinder in the Corolla (lots better than his effort in getting their van stuck on the way out of the paddock and having to be towed out by the farm tractor after the event) and cranked around into 4th overall. Paul Jansen had his Pulsar GTiR well up the scorecard in 5th. David Fletcher in the Corolla and Matt Jansen in the Datto 1200 were neck and neck one place back, the former not doing too bad for running last on the road in the run after performing timing duties.

The MacIntoshes had a Bluebird SSS RWD out for a skid but ended up having to withdraw after the car wouldn’t go anywhere, the tyre pressures were too high but they had to drive the car home again so couldn’t lower them and there were no compressors on site to pump them up. Even a helping hand with a push in the rear by their 4WD couldn’t keep the Nissan going which was really unfortunate, and early exit for the guys who usually do well in the road car class.  Josh Marston lamented the lack of a limited slip diff as the Starlet got bogged down and had to be towed. Luckily for the Clerk of Course the call was made before the event to give anyone who got stuck slowest time +5s to keep them in the event! Everyone else was getting around without too much problem although it was the slowest event we’ve seen!

The second run saw the course changed to be more open so that people didn’t get bogged in the corners. Steve Carr did the indian file for everyone to watch so that he could judge where the course went wasn’t confusing and after a few spins said it was no problems. To make things fair cars were run in reverse order from run 1. The open course meant the fast 4WDs had an advantage over the smaller cars. Grant Goile hit a marker and went down the leaderboard. Paul Bradshaw showed a good turn of speed keeping things tidy and Matthew King had some of Les Summerfield’s go hard aura from Catlins rub off on him and moved up to take second place for the run. Pete Abernethy who’s Dad’s paddock we had taken over for the event denied all accusations of illegal recce’ing and took the Autotech lease WRX to a run 1 is the second contest. Rhys Ellison’s Chevette had miraculously transformed from a 206WRC look-alike into quite a convincing Focus WRC look-alike and with rally tires was doing the business, getting around the very challenging track well.  BT’s Escort Twincam was looking pretty good too and he was after a place in the big 2WD class.  Another of the road car competitors Troy Earl in the Starlet found the conditions too nasty and headed home. Haydo Riddle got a bit stuck but managed to get going again in GTX road car, 4WD was a distinct advantage although he lost a lot of time and dropped from his usual high spot in the road car class. Nick Marston was sharing Josh’s Starlet and had a good day. Well, any day you don’t break a valve spring is a good day ay!

The cars were getting heavier with all the mud (heaven help the cleaners at Quick-E-Wash!) but the run 2 course had held together well so it was decided to run it again as a 1-lapper for the final test. Brent Sibley’s smile could be seen through the windscreen of the Eccy (but only just) as he was kicking up enough mud to cover the car many times over. Craig McCulloch was driving a great event in the FWD Corolla road car, smoothly and maintaining momentum around the corners was the way to do it and this was rewarded with a class win. Michelle Reid had a disadvantage of the three-driver TeamRFR Corolla gathering more weight in mud than anyone else’s cars but she edged further ahead of Gemma Bone in the ladies contest and Karen Robinson driving the black Pulsar GTiR was keeping the top two honest, gaining on them throughout the event. Simon Bagnall was sharing the car (and consequently Geoff Bone’s rally tires) with Gemma for the day and was driving smoothly and consistently and running close to the leaders in the mid-sized class. Jonathan Bradshaw was managing to stay ahead of Bagnall while trying to catch Paul Bradshaw piloting the same car. John Weir was generating a bit much wheelspin in the Accord but it still sounded great.  Craig Millar was sharing the turbo RX7 as well as performing many vehicle rescues in the Safari 4WD recovery truck, and found things a bit understeery for his liking but great fun nonetheless (and also in the Safari!). Craig Hodgekinson packed up and shipped out in his Starlet road car before the last run, the conditions unfortunately not suiting the low and light car at all. John Burt also found the going a bit rough for his Impreza road car and also sat out the final test.

In his first Autocross Phillip Sloan brought the Legacy home in first overall. Congratulations and well done. Again this showed that smooth and consistent was the way to treat the Loburn mud. The results were as follows:

Overall and 4WD
1st Phillip Sloan (Legacy) 5m09.83s
2nd Pete Abernethy (WRX) 5m11.31s
3rd Matthew King (WRX) 5m13.97s

2WD 1601+cc
1st Steve Carr (RX7) 5m33.74s
2nd Brent Tiney (Escort Twincam) 5m49.63s
3rd Craig Millar (RX7) 6m41.39s

2WD 1301-1600cc
1st Paul Bradshaw (Starlet) 5m22.61s
2nd Jonathan Bradshaw (Starlet) 6m01.19s
3rd Simon Bagnall (Levin) 6m19.50s

2WD 0-1300cc
1st Grant Goile (Starlet) 5m15.86s
2nd Andy Reid (Corolla) 5m24.93s
3rd David Fletcher (Corolla) 5m42.47s

Road Car
1st Craig McCulloch (Corolla) 7m01.28s
2nd Hayden Riddle (Mazda GTX) 8m13.30s

Thanks go to John Weir for scrutineering, Michelle Reid, and Huri Timothy for documentation and timing, Chris Hughes for helping set up the event, Josh Marston for being Clerk of Course, timing for the day, and organising the event and setting up the course, Nick & Leigh Marston for helping, and David Fletcher for timing and towing the dunny back to town (after he’d got the club van towed out of where he got it stuck… ha, a bogged bog!).

So, when all was said and done it was a difficult event in very trying conditions, and one that in hindsight should probably have been abandoned at the beginning of the day. By the time the last car went through most competitors had left so there was no prizegiving so we’ll just have to hand out the spoils at the next club gathering. Having said all that, there were a good number of smiling faces in the grandstand and in the cars and as this is the first Autocross for a long time where it’s rained, we’re not doing too badly. Roll on Makerikeri Road! (Well, not literally of course, we don’t want anyone rolling on Makerikeri Road now do we!).