Loads of cars and competitors arrived at the Makerikeri/Mt. Grey Sprint, a really good bit of gravel that’s pretty close to town. The spectator corner was well populated all day and they got a bit of a show too. A couple of cars didn’t make it to the start line with Geoff Combe’s Starlet not wanting to fire up so it stayed on the trailer, and unfortunately Grant Restall’s Corolla had a problem with it’s seats that couldn’t be repaired before the start. John Weir was out of his overalls before he got started as the Honda Accord he was sharing with Tony Morrison understeered into a bank on Morrison’s timed practise and the resulting damage saw it sidelined too.
With the damp conditions leading up to the event it was hard to judge what the course was going to be like, and it was interesting to find that on this totally windless day in the Ashley Forest that the dust hung in the air from the previous car a minute ahead. While an indian file was lacking many felt it would have been hard to see the road with all the dust in the air, and as it turned out the timed practise turned into one of the high speed runs. Unlucky to go off the road in a big way on the timed practise was David Clearwater in the Celica, his tyre suffering a puncture and the car rolling sideways off the road and well into the trees. Brent McDonald in the Lancer was also unlucky in that he talked to Bart before the run. He was informed the ford could be taken flat. The resulting crunch saw the car trailered after limping back to the pits. Bart wasn’t wrong, the ford can be taken flat if you are driving a tank. Unlucky was Richard Towse whose Sunny broke the camshaft in the practise. In the first competitive run Kieron Telford had a puncture which bent the rim and the resulting wobble sheared the wheel nuts on the front of the Pulsar GTiR. That was the end of his event too.
The winner on the day was Brent Collins from Timaru, and he made up for his lateness at arriving by driving very quickly in the ex- Graham Coey Subaru Vortex. The lightweight special just pipping Les Summerfield for the outright win. Congratulations Brent. For his efforts he received the very interactive Pottery International trophy. Ryan Berry led the chasing pack in the Evo, with Brent Buist the top of the 2WDs in 4th overall. Those BDAs were a sight to behold coming down the hill to the spectator area, hanging the rear out in the weeds while nearing supersonic speeds. Glen Simpson made it into the top 5 in the Autoteach lease WRX, Bart was driving it like he owned it and it was a shame he braked too late at the spectator corner and handbraked into the run-off road. The time lost there could have easily seen him break into the top 3.
Jeff Judd and Groove McCallum were neck and neck after the first run with Judd opening up a gap by the last competitive pass. Andrew Sim was very fast in the FX-GT, taking 1600cc class honours in 8th overall and using good racing lines as the photos on KeenKiwi attest. Junior driver Brad Harris showed good speed in 9th overall with Blair Logan making a rare appearance these days in the yellow FX-GT next on the scorecard and second in the 1600cc class. Matt King did well in the lease Autotech lease WRX, some saying the car was used to the road by now but Matt was definitely showing that sitting alongside Les Summerfield on rallies sure helps in the learning process. Chris Hughes was again all smiles in the Evo2 in 12th overall, more time in the saddle is all good. Leigh Marston was a bit down on power due to continuing computer niggles. Brent Tiney was another driver using the good lines with the Escort twincam sounding great off the line and piloted well into 14th overall.
First of the small cars was Stephen Petersen, the only front skidding 1300cc car in the event pulled well away from the chasing pack, although the class 1’s were less of a pack at this event than the 4WD cars which were very numerous. Hayden Spatcher was third in the 1600cc class, ahead of Petersen on the cards after the first run but not quite managing the run to run improvement that the Starlet driver pulled out. Paul Jansen was next in the GTiR and had no trouble keeping well clear of son Matt in this event, the younger Jansen definitely had a top speed disadvantage in that matchup on the long sweeping sections in his Datsun 1200. The battle of the Datsun 1200’s was hotter than ever this event though, Ryan McDonald closing to within three quarters of a second of Jansen in run 2, in 38th overall. Graham Wilson and Josh Marston were 2nd and 3rd respectively in the small car class, both pulling a massive improvement from their first run times although Josh had an easier time improving after a big spin into the bank on the last corner in run 1. Ben Johnson is steadily improving and was mid-field at the end of the day in the Pulsar GTi front skidder. Dave Fletcher spent too much time going sideways down the road after the pond and the high-speed half spin saw him finish in 4th in the small car class.
Stewart Bufton was seen trying to get more downforce in the Starlet by leaving the rear hatch open. Unfortunately the experiment didn’t quite work and created more drag than the car is used to and so Andrew took the honours in the father-son contest on this occasion, finishing in 22nd overall. Phil Sloane did well to keep the Lecacy RS on the island in the tricky surface conditions in only his second gravel event in the club, narrowly pipping Bruce France for 23rd overall, France distracted by taking Dave Fletcher for a ride in the last run, the passenger asking difficult questions about quick-racks in the middle of corners. Fletcher responded that it was not a deliberate attempt to slow the competition, then immediately went to find Josh Marston to try to get a ride with him.
Cameron Moore in the AE86 Levin was 25th overall and kept things pretty tidy (like the car really) most of the day although ran a bit wide at the first intersection at Mt. Grey road. Barry Deuart in the mighty 120Y was only a couple of seconds behind the leading rear wheel drive 1300cc cars, 1200cc just being a wee bit off the pace in the high speed event. Brent Sibley could be forgiven for thinking it’s the weight in the two extra doors carried by his Escort that saw him in 27th overall, as his car control was going good and his lines were quite tidy. Darryl Campbell’s Evo didn’t take the start of the second timed run but his first time was enough to get up to 28th overall and if other competitors’ improvement was anything to go by he may have broken into the top 20. Stewart Bufton edged out Grant Goile by half a second, Goile giving the Starlet another run while the KE25 Corolla is rested, no wonder it goes so fast as it obviously returns the care shown to it! Andrea Summerfield was the day’s only lady driver and finished in 31st overall, a bit out of practise but having a bit of fun. Want to ease the pressure on yourself after running documentation? Just take a WRX for a spin in the event too!
Richard Bowater in the racy wee Starlet made the trip up from Ashburton to have a fun day on the gravel, all smiles afterwards showed the travel was worth it. Rex Ford’s 180B was next on the scoresheets, the driver gaining in confidence with each event. Jonathan Bradshaw went sideways all day, having a blast. Paul Stanley took a break from keeping an eye on proceedings as part of the forest management crew to go for a blat in the Eccy, flares now painted the same colour as the car so it slips through the air a bit better. Peter Quinn’s Levin was back in action looking it’s usual resplendant best, Peter managed to stay ahead of the chasing Datsun 1200 battle mentioned earlier. Nigel Ackers showed a 12s improvement between the two runs which he’s got to be happy with. Luke McHaffie had a problem with the GT4 and didn’t take the second competitive run. Nick Marston was sharing the RDL Starlet for the day and improved a massive 57 seconds between runs. Greg and Stuart MacIntosh were sharing the Nissan Bluebird turbo and both completed the first competitive run however an accident where Stuart ran into a bank head on in the second run halted the event.
The accident happened on a reasonably fast bit of road and the impact bent the front of the car substantially, forcing the suspension back into the firewall with enough force to bend and dent the firewall. The event’s safety procedures worked well, with a marshal hearing the crash and investigating and a following competitor ascertaining damage then then proceeding to report it to another marshal who radioed for assistance. The intervention vehicle called for the ambulance when it became clear that the crashed car’s passenger Andrew Bufton had suffered a cut chin and whiplash. The ambulance was dispatched into the course and retrieved Andrew and took him to hospital for a check over. While the ambulance was away the event was stopped, and only when it returned could the event proceed, the delay forcing the cancellation of the last competitive run. Competitors were briefed on this and everyone seemed happy as three runs had been accomplished if the timed practise was counted. Thankfully Andrew was not seriously hurt, although a couple of days off were needed because of the whiplash. Stuart MacIntosh was shaken but (thankfully again) unhurt. This is the first event this author has been at where an injury accident has occurred and it was impressive to see the quick response of the emergency crews, a great job by all involved. When the event got underway again the remaining cars had no further incidents (well, apart from those wee moments that always seem to happen when your result needs it the least!).
1st Brent Collins (Subaru Vortex) 4m00.83s
2nd Les Summerfield (Subaru WRX) 4m01.55s
3rd Ryan Berry (Evo 3) 4m04.84s
1st Glen Simpson (WRX) 4m10.72s
2nd Brad Harris (Evo) 4m16.99s
3rd Matt King (WRX) 4m20.83s
1st Brent Buist (Escort) 4m07.32s
2nd Jeff Judd (Escort) 4m11.33s
3rd Robert McCallum (Escort) 4m14.07s
1st Andrew Sim (Corolla) 4m14.30s
2nd Blair Logan (Corolla FX-GT) 4m20.06s
3rd Hayden Spatcher (Corolla) 4m32.09s
1st Stephen Petersen (Starlet EP71) 4m30.33s
2nd Graham Wilson (Starlet) 4m36.59s
3rd Josh Marston (Starlet) 4m38.95s
Thanks to Andrew Sim for organising the event and Les Summerfield for helping with organisation. Thanks to Paul Stanley for acting as forest laison officer for the day and Andrea Summerfield and Kieron Telford for documentation. John Weir, Richard Towse and Robert McCallum did a great job of getting through the 20 cars that needs scrutineering audits. Tony Witheridge did another great job operating the timing gear. Thanks again to the team from Rangiora Rotary for marshalling. There were lots of helpers on the day, including Derek Simpson, Brent Buist, Leigh Marston, Chris Hughes, Nick Brownlee, David Fletcher, and Michelle Reid (sorry to those we missed by name and THANKS!). Thanks also to St. John Ambulance for ensuring our injured competitors were well taken care of. And a big thanks to Geoff Bone of Pottery International for sponsoring the event, and putting up an impressive returning trophy.