17 October – Canterbury Rally

Rangiora’s Les Summerfield extended his lead in the Mainland Series this past weekend with a close fought win in the 2004 Canary Furniture Canterbury Rally. Number 1 seed John Silcock did not start the event with his Lancer’s engine not being ready on time. Summerfield and co-driver Matthew King were first on the road for the day and did well in the conditions to come away with a 17 second lead after the cars finished the last special stage. Emma Gilmour and Glenn MacNeall in the Evo 6 won stage 3 and was grabbing back time that was lost to Summerfield in stage 1 and 2 throughout the day although not quite enough, the WRX driver’s charge from the outset seeing him top the scorecards by enough in the first two stages to be able to defend the lead throughout the day. Tom Pritchard and Mike Fletcher claimed third overall in a fine drive that saw the Dunedin driver record fastest times on stages 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9! Deane Buist and Rocky Hudson were top 2WD in the Escort BDA and drove consistently quickly to 4th overall in the event, a fine performance in the slippery conditions that favoured the four-wheel drive cars. Dave Burgess and Bryan Pipe in the Legacy all the way from Waiuku had a great trip to the south, bringing the car home in 5th overall and with that taking out the NZ 4WD club rally championship. Congratulations Dave!

In the classes it was of course Deane Buist taking out the 2WD (class D) honours. Hayden Paddon with Nicole France reading the notes took out the 1301-1600cc class in 12th overall and 2nd class D from Andrew Sim and Tony Witheridge in second in class B and third in class D. Evan Cook from Porirua with Jason Delaney from Titahi Bay brought their Corolla DX (with a pretty mean looking rear wing on it!) home in 3rd of the class B mid-sized cars. The 0-1300cc class was all action and at the end it was Graham Wilson and Chris Herdman in the Starlet that came out on top after a great drive. Barry Deuart and Iain Pow in the Datsun 120Y had a relatively smooth run and took second in the class ahead of Shane Thornley and Nicole Summerfield in another Starlet. There could have been a Starlet class in the event, with 13 taking part. The small(ish) classics were headed home by Barry Mills and Mark Allington in the Avenger, with Ian and David Latham in the Eccy in second almost 9 minutes down on the flying Mills, and Paul Cox with Peter Abernethy in third in the class. The big classics had Robert “Groove” McCallum and Sean Sands in top spot with a very well driven example of sideways action to 7th overall. Gary Hawkes with Nicola Mulholland sitting beside him put in a fantastic comeback performance with third 2WD car home and inside the top 10 at number 9 and second big classic, while Derek Ayson and Andrew Graves were in 10th, 3rd big classic and with it claimed the NZ 2WD club rally championship, congratulations Derek! Rookie award went to Russell Burney of Gore who cranked along in the wee Civic, seeded 68th and finishing 23rd.

The pre-rally talk from Crunch Bennet at Canary Furniture was the most comfortable rally forum most had attended, and we don’t know of anyone who ended up adding a lounge suite to the rally budget although there were several people looking at going back at a later date to have a closer look. The ceremonial start was relaxed as local personality Jo Giles conversed with the drivers and sent them on their way. The rally had some fantastic roads, stage 1 was a real challenge first up with a good mix of twisty forestry and wide open main roads, along with some very fast straights down in the valley. The second test was even twistier, some interesting very tight corners that came from nowhere up the hill, and an almost unrecognisable downhill on the Ashley Forest sprint course to finish, the trees were all gone. The top of SS3 Demmocks was a real treat, twisting it’s way along the ridgeline and the downhill wasn’t as slippery as many expected although still a challenge. The Karetu stage had a couple of fords that weren’t too much trouble if taken carefully, a great middle section that reminded drivers of the top road around the back at the Hanmer rally, and had a really fast downhill on Paringa Road to the finish. Onepunga Road was the only public road in the event and was fast and flowing with a tricky downhill hairpin section into a bridge mid-way through, finishing flat out on tarmac. The Lake Janet stage was great, nice flowing roads down to a pretty beat up concrete bridge (there were some big holes in that thing) and fast to finish, and the last stage was flat out main forestry roads, raising the excitement level even more. Finishing in Cathedral Square it was a real treat to see all the cars lined up outside the cathedral.

There was quite a high attrition rate in the rally, with 42 of the 74 starters finishing the event. The forest roads proved a bit tricky for some and hard on equipment for others. Neville Kidd’s Starlet had a strut collapse in SS1, in the same stage Brent Buist thought he’d lost all his gears but second and temporarily withdrew, but investigation found the problem and he was able to continue. Fred Merkin parked up the WRX in SS2. Michael Prichard in the Cyborg had a crash and really bent it against a tree, Sara Randall had a fatal clutch problem and retired after trying to cure the problem and rejoin. Stewart Bufton’s diff problems forced him to retire, and Steve Carr’s run of bad luck continued with the motor losing compression and stopping. Euan Fuge was honking along as video footage showed but the engine in the RX3 cried enough. Mark McMillan’s WRX melted some of it’s own wiring and rubber mounts and the Southlander retired not wanting further damage. Stephen Peterson was in the lead of the 1300cc class when his car refused to start and he was forced to withdraw. Kevin Lynch damaged the front of his Starlet in SS7 and withdrew, Ryan Berry in the Pritchard’s Starlet 4-AGE had an engine failure, Neville Pettigrew’s Bluebird Turbo began belching smoke early on in the event and by SS4 had given up the ghost. It was close to retirement for Dave Fletcher, who pushed the KE20 into Cathedral Square after the clutch packed up in Colombo St! He also had to tour the last three stages due to a broken leaf spring, the diff tube held in with a ratchet tie-down and some welding wire.

The prizegiving was held at Warners hotel in the Square. It was a good turnout and by all accounts the food was great. The impressive silver cups were handed to all the winners and crews mingled long into the night. It was a sociable end to a fun but challenging event.