13 March – Rakaia Zig Zag Sprint

The weather in the Canterbury foothills really turned it on again for crews competing in the first sprint of the year for the Autosport Club. With the dedicated setup crew having things all sorted,  the marshals in place, and the Steward Peter Ward happy, the event kicked off right on time (albeit for a small cabling problem with the timing gear that was quickly sorted – thanks to Stewart Bufton for making the spare cables!).

It was a close run thing in the blue BDA battle, a second or two separating Bert and Crusty in the same car all day, in the end the blue BDA won that fight (well, it was always going to) at the hands of Bert by less than half a second. Darryl Campbell was pretty pleased with his first run time in the Evo 1 and managed to improve a further 5 seconds so he must have been ecstatic with that. Luke McHaffie’s GT4 was very quick off the line up the first straight but it’s fastest performance was in the second run. Ross Teesdale was concerned that the Sprinter lacked boost from the supercharger and was surprised to score a top 10 time. Brent Rawstron in his BDA put in a solid improvement throughout the day. Tony “Pine Tree” Morrison (ask Ross Teesdale) drove all the way from Dunedin in his classic Ferrari (in 3 hours word has it!) the morning of the event and was obviously in the mood for speed because he topped the timesheets in the mid-sized class.

Phil Sloan’s Legacy was looking good on the first part of the hill and 5 seconds of run time betterment is good on this short hill. Andrew Sim had decided to pull finger in the last run after being pipped by John Weir in the second run, and two tenths of a second quicker in the last run saw both Sim and Weir happy with their performances. The Accord sure is singing at the moment. Pete Abernethy put in a strong showing in the 1500cc Starlet only a second behind a podium place in the 1600cc class. Andrea Summerfield was the only lady competitor on the day and although preferring the less edgy character of her ex-lease WRX, was performing well in Les’s Mainland Series winning weapon. Phil Gurney had returned from a stint overseas and sat in Tony Haines’ entry as well so got 6 cracks at the hill, getting steadily more into it as the day progressed. Ben Johnson was another to improve around 5 seconds throughout the day so we’re thinking that could be attributed to road conditions, however it was pretty skatey in all three runs in places. Andrew Bufton benefited from a run with Andrew Sim and went charging up the hill in his last run to beat Stewart Bufton driving the same 4AGE powered Starlet by around 2 seconds, a great performance, although Stewart was taking it easy after a moment in run 2.

Paul Jansen had his newly acquired WRX out for a blat and was getting used to the car, lopping ten seconds off his card throughout the event. Trevor Crowe’s 2WD WRX engined Subaru Justy was gathering a lot of onlookers and finished every run of the day, although it was expected to make more of an impact it must be remembered it was the car’s first ever outing on gravel. Richard Towse was back into it in the Sunny after an extended break, it was great to see Richard back out having a skid and he was running a fairly standard engine while he builds his real one “properly”. Shane McKenzie looked relaxed both in and out of the car during the day, not in the least contributed to by the continuing great weather and just enough breeze to drift the dust off the road by the time the next car went through! Peter Quinn had passed his WOF after a spell in hospital with heart problems and it was fantastic to see his smiling face in the immaculate AE86 Corolla take to the event, we hope to see Peter at many more events to come. Murray Lancaster had come a fair way to be at the event and the 323 was another in the 5 second betterment bracket. Andrew Allan in the older 2WD Mitsi Lancer was having a fun day out, all smiles both in and out of the car (apart from the race face on the line which has lots of potential, determination plus!). Rex Ford in the 180B rounded out the big 2WDs as did Lance Donald for the mid-sized motors, Lance hopes to get out and do a few more local sprint events this year which will be good to see.

Brent Tiney (or was that Pasi Hagstrom as the signwriting suggested?) got the BDA all crossed up in the first corner in run 2, and giving it a flick to try to recover dug the wheels in and over she went. It was nice of BT to roll on the first corner so that recovery could be done quickly and the event continue with minimal stoppage, thanks BT! The damage didn’t look too bad so hopefully there’s not too many late nights to spend on it before the next event.

There was drama aplenty in the small cars. David “I’m not used to this” Fletcher put the Suzuki GTi into top spot in the class after run 1 by a mere2 tenths from Barry Deuart.  Graham Wilson had a spin on the first corner but came back in run 2 to edge within one tenth of Fletcher again setting the pace by a whisker. Wilson was pushing really hard in his last run, so hard that the very last corner was a bit overcooked and the tyre marks left behind by the monumental tank-slapper that saw him pull two three-sixties over the finish line will go down in history. Deuart in his own words “had a shocker” of a second run and in the third Fletcher took another second off his previous time. Deuart pulled off a blinder, improving a full 8 seconds between runs 2 and 3 to snatch the class victory from Fletcher by a second! It’s all on in the 1300’s this year. Shane Thornley joked that he’d worked out what the right hand pedal did and was having fun, and Matt Jansen was looking to improve a lot as he shaved 6 seconds off between run 1 and 2 but lost it on the final run. Jamie Powell’s wee red Starlet seemed to be having a bit of an issue with the steepness of the hill, but it’s his second ever event on gravel so things can and will improve for Jamie.

Dermot Martin had his ex-Deborah Kibble Evo 6 out for it’s first test and was sharing the car with Leigh Marston who had to put all preferences aside and came out swinging, propelling the car up the hill 5s quicker than it’s owner in the first run (apparently Dermot’s used to more grunt while Leigh has got used to making good with less!). A battle between the pair raged closely all day but in the end Leigh got the better run a second. Les Summerfield improved 10 seconds between first and last runs in the WRX and was closest to the top spot.

Stu Weeber came into the event declaring to the secretary he wanted to be put near the back “because I’m slow”. He proved himself very wrong, winning the impressive trophy for first overall, first in every run in his WRX hillclimb special even though he claims he was taking it a bit easier past the smiling races of our Rangiora Rotary marshals so they wouldn’t get too dusty! The win bodes well for Stu’s assault on the Race to the Sky at Easter. Congratulations and well done.

The results were as follows:

1st Stu Weeber (WRX) 1m32.15s
2nd Les Summerfield (WRX) 1m34.08s
3rd Leigh Marston (Evo 6,..no, not a typo!) 1m36.54s

The 4WD class got shared around a bit as the prizes donated by Repco Burnside and the Hororata Hotel were plentiful.
1st Dermot Martin (Evo 6)  1m37.59s
2nd Darryl Campbell (Evo 1) 1m38.30s
3rd Luke McHaffie (Celica GT4) 1m38.64s

2WD 1600+cc
1st Brent Buist (Ford Escort) 1m36.88s
2nd Glenn Buist (Ford Escort) 1m37.10s
3rd Ross Teesdale (Sprinter) 1m39.35s

2WD 1301-1600cc
1st Tony Morrison (Accord) 1m40.62s
2nd Andrew Sim (Corolla) 1m41.27s
3rd John Weir (Accord) 1m41.49s

2WD 0-1300cc
There was a “clerical error” at the prizegiving, Barry Deuart had a blinder and took out the class win!

1st Barry Deuart (120Y) 1m47.42s
2nd David Fletcher (Suzuki GTi) 1m48.19s
3rd Graham Wilson (Starlet) 1m49.62s

Thanks go to Andrew Sim (organiser), David Fletcher (secretary, setup, timing), Shane Thornley (setup), Brent Buist (setup, scrutineering, packup), Les Summerfield (scrutineering), John Weir (scrutineering and packup shovel man), Michelle Reid (documentation and setup), Kieron Telford (documentation), Derek Simpson (recovery vehicle and start line), Tony Witheridge (timing), Barry Deuart (packup), Rangiora Rotary and Graham Wilson (marshals), Dermot Martin (packup), Stewart Bufton (setup, timing, packup) and Andrew Bufton (packup). Thanks also to St. John Ambulance, the Selwyn District Council, Julian Evans for the use of his paddock, and everyone who helped run this great event.