Cust hard in the rain
By Ross Teesdale
Rain made life difficult for drivers at the recent Cust gravel sprint held by Canterbury’s Autosport Club. A 4 km bit of gravel that had not been used by the club since the 1990’s awaited the 32 drivers who turned out. Cust is a small settlement 50 km’s by road to the North-West of Christchurch.
With the two long high speed straights with kinks, bravery would be required as you decided whether to hit the kinks at 140 km/h, 150 km/h or more still. Starting with a near 1km straight, the road would reward those with good drive off the line and good judgement under brakes. A high top end speed was also helpful but good drive again came into play through a series of tight and slow 90 degree corners, several with culvert crossings on exit guarded by concrete abutments, one of which was waiting in the dark among trees at the end of second long straight.
Local NZRC drivers Matt Summerfield and Richard Baddock brought their Subaru’s out to play, while Jeff Judd had his Impreza there too and was hoping to give the younger guys a run for their money. With 16 Subaru’s and Evo’s in the field it would be a hot contest for the win.
A thick coating of gravel meant the early times varied depending on your run order. Running in the second bunch Summerfield set the early pace while new guy Matt Penrose was second after the first run, helped by running near the rear of the field. Baddock and Judd were also on the pace despite running first and second over the road.
Starting run two the road was now mostly swept and the rain eased at times, then came back with enthusiasm. Many drivers complained that they could not see well with the high speed causing wipers to lift off their windscreens, but everyone got through run two without major incident. Baddock took over the lead from Summerfield who was using the event to test various set ups. Judd jumped to third but had Penrose and Leigh Marston knocking on the door in their Impreza’s, along with Rodney Lang and Gary Hawkes in their Evo’s.
In the class battles Brent Tiney had his RS1800 BDA at the top of the 2WD’s, 2 seconds ahead of Ross Teesdale’s AE86, with Jim Hewlett’s BDA 5 seconds further back in third. Wade Henshaw would have been expected to be on the pace too, but had retired his RX7 with a broken exhaust header.
In the 1600 class Josh Mitchell was driving hard in his Starlet to lead the class ahead of Nigel Tyson’s KE70 Corolla and Dean Pester’s classic Mk1 Escort. Pester’s Escort has a significant history, it was Jeff Judd’s first rally car in 1982 and used by Pester in the Silver Fern Rally in the 90’s.
As usual, run three would be the time to put the lessons learned in the first two runs into practise, put together a clean run and get your best time. Richard Baddock made no mistake to win the event by 8/10ths from Summerfield. Judd took third another 2.5 seconds back and commented at prize giving that the younger blokes had kicked his butt. That was a bit harsh on yourself Juddy, they are doing big miles in their cars at NZRC events.
With the top three not eligible for class prizes, Matt Penrose won the 4WD class. It was another impressive display from the ex-Formula Ford SI Champ in his third event on gravel. Hawkes just managed to beat home Lang for second, with Lang third driving the Evo3 he acquired from Hawkes when Hawkes upgraded to his Evo9.
The battle of the sideways brigade in Open 2WD was won by Brent Tiney, with Jim Hewlett second, while Teesdale spun away his chances in the last run allowing Merv Hatcher into third in his Starion Turbo. Josh Mitchell dominated the 1600 class, winning ahead of Tyson with Pester holding on to third. The 1300 class was won by Jamie Powell followed by Shane Thornley and Kyle Robertson – all driving Starlets.
The rain made Cust hard, but despite the high speed and tricky bits it did not turn to custard for anyone. Most drivers enjoyed the opportunity to find the top speed of their cars.