by Greg Browne
With the two rallies combined this year, with a format of 2 stages this side of the hill run twice, and two in the Wairarapa also run twice, this rally was going to be a blast. Each competitor able to race the clock for overall honours, points for Geartech Central Regions rally Series and the bonus of being able to challenge themselves beating their own previous times on the day. From an Organisers point of view, only four stages to man / run and clean up after… got to be the way of the future, with less volunteers available and the local councils almost requiring blood to get consent to run these events.
With the first 2 stages based between Pohangina and Apiti, crews set up in Pohangina and ate some local snarlers from the charity BBQ.. The stages were mildly moist at best after over night precipitation had been organised to keep the dust down.. Slippy but entertaining, especially the iconic Ridge Road 30km marathon. Contrasting the Manawatu Mud, the Mauriceville stages were dry, dusty and very fast…. awesome!!
At the start of stage 5 many of the rally organisers come over for a yarn (especially when your ride is a bit 2nd hand , it’s hard not to start up chit-chat with the guys (and gals) we see at each event.. But the unexpected story of this being the last rally these guys will be organising was a shot through the heart… this team had been organising the events for 13 years, in the latter years 2 a year, they’re in need of a well-deserved break. The community input from local Business’s has been huge, and the rally was dependent on this to make it a viable, the Wairarapa think its time the locals had a break too. (However, the rally sickness is a hard one to remedy, I’m picking a few will be back at it in a few years… I HOPE) …
As a club rally competitor we run further down the field, as the fast boys (usually NZ Rally Competitors..) run first… but I think we put on a better spectacle, more mistakes, dents , crashes etc.. the crowd pleasers.. The officials show no bias towards us, we are an equal to our faster rivals, even if we don’t drive $100,000 4wd jeeps at the pointy end of the field.. we pay like any other driver for the privilege of rallying….
Due to the fact I drive a Honda rally car, the most unloved breed of all cars (apparently), Bevan Parker ( my co-driver) get lots of love thrown at us… we thrive on it.. This rally was tough one for us. A couple of love taps, and some gardening road side spoilt our aero package in Special Stage 3, leaving the old girl blind, and battered in the back… Yes, just the driver finding the limits of our screaming love child.. To rub salt into the wound some insulation tape found its way into the throttle body jamming the throttle at full noise… very exciting!! Stopping for 4 odd minutes mid stage to unjam things was not on the plan, or was limping to the end of the stage while the engine consumed its plastic smoko. This left the engine down on horses, and a engine check light on for the rest of the day. “Bugger it” I said to the crew, I’m not stopping , I’m driving it as hard as it will go till it blows, we were thinking we were last by now anyway.
As luck would have it some perseverance / ignorance and character building driving later we emerged 41st from 69 starters.. 3rd in class B overall and still 1st in class B in the Central Regions Series.. quite unbelievable and sobering.. And we still drove the car back to Palmy at the end.
I LOVE Rallying, not just for the adrenalin buzz, but also the comradery amongst competitors, the great family of organisers, and of course the spectators.. this rally had hundreds lining the road.. really great to see. We will miss our local Rally, and can only thank Wairarapa Car club and the Manawatu car club for all those hours involved letting us gravel junkies fulfil our dreams… Have a good break, and wait for the upcoming “Bring it Back Buck campaign”