As the Eastern Southland Car Club celebrate their 60th year the reputation of their premier event, the Catlins Coast Rally, has been confirmed with another huge entry list with eighty-nine cars expected to be on the startline on Saturday.
It is a very even field with a winner very difficult to pick.
Andrew Graves of Gore is the top seed and will lead the field away from Owaka Motors at 10am on Saturday. Graves, a two-time winner of the Catlins Coast Rally, has not driven in the event since his last victory in 2013 nor has he driven in any event since last October. However if he can find his old pace he will be hard to beat in his Mitsubishi EVO 3.
At two is one of New Zealand’s most versatile motorsport competitors, Jeff Judd of Christchurch while fellow Cantabrian Richard Baddock is at three. While Baddock has a best result of second at Catlins he is in what is essentially a club car after a huge accident destroyed his own car at Canterbury in June.
Deane Buist of Christchurch is the first 2-wheel-drive competitor at four in his Ford Escort MK2. Buist, the current leader of the Mainland Rally Series, was second last year. He will be followed away by Derek Ayson of Gore in his Nissan powered Escort, another very quick competitor, and like Buist a past winner in 4-wheel-drive machinery.
Kaikoura driver Regan Ross is next in his Escort ahead of Mike Verdoner of Balclutha in yet another Escort, returning after a huge accident in last year’s event. David Clearwater of Christchurch is next in his EVO 4 followed by Barry Mills/Mark Allington of Balclutha in Mills’ very rapid Hillman Avenger. Rounding out the top ten is another Christchurch driver in a Ford Escort, Robert McCallum.
At twelve is the 2015 NZ Rally Champion Ben Hunt. A former Rally New Zealand Rising Star Scholarship winner, Junior National Rally Champion and 2-wheel-drive Champion, Hunt is driving a Jeff Judd Subaru WRX rather than his regular mount. Behind him are another NZRC pairing, Matt and Nicole Summerfield of Christchurch, enjoying a fun outing in an standard, earlier model, Subaru rather than their championship car.
There are several other entries of note. At twenty-five and twenty-six are two former National Rally Champions – Bruce Herbert of Palmerston North and Brian Stokes of Waikuku. Herbert won four national titles in a row from 2000 to 2003 and Stokes two, in 1985 and 1988. Both will be in Ford Escorts.
Behind Stokes is a kiwi now domiciled in Australia, Mike Townsend, son of former successful competitor, Roger Townsend. Townsend has crossed the Tasman before to compete at Catlins and the club is delighted to have him back. The first female to win the Group N National Rally title, Deborah Kibble of Waimate starts at thirty-nine and Australian Peter Leicht is seeded at sixty-one in a Datsun 1600.
The CEO of Motorsport New Zealand, Brian Budd will also compete as a co-driver sitting alongside Greg Keen of Dunedin.
The event is Round 4 of the Clearwater Painting Mainland Rally Championship and also part of the Eastern Southland Car Club’s Rally Championship.
The 2016 rally is scheduled to depart from Owaka Motors in Campbell Street, Owaka at 10am on 6 August. The rally will be based in Owaka this year with servicing of the rally cars taking place in the township between stages. Six Special Stages await competitors this year.
Major support for the 2016 Catlins Coast Rally comes from Rosebank Lodge Balclutha, Fulton Hogan, Owaka Motors, Yuasa Batteries, AG & Auto Direct and Monit Rally Computers.
by Lindsay Beer