By Ross Teesdale
Spectators got a feast of action at the Autosport Clubs 2015 running of the Ram Paddock Road gravel sprint on Sunday 26th April. A mean 7km piece of public road, Ram Paddock offers high speed brows and sweeping roads at the start, tight hill country action in the middle and fast stuff again at the finish. Some of the brows are big, many are small, a few of the little lumps reveal a tight corner that it’s too late to make if you haven’t got on the brakes beforehand. It’s a drivers road for sure.
Nine Real McCoy BDA Escorts would go past during each of the three timed runs, Derek Ayson would also go past twice in his FJ Nissan powered Group 4 Escort and Rob McCullum had his now Duratec powered Group 4 Escort also running. Add in Mike Tall (Evo 4), Matt Summerfield in his blue Impreza along with Jeff Judd in his Impreza and several other fast 4WD’s, for sure the action was going to be hot.
43 entries, 41 drivers and 37 cars started the event. Regan Ross in his Group 4 BDA and Ayson both double entered. They would go along the road up to 6 times each, making a great warm up for the upcoming Rally of Otago. FYI – everyone would like six runs, but double entries pay two entry fees and only their first three runs up the road count in the results.
Robert McCullum was given the back handed compliment of being first on the road in his Escort, followed by two of the 4WD’s and then most of the rest of the Escorts close behind. Recognising fair play, the two 4WD’s driven by Hawkes and Crowe let McCullum run behind them. McCullum must have been in a determined mood as he posted 4.24 in his first run, making him 4th outright in run one. Regan Ross and Derek Ayson both did 4.42’s learning the road. Summerfield, Tall and Judd all got better road running mid field, with Summerfield putting in a blinding 3.57 first up. Tall was ten seconds behind, with Judd just ahead of Mc Callum.
Ross Teesdale also took advantage of a better road in the mid pack, to sit in fifth for now in his Turbo and Supercharged Toyota AE86, one second behind McCallum. Trevor Crowe was next in his Impreza Ute, closely followed by Glenn Buist in his BDA. Gary Cowan had his AE86 ninth with a ¾ second lead in the 1600 class over Brent Buist in his smaller engined BDA.
Ayson and Ross did their second run at the rear of the 1st pack. Once everyone had a second go at the now swept road, a real view of who held the pace would emerge. The answer was Summerfield outright with 3.50 which left him with 7 seconds on Tall. Judd was best of the rest with 4.09 while Garry Hawkes moved his Evo9 up to 4th so far with 4.14.
Australian based Mike Townsend showed his speed after spinning in his first run and moved into 1st of the 2WD’s in run two, having his first drive in his father Rogers’ BDA. Regan Ross took over second in the 2WD’s while McCallum went off backwards and registered a DNF in run two. On the strength of run one times McCullum would remain 3rd of the 2WD’s in 8th outright so far, just ahead of Teesdale who had also spun up in run two. Cowan stayed just ahead of Brent Buist in the 1600 class, while event organisers Chris Herdman and Graham Wilson swapped places with their Starlets at the lead of the 1300 cc Class, with Wilson quicker second up.
Run 3 would be the decider and by now the fastest entries were hitting well over 180 km/h and keeping it flat over the sweeping brows. Summerfield again did the business getting down to a final time of 3.48 and winning the event, five seconds ahead of second placed Tall. Judd came back on a tow rope and would drop to 4th behind Matt Penrose. Penrose had put in a blinder in run three to register 4.05, after taking a sensible approach to learning the 7km of twists and turns early on. Hawkes would take 5th in his Evo 9 with 4.12. Crowe would be next of the 4WD’s in 8th, with a bunch of scrapping 2WD’s all around him.
Ross Teesdale made a statement in the final run in the boosted 4AGE to register 4.15, taking first of the 2WD’s and sixth outright. Mike Townsend took an impressive second in 2WD and 7th outright with 2.16, less than a second behind Teesdale. (see autosport.org.nz website for times down to hundredths). Mike was sharing the driving with Roger and scored one for the younger set, while knowing full well he would be unpopular if he bent it. Ayson would pick up pace as he bedded his car in for Otago and took third of the 2WD’s ahead of McCullum who had to put up with a misfire in his last run and finished a slightly disappointed 4th in 2WD – given his early pace on an unswept road he could have been hard to beat otherwise. Regan Ross took 5th in the hotly contested Open 2WD field, 1.5 seconds clear of Andrew Sim who was share driving Tony Fosters Fiesta with Tony.
Brent Buist won the 1600 cc Class, just ¼ second ahead of Garry Cowan. Josh Mitchell was next of the 1600’s to take 3rd in Class in his 4AGE powered Starlet. Chris Herdman climbed over Graham Wilson to win the 1300cc battle with Barry Deuart sliding his way to third in his 120Y Datsun.
What a day’s action. Regan Ross continuing to go faster as he practised the road and did all his six runs and Matt Summerfield battling with Mike Tall at full noise were all good reason to stay well back and enjoy the view. Summerfield made a point and goes to Otago in the right mood. Ayson, McCallum and Ross along with a whole lot more BDA’s were great to savour. With a field of well known names in hot cars, drive of day goes to Mike Townsend in his first drive in his Dad’s second love, with a mention for the guy in the Blown AE86 who made a meal of the BDA crowd for the day. See you on the sidelines at Rally of Otago.