by Ross Teesdale
The fifth and final round of the 2016 Autosport Club Gravel Sprint series saw 5 drivers take their cars home with accident damage, three of which were badly damaged. Thirty-four drivers took part in the 4km Kaiwara Rd sprint which provides a twisting and challenging public road with several bridges including a bridge with no sides which is approached downhill at high speed.
The event would be the first round of Motorsport NZ’s annual Hillclimb Championship, Adding further interest to the event, Marcus Van Klink would have his first run on gravel in his new triple rotor Mazda RX8, and Deane Buist also took part driving Van Klink’s Classic RX7 as well as Glenn Buist’s BDA at the event.
Starting the 4WD’s first on the road, there was quickly concern as the first aid ute took off to check on the first crash of the day. Sam Hurley was fifth on the road but got caught out at the finish line and demolished a large section of farm fence in his Evo. There is just the slightest brow as you approach the finish which hides a sudden move to the left and back to the right. Hurley’s car was quite badly damaged and would be out for the day, but no one was hurt. From there on all drivers would be warned to take care there. That did not stop David Kirk bending the front of his Evo as he widened the hole already opened in the fence. Wade Henshaw in his RX7 and Richard Towse in his Sunny would also make use of the fence gap opened by Hurley but got way without damage. More incidents were to follow.
Mike Tall was the fastest in run one in his Evo4 powered Mirage, followed by Matt Summerfield in his Impreza and Job Quantock in the family Evo7. Stu Weeber was also there or thereabouts in his Impreza. In the 2WD’s Deane Buist was fastest in Van Klink’s RX7 and also second fastest in his brother Glenn’s MK2 BDA. Deane Buist is getting to be a regular test driver for everyone’s Rally cars. You have to hand it to Deane, he got into the RX7 and was immediately five seconds quicker than anyone else. Ari Pettigrew in his BMW, Van Klink in the RX8 and Wade Henshaw in his RX7 were best of the rest early on.
Run two went without incident and saw Matt Penrose jump into the lead in his WRX, with a 3 second advantage over Tall and just under a second more over Summerfield. In the 2WD’s Buist went another 5 seconds quicker and took the BDA to the top of the 2WD times, half a second quicker than he was in the unfamiliar RX7 in run two. Of course Deane cant get first and second and only his first two runs in the BDA would be counted in the results. Meanwhile Van Klink was using the day to take people for rides and to learn the car on gravel, and was making similar pace to Pettigrew.
Things moved quickly in run two with the only incidents being Towse and Henshaw’s short cuts. Matt Penrose took his early 90’s Impreza to the top of the time sheets with just under 3 seconds over Tall. Summerfield was third, just under another second further back. Buist and Van Klink continued to put down more times which were effectively free practise and would not feature in the results.
Mike Tall took off for his last run keen to get his first Series round win for 2016. Photos and video show his run was a bit ragged in places and it ended in tears when he took out the remaining strainer post in the gateway at the finish line. There was no fence left beside the gateway before Tall arrived, but for whatever reason Tall continued to aim for the open gateway and missed. His car was now going to need serious chassis straightening. Mike and his co-driving wife Lorna were unhurt.
Matt Penrose has been second at several Autosport events this year. With a win it or bin it attitude Penrose threw everything at the last run. Penrose would set his fastest time of the day in the last run and would win the event and with it the Autosport Gravel Sprint Series for 2016, but not without incident.
Penrose ran the side of his car along a fence in his last run. Damage was mostly limited to the front corner and right side of the WRX and the fence escaped intact. Ironically his run two time would also have won him the event. More drama would follow.
Matt Summerfield made no mistakes to jump up to second overall for the day, but still over three seconds shy of Penrose. Tall took home third and a need for some costly hard work, while Weeber finished fourth. Job Quantock took fifth, having missed the last run.
The 2WD battle was settled early with Deane Buist’s second run in the BDA some five seconds quicker than second placed Ari Pettigrew. Pettigrew still beat home Van Klink in his new RX8, along with many other fast 2WD cars. Andrew Sim could say the same taking his 2litre Fiesta to third of the 2WD’s on the day and third in the series for Open 2WD.
Ari Pettigrew is the winner of the Open 2WD Class of the 2016 Autosport Club Gravel Sprint Series. It has been an outstanding rookie season for 17 year old Pettigrew. He is one of six young drivers to be invited to take part in training with Hyundai and Hayden Paddon, Ari currently lacking the rally experience to take part in the main part of the Hyundai NZ scholarship.
While on that subject, Matt Summerfield and Job Quantock were both selected among five drivers to be evaluated for the Hyundai NZ AP4 drive, and the fourth driver from Autosport Club to take part will be Chris McLean who like Ari Pettigrew will do the training part.
In the under 1600cc Class Josh Marston collected a clean sweep for 2016 to win the day and the series. Marston has been spectacular in the AE111 all year, his brother Nick explaining “he likes to be sideways because he says then the car will always turn”. Alistair McLean again took his Honda Civic to second in class and with it took second in the gravel sprint series. Alistair is father of the above mentioned Chris McLean and took on the sport as a senior rookie this year having seen the fun his son is having – well done Alistair, there’s a bit of talent in those genes. Taylor Judd continues the family tradition of going sideways and would take third of the 1600’s on the day but Nick Marston took third in the series in his rookie season, having been coached by his experienced and hard charging brother Josh.
Before the event was out the Medic Keith Troon would again be heading down the sprint course. The infamous bridge with no sides would have it’s day when Daryl Campbell went off the side in his Toyota Altezza. There is a tight 90 degree left hander onto that bridge meaning there is no escape and no room for error when braking from high speed for the slow entry to the bridge.
Campbell had his wife Anita beside him as usual, when they went off the side of the bridge and ended up on their roof around 3-4 metres below the road in a dry part of the creek bed. They too would be unhurt, but there was a hurried call to his panel beater as Campbell plans to take on the upcoming Silver Fern Rally in the Car.
Chris Herdman confirmed himself as the 1300cc winner of the day and the Gravel Series for the year. New guy Johnathon Taylor took a pleasing second in class in his KE30 Corolla while Peter Murch took third in his Starlet in his first event on gravel since the 1990’s.
If it goes around it comes around, and that was the case at the 2016 Kaiwara Rd Sprint when many drivers overstepped the mark. To add further interest the Autosport Club set a split time around 150 – 200 metres from the start line. The top 20 split times are shown below for the first two runs. The split time gear had to be moved to the finish for the last run after Mike Tall damaged the gear at the finish line – thus only the first two runs were recorded.
|Rank||Car No||First Name||Last Name||class||BEST Split||Run 1 Split||Run 2 Split|
|13||27||Marcus||Van Klink 2||3||00:10,069||00:10,069||00:10,309|
|14||7||Marcus||Van Klink 1||3||00:10,114||00:10,114||00:10,220|
|17||6||Deane||Buist – BDA||3||00:10,315||00:10,315||00:10,514|
Car number shows running order. Class 4 is 4WD, Class 3 is Open 2WD