While one of the world’s great marathon events – the Sydney to London Marathon Rally – has recently passed through Australia, many on that side of the Tasman are now turning their thoughts to another iconic marathon event, the epay Silver Fern Rally 2014, which takes place in the South Island of New Zealand in November.
Five Australian crews have entered to date, three in the epay Silver Fern Rally, one in the Challenge and one in the Silver Frond. Aussie rally legend Ed Mulligan along with a two car team of father and son John and David Hills tackle the full rally while Michael Conway/Jenny Cole will tackle the Challenge while Tony Quinn of Highlands Motorsport Park fame will contest the shorter three day Silver Frond in conjunction with the rally.
David Hills will be contesting his fifth Silver Fern in 2014. That number of campaigns underlines that he is a big fan of the event. His highlight came two years ago when he finished third overall. Hills has also contested the New Zealand National Championship in a Group N car in 2008 and has also competed in another of the world’s iconic marathon events, the Classic East African Safari. What keeps him coming back to New Zealand for the Silver Fern? “It’s the roads, the distances and the scheduling,” he says without hesitation. Hills, of Sydney, returns in a two-car team of Ford Escort RS1800’s with his father John Hills at the wheel of the other. “We are definitely looking forward to it,” says David.
While Hills is a regular, Michael Conway and Jenny Cole are at the opposite end of the spectrum. A top performing and experienced crew from Victoria, the pair are making their first foray to the epay Silver Fern Rally.
Mike and Jenny met through the Ford Four Club in Australia. Mike was in the tarmac side racing against the man who would eventually become Jenny’s husband while Jenny was on the gravel side of the club. Both went on to experience much success Michael as a driver, Jenny as a co-driver.
Mike and Jenny teamed up after the Red Centre to Gold Coast marathon rally in 2008. Among their achievements is leading the 2013 Alpine Rally before a series of problems and placing second on the 2013 Coffs Harbour WRC event behind Neal Bates, winning a stage in the process. Mike has won the Classic Section of Targa Tasmania and was the 2009 Victorian Historic Rally Champion while Jenny won the Victorian Championship in 2008 and co-drove in the 2003 Targa NZ with motorsport legend Peter Brock, a highlight at the time and even moreso since his untimely death.
“We have booked our flights and are excited to be coming over,” says Jenny. “Mike crewed for Geoff Portman (a two-time Australian Rally Champion) at the last Silver Fern so he knows what it is like.” Portman and several other high profile Australian rally identities will crew for Conway and Cole this time.
“The car is pretty competitive and it is an iconic event. It is a bit of a bucket list thing for us. Because of Silver Fern we will do little rallying in Australia this year. New Zealand roads can bite,” says Jenny, “every road is different.” That was proven when the pair did the Otago Classic Rally in 2010 crashing on Danseys Pass, an incident made worse when another car landed on top of theirs. They resumed the next day and found a stage where great respect was required. They gave the stage that respect and after negotiating the worst of it they rolled on the last corner, basically because they were going too slow.
While the Silver Fern Rally Historic Trophy is specifically for 2-wheel-drive cars that comply with various historic criteria the New Zealand Silver Fern Challenge caters for 2-wheel-drive cars that comply with the Motorsport New Zealand Schedule A safety requirements. That allows many different 2-wheel-drive cars and the organisers encourage a range of cars such as Ford Fiesta’s, Honda Civic’s, Peugeot’s, Suzuki Swift’s, Toyota Corolla’s, Nissan Pulsar’s – the more diverse the better!
The epay Silver Fern Rally 2014 will start from Picton on Saturday 8 November 2014. That night competitors will stay in Blenheim before crossing the island the following day to overnight in Westport on Sunday night. Competitors will then head back across the island on Monday to spend the following evening in Christchurch. Timaru, Dunedin and Invercargill are the destinations for the next three nights before the rally travels into the magnificent southern lakes area with a Friday night stopover in Wanaka. The rally ends on Saturday 15 November in Queenstown.
The epay Silver Fern Rally 2014 consists of the New Zealand Silver Fern Historic Trophy for 2-wheel-drive cars that comply with various historic criteria as listed in the event regulations and the New Zealand Silver Fern Challenge which caters for 2-wheel-drive cars that comply with the Motorsport New Zealand Schedule A safety requirements. Within each of those sections there are various classes.
The rally will cover 1250 kilometres of competitive Special Stages over eight days and organisers are promising some new stages and new locations along with some roads that have been used previously but in differing configurations. The epay Silver Fern Rally provides competitors with a fantastic rally experience amidst some awe inspiring scenery, .
The rally enjoys support from epay, Malcove, Kiwimaps and Brita Safety.