This was my first time going to the Hawkes Bay Rally, and I wasn’t really sure what to expect. As I hadn’t been there before we (the whole family) arrived the day before so I could have a chance to have a look at a couple of the stages to work out where would be a good vantage point.
We drove SS4/6 first. This started off on a hard packed surface which looked very fast and flowing. This was going to be a fast stage. As we cruised through, the road began to climb where about 12kms in, it started to get tighter and the surface became loose gravel. There were heaps of places that would make great photos, but nowhere to stand safely. The odd few places I did find I chose not to shoot there as it would be direct into the sun, which is quite low in the sky this time of year. The scenery was amazing, and the views from up the top of the ridge were outstanding.
After SS4/6 we drove down SS3/5 as we headed back towards town and our accommodation. There were a couple of good spots here (or so I thought!) so decided that’s where we would head back to on Rally Day, knowing we would be locked into the stage once the road was closed.
Back at the motel we worked out our plan of action and figured we could cover SS3, SS5, SS7, and SS9 if we were lucky. With that done it was beer o’clock and a bit of socializing with Ian Wood, Heather Wise and families.
Next morning we were up and out early – on the road by 06:30, to make sure we were in on SS3 before the road closure at 07:40. The place we had marked as a good spot turned out to be the mid point radio so we had some company while we waited for the first car which was due at 09:00. It’s always nice to meet and chat to the volunteers who generously give up their time to help out and make the event happen for the rest of us to enjoy.
The farmer also kindly allowed us to go out into his paddock where there was a great view of the cars as they came along the stage. Dylan managed to get some video footage from here but unfortunately his panning technique still needs a little practice. I’ll try to upload the footage in a few days. In the meantime, I have uploaded some footage taken on a static GoPro.
The first car through was Stewart Taylor. He took the corner fantastically and gave me a great shot. I soon realized however that the spot I thought was good might not work out. There was heaps more dust than I expected, and unfortunately I was stood in a small glade of trees where the dust refused to blow away in time for the next car, so unfortunately a lot of the shots I took at this point are not so good. Bugger!
Dylan Turner was next through. It was clear he had a problem as he was cruising in comparison to his usual speed, along with his hazard lights going. After a few more cars had gone through it was clear Sloan Cox was missing. I tried to hook into Chrissport on my mobile but the signal was very hit and miss. I eventually saw he was having overheating issues, which would end his day prematurely. Another early casualty was Wayne Pittams. He came past very slowly, clearly suffering with an issue and with Mike Goldsbury right behind him. I believe Wayne had a brief encounter with a bank causing a mechanical issue, but fixed it and got upto speed again in the following stages.
Dave Strong was pushing hard and could be heard coming for quite a while. It’s amazing just how that car revs! He arrived into the corner very aggressively and ended up very wide indeed. Great commitment Dave! Another totally committed driver through here was Campbell Wright in his Holden Commodore. He was really throwing that big V8 around!
We moved up the road a bit for the repeat of the stage (now SS5) to try and find somewhere safe to stand and away from the dust. Even up on the hill where there was some open space and a breeze, there wasn’t enough to keep the dust away, but it was much better than the previous. Again from here Dylan had great views of the cars with the movie camera, although I think the wind ended up killing the sound, but will post what he shot in a few days..
As soon as this stage was complete it was off to SS7 – Triple Bridges. We arrived just in time before the road was closed. As we drove into the stage the first corner looked interesting, but I wanted to look further in. Not too much further in there was a large(ish) puddle most of the way across the road. This had potential if the drivers would go through it, but there was just enough room around the edge if they didn’t want to go into it. As it was damp all around I figured they had been hitting it in the morning so thought I would try it. I did drive a little further in case there was something better, where I bumped into Robert Simpson, a fellow photographer. After a brief chat I checked the time and decided to go back to the water splash.
As the first car (Stewart Taylor) came towards me on this very fast section leading up to the splash, he was all set to go around the edge by the look of it, but at the last minute he moved across and hit it full on! I’m not sure if he did it because he saw me standing there or it was just a better line for him – either way I didn’t care, it looked great. Car after car that came past did the exact same thing and hit the splash. There were a few that chose not to, and I don’t blame them as the ones that had hit definitely got unsettled by it with the occasional car bouncing up onto two wheels briefly! Tony McConachy’s Starlet Hyabusa sounded great as he barreled down towards me. The way he took that far corner was amazing to see – he had complete and total commitment. Absolutely fantastic to see!
As the drivers went off and did SS8 (tar seal stage), we headed off to the Hawkes Bay Car Club and their track which would be the final stage of the day – SS9. Timing was pretty good, arriving only minutes before the first cars were due. The daylight was starting to fade now as the day drew to a close, so it was good the cars were coming through the stage quite quickly. I was impressed just how much speed everyone was able to manage on such a tight and twisty track. It looked pretty slippery in places too. Nigel Adams caught the tyres on the first bend, dislodging his bumper which eventually fell off completely not far past me. Graham Featherstone and Wayne Pittams set their cars up into the hairpin bend with a lot of enthusiasm, throwing their cars around with ease which is always good to see.
Ian Wood managed to ride up the bank a little when he couldn’t get the rear of the car to come around, but survived without too much of a delay. Hugh Spence managed to hit the last tyre on the way out of the hairpin, bouncing the car up and over it and doing a small amount of damage to the bumper, but probably more damage to his pride!
Total Lubricants had arranged for a couple of young ladies in appropriate attire to welcome the drivers home at the end of a long days racing – something I’m sure was very much appreciated by all!
That just leaves my “Sideways Driver of the Day”. Its always a tough call when you see how well people drive, but this was made even harder this time as there were a couple of drivers who caught my eye through sheer commitment and flair. The two that stood out for me were Ric Chalmers in his Honda Civic and Campbell Wright in his Holden Commodore. I know I’m going to get a whole heap of stick for this at home as a recent discussion (argument!) ended with me saying “of course Fords are better – how many Holdens do you see rallying! Campbell you are my driver of the day for the way you were throwing that big V8 around which was awesome to watch – (email me for your print) – Well done.
Congratulations to Stewart Taylor for coming 1st with Robbie Leicester 2nd and Geoff Argyle 3rd. Full results here.
Thanks very much to the sponsors for making and supporting the event, but most of all thanks to Hawkes Bay Car Club and all volunteers for making it a great event. We will be back next year!
See you all at Daybreaker
Static footage from a GoPro – SS3
More static footage from the GoPro – SS5
Some in car footage from Lee Robson
Some in car footage from Lyndsay Homes
Some in car footage from Marty Smith – Good save Marty!