2020 Westland Rally winning pairing of Josh Marston and Andrew Graves head into this Saturday’s Carter’s Tyre Service Westland Rally as odds-on favourites. The rally is the opening round of the fiercely contested Mainland Rally Championship and serves as a good shakedown for NZ Rally Championship competitors and local drivers.
The Cantabrians Holden Barina AP4 car will lead out a strong 53-car field for the eight Special Stages run in the Grey District.
“I’m looking forward to it,” commented Marston. “We expect the competition to be really fast so should be a good day out.
“There is nothing like ‘seat-time’, it’s really good preparation for both the NZ and Mainland Rally Championships.
“We aim to give both championships a really good nudge this year. We keep evolving the car and hopefully going faster.”
With the late withdrawal of the Matt Summerfield/Nicole Summerfield (Mitsi Mirage AP4) entry, competition for Marston and Graves will come from second on the road Regan Ross/Katrina Renshaw (Ford Fiesta) and third seed Sean Haggarty/Sean Sands (Subaru WRX).
In the two-wheel-drive category, Christchurch’s Deane Buist/Karl Celeste (VW Golf Gti) go into the rally as top seed with the notable absence this year of Marcus van Klink and his distinctive sounding rotary engined Mazda RX8. Second top 2WD on the road are locals Graham Ferguson/Ross Moody (Ford Escort RS1800) from Greymouth. Other local competitors include Cleve Kokshoorn/Roy Large (Toyota Trueno), Jussara Kokshoorn/Pania Huntly (Mitsi Evo 5) and Eddie Gray/Josh Skafer (Ford Escort RS1800).
Making the switch from 4WD to 2WD is young gun Robbie Stokes who will be piloting a very quick Ford Escort his father, Brian, competed in the Silver Fern Rally. The Ford Escort is still a popular choice with 11 entered.
The 2021 Mainland Rally Championship comprises six rounds with overall and class titles to be decided for both driver and co-drivers. Vehicles are divided up into six different classes according to engine size, year of manufacturer and two or four-wheel drive.
Next up after the Westland Rally is Rally Otago (Saturday only) in April followed by Rally Canterbury (6 June), Rally South Canterbury (19 June), Rally Hanmer (25 September) and either Catlins or Lawrence Rally (T.B.A.) (15 November).
The rally starts at 9am this Saturday at the Recreation Hotel, Greymouth, with the first stage starting, near Kamaka, underway at 9:30am. The rally comprises eight Special Stages totalling approximately 104km with 158km of touring and will finish back in Greymouth.