Before I go too much further I should point out my proof reader is asleep, so I’m posting this without having it checked. I thought I’d warn you as apparently my last article was riddled with mistakes! Lets hope I’ve done better with this one. I rush the writing part in an effort to get the images and videos posted as quickly as possible.
As the Silver Fern doesn’t come this way too often I decided to take the day off work on Monday and go and see the drivers take on the Mighty Motu Road. We got up early and headed off to Opotiki. We got held up a couple of time with roadworks etc and arrived later than expected. We also wanted to support our local driver Andrew Shrimpton.
Luckily Linda Loughlin was on the start crew for this stage and had warned us the day before that the start had been moved by 4kms due to some logging operations. We made our way up the road slowly as there were lots of blind bends that we couldn’t see around and as the road was still open didn’t want to have an head on accident.
Before long the road narrowed to a one lane and started to climb, leaving some very steep drop offs on the passenger side. Just as it got really narrow we met a logging truck coming the other way. There was a tiny pull in just in front of me so I headed for that. I squeezed in as tight as I could. It was a little off putting as the camber of the road at this point was making the car lean towards the drop off. Normally I’d worry about my wing mirror being taken off, but this time I was praying the edge of the road would withhold the weight of my Land Rover. The truck managed to get past (just!) which was quite a relief.
Eventually we reached the new start point and spoke to Linda who let me know that we wouldn’t see any more logging trucks ahead of us. She informed us that the road would be closed at 11.15, so we had to get a move on to find a good spot. I was hoping to get to the water crossing, which was at least 20kms into the stage. We got going but soon realised that we weren’t going to be able to go too fast.
The road was still open meaning cars could come around the bends from the opposite direction. In fact at one point we met one guy who clearly had issues slowing up as he skidded towards us.. Once he stopped and we were able to pass him he gave me a filthy look as if it were all my fault he ended up out of control! As we continued, all I could think of was that TV program about the world most dangerous roads, and how the Motu Road could have featured on that program!
The road was narrow and rough. There were BIG drops on our left and sheer rocks to our right. This was a road that would punish you big time if you made a mistake. I totally take my hat off to every single driver who has ever taken on this road under competition conditions!!
Progress was slow and we were conscious of Linda’s waring about being off the road before the Safety car came through closing the road. We pushed on determined to reach the water crossing. The road kept climbing, climbing with no sign of heading down towards a stream. After what seemed like ages we did drop down toward some open flatter terrain – we’d made it – The water crossing was just around the next bend. I cruised around the bend and my heart sank – there was the crossing but NO WATER!!!
We quickly decided to keep going to find a good corner to stand on( the next best thing to the water crossing) All the time we were running out of time. We found heaps of bends but we couldn’t find anywhere to put the car out the way. It was looking like we would have to keep driving out of the stage and move onto the next one. No sooner we decided that we came across a left hand bend with an area to get the car off the road and out the way. We quickly stopped and got out to start checking it out. Within a minute or two we could hear the sirens of the safety car. Before long he came passed, followed behind by the taping crew who taped off the area our car was in. We worked out the best places to stand and got ready. I stood on the approach to the corner and had a GoPro to film it (see below) and Dad (Paul) and Dylan were around the bend filming and shooting from another angle. Paul will send his images in soon as I know he’s got some good ones! Dylan’s movie filming skills still continue to impress me for an 11yr old (also see below)
After a while we could hear the first car coming. We started to hear it probably 5 minutes before it arrived. I was expecting the likes of Jeff Judd to come through, but the first car on the scene was Brent Taylor in his Corolla. It looked fast and tidy, and his car was sounding great. Jeff arrived 2 or 3 cars later. He was (as expected) flying. His Escort stepped out on approach to the corner I was on. It looked like his mudflap was coming off. He threw the car into the left hander with complete confidence. It looked awesome. His mudflap did fly off at this point! Dylan wanted to pick it up and post it back in case Jeff wanted to put it back on, but it got left behind when we left.
The cars came through thick and fast. I was amazed how close they were running to each other considering we were a good 30kms into the stage! I enjoyed watching the field come through and was thankful the forecasted rain had not arrived. Once the road opened up we quickly got going to try and get to the Whakarua Stage. We followed the safety car out of the stage. After 5 minutes we came around the bend to find the road blocked and an ambulance with its light. The ambulance man signalled the thumbs up to a second ambulance which pulled up behind us.
We saw a Driver / Co-Driver getting into the medical car. As the cars pulled away there was the other crew man stood at the side of the road with the helmets on the grass. It was only as we got right on-top of the corner he was standing on we could see that their car had slid off the road and was wedged on its side being held by the trees. Given the size of the drops off the road we’d already seen they were very lucky indeed to have stopped where they did. At least both were OK.
Once we were out of the stage we quickly checked the map to find Whakarua Road – The last stage of the day. As luck would have it, it was just a couple of kms down the road. We arrived and got out to find the weather had changed. it was now very windy and cold. We wrapped up and headed into the stage. The start crew told us the first car was only 10 minutes away so we had better get a move on. As we walked into the stage that rain started and very quickly it turned into a heavy downpour. We just had to stop where we were as we could hear the first car getting ready. Paul managed to walk around the next bend so we would get some different shots.
The rain decided not to let up through the whole stage, but did let up when it was time to walk back out. On the way out we bumped into a chap called Jamie. Turns out Jamie had flown in from Scotland to follow the Silver Fern Rally for the week. Now that’s keen!! He had a camera so I mentioned this site and asked if he would do a small write up and include some of his photos of the whole event. If he does send something to me I will get it up on the site right away for all to see.
I throughly enjoyed the couple days of the event we managed to see and cant wait see another one. Who knows maybe one year I’ll have a go!