Balancing speed with risk is the challenge according to championship leader Richard Mason as the 2014 Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship driven by VINZ heads to the rolling hills and forest tracks of the Drivesouth Rally of Otago next weekend. The two day event contested over 283 kilometers of special stages is famous for its smooth fast roads punctuated by daunting crests and twisting bends to challenge New Zealands best rally drivers.
Masterton driver Mason who leads the championship after victory in the opening round at Whangarei has several years of experience on the demanding Otago stages. “Otago is a difficult challenge. It’s a real balance between driving flat-out and using your head due to the changes in rhythm from extremely fast sections to difficult corners over crests. It’s easy to be caught out” stated Mason.
This year’s Drivesouth Rally of Otago commences with a Rally Show and Ceremonial Start in Dunedins Octagon on Friday evening before heading to the Lawrence and Milton areas on Saturday for six gravel public road stages including a monster 49 kilometer test at Manuka Hill. The always popular tarmac Super Special stage with four laps of a city block concludes the day’s action, before a further eight stages on Sunday including the events signature stage Kuri Bush, a 15 kilometer rollercoaster of huge crests and flowing bends that reward the brave. The victory celebrations will be held from 3pm on Sunday afternoon outside the Dunedin Railway Station for those who master the Southern challenge.
Mason, a four times national rally champion and a three time winner of the Otago event (2007, 2008 and 2012) will be the benchmark for the chasing pack, as competition in the New Zealand Rally Championship takes on a fresh look in 2014 with a number of new drivers challenging at the front of the field. 22 year old Canterbury Subaru driver Matt Summerfield is currently second in the championship after a fast and consistent run at Whangarei, while 19 year old Lance Williams from Te Aroha, competing in his Rookie Championship season is third after an impressive opening performance.
Others to show great speed at the opening round who will feature in the battle over the Southern roads are David Holder from Tauranga who lead overall briefly on day one at Whangarei in his maiden 4WD outing, leg two winner Rotorua’s Sloan Cox, Tauranga’s Phil Campbell who ran in the top three on both legs, and former national champion Chris West who has four previous wins on the Otago stages. Nelson Subaru driver and podium finisher at Otago last year, Ben Hunt will be looking to kick off his championship campaign after mechanical issues halted his opening round charge, whilst Dunedin’s Emma Gilmour will be looking to show the speed of her Suzuki Swift Maxi on home roads.
With two legs of competition and at least a dozen drivers capable of outright victory, the Otago Rally is again set to provide an exciting weekend of competition for the challengers in the 2014 Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship driver by VINZ.
Adding to the spectacle and always a major drawcard of the Otago event is the Stadium Cars/Ssangyong International Classic Rally held in conjunction with the NZ Championship round. 2013 National Champion Hayden Paddon will take a break from his Hyundai World Championship rally program to contest the Classic Rally at the wheel of a BDA Escort. New Zealand rally fans will line the stages to see Paddon in action against 1994 World Rally Champion the flying Frenchman Didier Auriol who will pilot a Ford Escort, and 2013 Otago Classic Rally winner Neal Bates, a former Australian Rally Champion driving a classic Toyota Celica. Leading competitor in the Classic division of the National Championship, Marcus Van Klink will also line up at the front of the Classic rally field in his potent Group B Mazda RX7.
The Drivesouth Rally Otago provides great spectator viewing opportunities with a number of Spectator vantage points. A rally map is available free to download from the event website www.otagorally.net , or it can be collected from rally headquarters at The Southern Cross Hotel, High Street Dunedin. Spectators are reminded to follow the instructions of marshals and ensure they stand well clear of the road’s edge – inside the taped off viewing areas.
The 2014 Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship driven by VINZ is contested over six rounds commencing in April at Whangarei, followed by events in Dunedin, Christchurch, Masterton, Whitianga and wrapping up in the Manawatu in late September.