The Big One! by Chris Alexander

After our DNF in Whangarei we were determined to finish the Gisborne rally. I went over the car with a fine tooth comb and no expense spared. Work commitments meant we decided not to do recce which would prove to be unwise on the roads in Gisborne.

After a good first stage we were ready for the Motu… well we nailed it !! yeah, what a good feeling as this stage had been talked up. I actually didn’t like it at all. It was rough and didn’t flow… A car breaker really. I felt every bump and bang. I have mechanical sympathy for my cars and just hoped it would hold together, and that we’d avoid a puncture.

So a few near misses and a half spin , we were through it. SS3 we had a good clean run through here and enjoyed the stage .. Posting a fairly good time at this level we were happy. Got to the last stage and I was very tuned into the car and ready to attack it. 13 kms into the stage I simply got it wrong!  going a lot faster and carried too much speed into a DGW,(recce would have helped me here).

The car was teetering on the edge of the road knocking over the cones, I gave it a bootful but this was futile as we started to tumble down the hill. We both had a second to look down as the car went over. It was a steep ravine and I knew it was game over. We were simply passengers. With several rollover and end for ends, we ended up 120m down the bank landing on 2 trees which stopped us from going all the way to the bottom. Another 60m!

I was aware of most of the washing machine ride as the car went down and with every hit i knew it was badly damaged. I activated the Rallysafe and saw to Yvonne making sure she was ok. Winded and conscious she was able to request the turning off of the main key. I made sure the car was safe and not about to roll further before I took my belts off.

Yvonne was ok but shaken. I helped her out of the car and helmets off. We were well down an almost vertical bank and I was unable to climb up to wave down the next car. I was hoping the Rallysafe would alert the next cars but they kept going past and could not have seen us so far down the valley anyway. This has high-lighted a few issues with the units, but HQ could see exactly where we were. After tail end charlie and the MIV went through I started to get concerned. Lara and Warren found us via the Rally HQ guiding them in and much yelling to each other, up and down the valley.

Karl from Darren Galbraiths team along with Warren found their way around to the bottom and came up to help Yvonne walk out. It was getting very cold and dark by this time and we needed to move quickly as Yvonne was becoming hypothermic despite being wrapped in a space blanket and the extra jackets we carry in the car.(she’s a doc so knew this herself). All in all the safety gear of the car worked very well. The roll cage stood up to the many hits and my over engineered battery mount;  twin strapped fire extinguisher unit and solidly secured seats, held the components in place. We both escaped with no significant injury due to the Motorsport NZ safety guidelines I followed when I built the car. Past experience, from other peoples crashes has made things better over the years. We feel very lucky indeed and remind those who do not use a HANS device, that head injuries are potentially the most devastating.

The Rallysafe was crucial in finding us, but this crash has high lighted a few things. I guess there will be an inquiry into this incident and how the response can be improved. I will build anther car and will be back. Counting the cost hurts me but cars can be replaced. I would like to thank Steve Hayward (who went above and beyond being service crew); all those involved in our rescue; and the kind words from you all.

Cheers Chris

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One comment

  1. am amazed that so many of us passed your location without noticing you had left the road. Delighted to here that you are both uninjured and hope to see you back on the rally track soon.

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