Greymouth starts the season
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The New Zealand rally season begins this weekend as competitors in the South Island’s Mainland Rally Series prepare for action on the West Coast.
The Westland Rally, based near Greymouth, has a format of four gravel special stages — each road is used twice and in both directions — to provide a 119km season opener for the seven-round series.
The rally starts from Greymouth at 8am on Saturday with the finish at Paroa about 6pm with service areas based at Kumara and Ahaura. Included in the route is the Mitchells stage, part of which runs along the shore of Lake Brunner.
A 62-strong entry list has 2015 New Zealand Rally Challenge winner Darren Galbraith (Timaru) as top-seed, driving a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VIII and leading NZ Rally Championship driver Matt Summerfield starts second in his Subaru Impreza WRX STI.
Galbraith won the 2015 and 2016 Westland events driving an earlier model Lancer Evo VI.
For Rangiora-based Summerfield, the Westland event is an early season shakedown run in his Subaru ahead of a full NZ Rally Championship campaign.
Canterbury's John Silcock will line up in his Group B Mazda RX-7. Photo / Colin Smith
Westland driver Michael Tall (Mitsubishi Mirage Evo), Christchurch’s Jeff Judd (Subaru Impreza WRX) and Southland’s Carter Strang (Lancer Evo 6.5) are other leading 4WD Turbo car contenders. Defending Mainland champion Deane Buist, from Christchurch, leads a strong line-up of 2WD and Classic category entries in his Ford Escort RS1800.
The Escort ranks also include Regan Ross (Kaikoura), Robert McCallum (Christchurch), Tony Gosling (Christchurch) and Ashton Wood (Motueka) and they will be challenged by Rangiora’s John Silcock, who will campaign his Group B-spec Mazda RX7.
Christchurch driver Tony Gosling is part of a strong entry of classic Ford Escorts. Photo / Colin Smith
The 2017 calendar for the Stadium Finance Mainland Rally Championship includes Otago and Canterbury rounds of the NZ Rally Championship along with rallies in Nelson, the Catlins Coast, Hanmer and South Canterbury.