Bumper 67-car entry list set for South Island Catlins Coast Rally
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The domestic rally spotlight continues to shine on the South Island with the Catlins Coast Rally ready to race through the region on Saturday.
The Eastern Southland Car Club’s event ventures on to the highly regarded gravel roads in one of New Zealand’s more remote regions and offers a compact route of six special stages totalling 146km, linked by just 82km of touring stages.
Heading a 67-car entry list is 2017 winner Andrew Graves of Gore (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo3), who will be chasing his fourth victory in the Catlins event. There is strong opposition for Graves, headed by the winner and runner-up of the 2017 New Zealand Rally Championship.
Reigning national champion Andrew Hawkeswood (Mazda2 AP4) is the second seed and leads an eight-car contingent of North Island drivers heading to a rally that has built a “must-do” reputation among many Kiwi rally competitors.
Hawkeswood is making his third Catlins start with his best previous finish being second in 2009 driving his Audi Quattro S1 replica.
Saturday’s stages will be warm-ups for Hawkeswood ahead of the following weekend’s NZ Rally Championship event at Whitianga. The same applies for 2017 NZRC runner-up Matt Summerfield (Rangiora), who is back behind the wheel of his Subaru Impreza WRX for the Catlins outing and is seeded third.
Former winner Dean Bond (Balclutha) is the fourth seed in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo6.5 and Christchurch driver Jeff Judd is seeded fifth in his Subaru.
A battle also looms for the 2WD honours with the strong contenders being Derek Ayson (Gore) in his Ford Escort, the mid-1980s Group A-style Volkswagen Golf GTi of Deane Buist (Christchurch) and Marcus van Klink (Kaiapoi) in his Group B Mazda RX7.
The rally starts from Ōwaka at 10am on Saturday and the six-stage route, including two visits to the service park at Ōwaka, is scheduled to take less than six hours before the Ōwaka finish formalities at 3.44pm. The rally is round six of the MRF Tyres Mainland Rally Championship with the final being the Hanmer Forest Rally on September 1.
On Sunday the Taupō Classic Rally Club ran a two-wheel-drive tarmac event on four different configurations of the Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park. A 41-strong field contested the four-stage event with a win being secured by Brett Matthews driving a Peugeot 106. Matthews pipped the V8-powered BMW E30 of Warryn Glassford by 4.4 seconds after nearly 80km of competition.
Greg Honnor in his Ford Mustang finished fourth behind the Toyota Corolla GT of Rob Ryan.
The August rally calendar is headlined by the Hyundai NZ Gold Rush Rally of Coromandel — the penultimate round of the national rally championship — on Saturday August 18 at Whitianga.
Championship leader Hayden Paddon returns to the national rally scene fresh from his strong fourth place effort at WRC Rally Finland, and top Australian driver Brendan Reeves is returning in search of a third consecutive Coromandel victory.