Estonian to defend rally title
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Former Subaru, Ford and Peugeot WRC driver Markko Martin will make his second appearance as headline guest at the Otago International Classic Rally next month.
The Estonian star, a winner of five WRC events, won the Otago classic event in 2016 and will defend his title alongside co-driver Stephane Prevot (Belgium) with the pair again campaigning the Rossendale Wines-sponsored Ford Escort RS1800.
Martin was the star of the 2016 event, eventually taking victory by over two and a half minutes.
"I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Dunedin last year, and to have the opportunity to return to the rally again is fantastic," he said.
"I met a lot of great people last year, and having the chance to catch up with them again will be a lot of fun.
"Of course driving the Rossendale Escort again on the wonderful Otago roads will also be something to look forward to," he said.
Adding further international flavour to the Stadium Cars International Classic Rally entry list are four-time Australian rally champion Simon Evans driving a Datsun Stanza and Irishman Frank Kelly, who is shipping his Ford Escort RS1800 to New Zealand.
The leading Kiwi drivers are expected to include Otago's Derek Ayson (Ford Escort) and the 2016 runner-up, Kaiapoi's Marcus van Klink (Mazda RX7).
"It's wonderful that Markko has agreed to come back again, as he was so well received last year," said rally spokesman, Roger Oakley.
"Markko's speed on the stages was something to behold, and both he and Stephane are wonderful ambassadors of the sport."
Martin retired from the World Rally Championship at the end of the 2005 season after 84 events and 101 stage wins.
Alongside the classic competition, the 2017 Otago Rally is also the first round of the New Zealand Rally Championship.
The event starts from Dunedin's Octagon on Friday, April 7 and the route features 14 special stages on Saturday and Sunday, with a competitive distance of nearly 285km.
A field of more than 100 cars is expected to start the Otago event, matching the record number received in 2016.
Galbraith's Westland hat-trick
Timaru driver Darren Galbraith has achieved a hat-trick of Westland Rally victories.
Last Saturday, with co-driver Rocky Hudson of Christchurch, Galbraith drove his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo8 to a winning margin of 20.3secs over Rangiora's Matt and Nicole Summerfield to extend his running run at the 2015 and 2016 events.
Matt Summerfield won the opening special stage by 1sec from Galbraith but lost more than a minute when his Subaru Impreza WRX STi was slowed by loss of turbo boost on stages two and three. That dropped him to eighth, but he won four of the remaining stages on his climb back to secure the runner-up honours.
Christchurch's Jeff Judd and Grant Marra (Subaru Impreza WRX STI) claimed third, while a fierce battle for fourth saw the next four drivers separated by just 6.2s after 119km of competition.
Christchurch driver Robert McCallum (Ford Escort RS1800) produced a strong final stage effort to clinch fourth place ahead of West Coast driver Michael Tall (Mitsubishi Mirage Evo), Richard Bateman (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo9) and Kaikoura's Regan Ross (Ford Escort RS1800).
The Westland Rally was the opening event of the 2017 New Zealand rally season and was the first round of the Stadium Finance Mainland Rally Series.
The next round is incorporated in the April 7-9 Otago Rally, which is also the opening round of the New Zealand Rally Championship.