Sunday, 20 October 2019

WHITIANGA WEATHER

Goldrush Rally results dominated by Ben Hunt and Tony Rawstorn

In the moonlit pre-dawn darkness at the Mercury Bay Multisport Park in Whitianga on Saturday last week, the ground support team moves about quietly and efficiently, turning the car parking area into the service park for the Dayle ITM Goldrush Rally of Coromandel.

They’re all volunteers, who often go unnoticed by the public, but the participating teams and event organisers know that the rally couldn’t happen without them.

On Friday evening, volunteer Grant Haswell was recognised with a Trelawny Stud Volunteer Award presented by Rally New Zealand, and on Saturday morning, working under the overhead lights of the Multisport Park, he proudly wears his vest which is embroidered with this token of appreciation for his efforts over the last six years.

Another volunteer supporter on Saturday morning is Wayne Hughes, who was recently awarded Volunteer of the Year by MotorSport New Zealand. They flew him and his family to Wellington and presented him with this prestigious award. His daughter, Erika, has also received an award this year, recognising her services to the Pukekohe and Hampton Downs racing circuits.

The cackle of highly tuned engines and the whine of straight cut gears signal the approach of the rally cars, and the volunteer staff quickly have the cars and their support vehicles lined up in the car park. This year there are 57 teams competing, hailing from all corners of New Zealand.

The steady rain of the last few days has eased off to occasional showers, with the sun making a cameo appearance every now and then. Several of the crews have remarked that they take it as it comes. It’s part of the challenge of rallying that you adapt your driving to the conditions.

The Coromandel route is one of the favourites for the crews. The facilities are great and the roads themselves, narrow, fast paced and highly cambered, are particularly challenging. The Goldrush Rally has been referred to as the “Rally of a Thousand Corners.”

The rally is the fifth event in this year’s Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship. Brian, or Greenie to his mates, is one of the longest running competitors in the New Zealand Rally Championship and is this year’s title sponsor for the competition. Other sponsors include Gull New Zealand, Dunlop New Zealand, HELLA New Zealand, Stadium Finance, Omega Rental Cars and Suzuki New Zealand.

Each leg of the competition has its own sponsor and this year the Coromandel leg has been sponsored by Dayle ITM. The racing kicked off at 7:00am, with each car pausing at the timing gate and leaving one to two minutes apart, depending on which class they’re running in.

They’ve got a long day ahead of them. The drivers left the Multisport Park heading to Port Charles for the first stage, running hard through to Colville Road, then looping down through Coromandel Town and back up to Kennedy Bay to repeat the same course for stage two. They then return to the rally headquarters via the 309 Road for the first 20 minute service stop.

Back on the road once more, the competitors head down to Coroglen for Stage 3, racing over the Tapu-Coroglen Road and returning once again via the 309 Road in stage four for a second service stop, then out again for the final dash.

The final Super Special Stage in Whitianga was a fast triple circuit around the loop of Moewai Road, Dakota Drive and Abrahamson Drive, after which the cars headed to Blacksmith Lane, closed for the occasion, to line up for the prizegiving.

Not all the cars returned in the same shape. Brent Taylor and Chris Ramsay completed the day’s racing using Kiwi ingenuity and strapping up the rear of their car number 27, and Raana Horan and Mike O’Connor took out the Hella Moment prize for going off the road, but somehow avoiding a huge drop into the trees below.

The racing was close throughout the day, but the results were dominated by the team of Ben Hunt and his co-driver, Tony Rawstorn, in their Subaru, who placed first. Dylan Turner and Malcolm Read placed second in their Audi AP4 and were awarded the Dunlop Drive of the Rally, while Josh Marston and Andrew Graves came third in their Holden Barina.

Pictured: Goldrush Rally of Coromandel competitors, Brent Taylor and Chris Ramsay, used some kiwi ingenuity and strapped up the rear of their car to continue racing. 

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The Mercury Bay Informer is a highly popular community newspaper, based in Whitianga. The paper is distributed throughout the Coromandel Peninsula, coast to coast from Thames to north of Colville.