Unless you are an unusually early riser, by the time you read this editorial the competitive stages that comprise the 2017 Drivesouth Otago Rally Fest will be under way.
As well as being an early start for the competitors, it's been another early Otago Rally start for the Drivesouth team, with Catherine Pattison and I on our usual mission to catch as much of the action as possible. We plan to take in two or three of the stages around Lawrence today as well as Dunedin's Anzac Ave super special stage at the end of the day. Tomorrow, we will be out and about catching stages either side of the Taieri Plain.
Within an hour of the rally finish we will be busy writing our reports for Monday's edition of the Otago Daily Times.
After giving over last weekend's Drivesouth issue entirely to the rally, there's more of a business-as-usual flavour to this issue. Even so, you'll find plenty on the rally, including tips (at left) on where to head to catch the best of the weekend's action.
The placement of Audi's SQ7 on the cover of our rally weekend issue of Drivesouth is not by chance, either; it was rallying that thrust Audi into the international limelight as a premium brand in the 1980s, and featuring the SQ7 in this edition of Drivesouth is homage to the transformational impact Audi had on the sport.
It's also a tribute to the four drivers who made their mark on the World Rally Championship (WRC) in increasingly ferocious versions of the original quattro rally car: these were Otago classic rally contestants Hannu Mikkola and Michele Mouton, and later Stig Blomqvist and Walter Rohrl.
Incidentally, for those who haven't yet worked it out, the WRC is the reason Hayden Paddon is a no-show this weekend. Paddon and co-driver John Kennard are on the French Mediterranean island of Corsica contesting round four of this year's world championship.
One of three all-tarmac events on the 2017 WRC calendar, Corsica features extraordinarily narrow and twisty mountain roads. It's no secret that Paddon prefers gravel to tarmac, but he is putting a huge effort into adapting to the different demands of rallying on seal.
That effort included contesting last weekend's Italian Championship San Remo Rally, which was also his first competitive run with his new WRC co-driver, Englishman Seb Marshall. The pair took their Hyundai i20 WRC car to second overall in the Italian event, and won its longest stage.
Grand prix racing is also on this weekend's international motor sport agenda, with round two of the Formula One world championship in Shanghai. This will be the 14th running of the Chinese Grand Prix, and here's hoping that it produces further evidence that the 2017 F1 season is going to feature some genuine competition between Ferrari and Mercedes.
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