Otago Rally under way

By David Thomson on Sat, 14 Apr 2018

Unless you are an unusually early riser, by the time you read this editorial the competitive stages that comprise the 2018 Drivesouth Otago Rally Fest will be under way.

As well as being an early start for the competitors, it's been an early start for the Drivesouth team, with Catherine Pattison and me out and about on the rally.

My plan for the day is to catch the action on stages being run to the south and west of Dunedin, pop in to the Waihola service park, and maybe get to Dunedin's Anzac Ave super-special at the end of the day.

Cat, meanwhile, has managed to land a thrilling co-driving role for the day, in the navigator's seat of the zero car that runs through the stages before the competitors, to ensure the stages are clear.

Tomorrow, both Cat and I will be out and about catching stages in East Otago and Strath Taieri. 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 to the rally, and presenting a rally supplement midweek, we ease back a little on the coverage this weekend.

I have suggested half a dozen rally viewing spots for this afternoon and tomorrow, but the focus of this issue is a road test on the performance flagship of the new BMW X3 range.

Turning away from this weekend's rally action to motorsport elsewhere, tomorrow's Chinese Grand Prix is shaping up as an important event for Kiwi F1 driver Brendon Hartley.

After last weekend's race in Bahrain, where Hartley was classified last after copping a double time penalty and his Torro Rosso team-mate Piere Gasly was deservedly lauded for an outstanding drive to finish in fourth place, the Kiwi needs a decent result.

There were reasons for Hartley being comprehensively outshone last weekend - a freak collision with a bird denied an almost certain progression to the third round of qualifying, the opening lap collision with Sergio Perez's Force India and a formation lap incident that led to his time penalties - but the hard-nosed folk that run F1 teams don't care too much about good reasons and excuses.

They care about results, with the most obvious and telling benchmark being results relative to one's team-mate. The good news for Hartley is that the update that Torro Rosso introduced for Bahrain has given his car a useful performance boost relative to other mid- field runners. A strong points-scoring finish should be within his grasp, and he must seize it.

This is also an important time for our women's world motocross star Courtney Duncan.

Unlike Hartley, Duncan has made a strong start to her 2018 world championship campaign, and heads to this weekend's round in Portugal in second-equal place in the series. This, surely, is going to be the year when she delivers on her obvious potential and secures the world crown.

David Thomson