Better conditions wanted for rally

By Catherine Pattison on Sat, 12 Aug 2017 | Motorsport | Rally
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Richie and Rachel Chadwick, of Dunedin, are hoping for fine conditions in today’s Catlins Coast Rally in their Class B Toyota Corolla GT. PHOTO: BECKY LADBROOK

Richie and Rachel Chadwick would have been anxiously monitoring the weather forecast this week ahead of today's Catlins Coast Rally.

Despite mastering the conditions at last year's event - where snow and ice were the deciding factors for those drivers who were able to slide through them to achieve top-five finishes - the Dunedin couple are not keen on a repeat. ‘‘I hated it.

I hope we do not get snow and ice this year. I have done Catlins three times now and every time there has been snow or ice in at least one stage,'' Richie said.

‘‘I hope it is sunny and dry.''

The Chadwicks drove their 2WD Toyota Corolla GT to a surprise fifth place overall after starting 32 places further back. The performance was enough for them to be awarded the Glen Shirlaw Trophy as the first Otago Sports Car Club crew home. They also convincingly won Class B, for 2WD cars of 1301-1600cc.

Richie was at a loss to explain how they did so well in the conditions.

‘‘I can't explain it. We pushed on and didn't fall off. It was an awesome result. I was absolutely stoked,'' he said.

As is often the case in rallying, their impressive performance was far from trouble- free. ‘‘We blew a head gasket in stage two and we had massive overheating in the penultimate stage. We had to fill the radiator with snow and ice.

Then we had a miss and then about 4km from the end it dropped to three cylinders.

It would have sucked not to have made the finish,'' Richie said. Since last year's rally, the Chadwicks have continued to demonstrate great speed in the Corolla and have competed in every event south of Christchurch.

April's Rally of Otago was looking positive, with the husband and wife team faster than the leading Class 2 car by more than a minute at the end of the first day.

However, they were forced to retire from the event after Richie attacked a ford a bit too enthusiastically. His path to rallying came from a dirt bike and karting background, having been introduced to karting by Rachel.

The rally introduction was made when he began servicing brother-in-law Steven Thompson's Class A Datsun. Despite thinking rallying was a ‘‘cool sport but not for him'', Richie bought the Corolla. Why the change of heart?

‘‘I never had a kart or a dirt bike at the time so there was a spot to fill.''

While the Chadwicks do not expect another giant-killing result this weekend, they would dearly like to repeat their class success. Defending champion Vaughan Edie, of Invercargill, is back and seeded eighth in his Mitsubishi Evo 8.

Winning the 2016 Catlins Coast Rally was definitely a career highlight for Edie.

He will face some stiff competition this year from super-fast Gore driver Andrew Graves in a Mitsubishi Evo 3 and Christchurch's Jeff Judd in a Subaru Impreza WRX.

There will be some quick 2WD contenders as well, with Canterbury's Deane Buist and Gore's Derek Ayson, both in Ford Escort Mk2s, likely to be recording top-three stage times.

The Catlins Rally is round five of the Mainland Rally Championship and also a points round for the Eastern Southland Car Club Rally Championship Trophy.

The six-stage event is scheduled to depart from Owaka Motors in Campbell St, Owaka, at 10am. The rally will be based in Owaka, servicing of the rally cars taking place in the township between stages.

Top spots Top spectator spots to watch the Catlins Rally this afternoon:

Special stage 3 - 15.17km Puaho First car starts 12.42pm

To access the spectator point, follow the Purakaunui Falls signs south of Owaka. This spot provides good viewing of a fast approach hairpin intersection.

Special stage 4 - 27.13km Catlins Valley First car starts 1.04pm

To access the spectator point, enter via Moats Saddle Rd. Good viewing of a 90-degree intersection. Alternatively turn into Morris Saddle Rd from the Owaka Valley Rd for good viewing near the sawmill.

Special stage 6 - 40.03km Romahapa First car starts 3.01pm

Two excellent viewing options. The first is a good 90-degree downhill intersection accessed via Cheetwood and Mercer Rds or Waitepeka Rd. The second spot is called Katea and is accessed by turning on to Katea Rd from Owaka Valley Rd. You will see the drivers cross two bridges and a flat deceptive corner.