Balclutha driver Dean Bond and co-driver Craig Barclay in a Mitsubishi EVO 6.5 recorded a win the MLT/Heartland Hotels/Ernslaw One Limited Rankleburn Rally in West Otago on Saturday.
Bond’s final margin was 9 seconds over two-time winner and defending champion Andrew Graves who had 12-year-old son Hayden in the co-driver’s seat of his EVO 3. Bond won the opening three stages and then shared the fastest time through the fifth and final stage with Graves who had won the penultimate stage. Bond had finished runner-up in the event to Graves last year.
Bond added the victory to his Catlins Coast Rally win in early August as well as the Long Point Rally Sprint earlier in the year. He also took out the Laird Motorsport Southern Rally Series with the victory. “I’m quite pleased,” said Bond after the rally. “Catlins, Rankleburn and Long Point are the three main events in our area. I’ve never won at Rankleburn before, normally Dougie (Graves) gets me there. He normally does well in the tighter, more technical, stages that we have here so it is good to get one back on him. We’ve improved our car a little and it was good. We tipped gas in it and went and did it.”
Graves said, “it was a good battle with Dean. We were a bit slow out of the blocks in the first two stages but we rattled his cage after that. It was great to have Hayden alongside me. He was thrilled with the day and the result. He is very proud. It is a great father and son thing to do.”
Neville and Hannah Krammer of Wallacetown near Invercargill were third in their Subaru Legacy RS, continuing a run of good results at this event, while Philip Terry/Murray Wright of Invercargill were fourth in their 2 litre turbocharged, 4wd Toyota Starlet with Jason Keach of Mosgiel and co-driver Blair McLaren fifth. Keach had run third early in the day in his Subaru Impreza WRX but lost time in the third Special Stage.
Derek Ayson of Gore with Gavin McDermott were the first 2-wheel-drive competitors in sixth in Ayson’s Nissan powered Ford Escort followed by Vaughan Edie/Paul Duncan of Invercargill (EVO 8), Dylan Cameron/Brayden Palmer of Oamaru (Toyota Corolla DX) and Murray Marshall of Kaitangata/Paul Goatley (Subaru WRX) ninth. Jake Thomas/Brayden Palmer of Mosgiel (Toyota Corolla DX) and David Scoles/Glenn Howden of Riverton in a Toyota Levin finished equal on time to share tenth place.
Terry won Class D from Keach and Edie, while Ayson took Class C from Cameron and Scoles. Jake Thomas won Class B in tenth overall, despite a trailing arm pulling out of the rear suspension in Stage 3. Second was Brodie Anderson/Robert McConachie of Dunedin in their Toyota Corolla in thirteenth and third Brendon Mitchell/Nigel Lawson of Winton who were fifteenth overall in their Datsun 1600. Ian Warren/Cameron Edgar of Dunedin in a Suzuki Swift Gti was the Class A victor from Steven Thompson/Jack Brownlie of Mosgiel in a Nissan Sunny who led the class early before going off the road. Thompson put the incident down to “trying too hard.” They broke a suspension arm in the incident but made temporary repairs to get out of the stage.
Geoff Williamson of Oamaru ran well early before going off the road in Special Stage 4 with his EVO 7. There was no damage and after being pulled back on the road by the tail car he recovered to finish. Prominent retirements included fifth seed Barry Mills of Balclutha in his Hillman Avenger with fuel pump problems and Class B frontrunner Craig Cormack of Gore in his Toyota Levin with engine problems after the first stage. Another top Class B competitor, Kevin Laird of Alexandra, lost time in Stage 4 with a puncture.
Expected frontrunner, Balclutha driver Rhys Gardner, was a non starter in his EVO 9, the 2013 winner suffering an electrical problem prior to the event.
The event was the third and final round of the Laird Motorsport Southern Rally Series and also part of the Eastern Southland Car Club Rally Championship.