Galbraith primed to defend Westland Rally title

| Photographer Credit: Euan Cameron Photography

A full field of over 55 cars are entered for the Stadium Finance Repco Westland Rally which is set to go on Saturday 19 March 2016. The first of six rounds in the 2016 Mainland Rally Championship, much is up for grabs in the one-day rally which is a favourite amongst drivers and teams. Last year’s winner’s Darren Galbraith/James Bracefield (Mitsubishi Evo 6) are set to defend their title with some strong competition coming from the 2015 overall champion Blenheim’s Richard Bateman/Sharisse Guckert (Mitsubishi Evo 8), and Cantabrian’s Matt Summerfield/Nicole Summerfield (Subaru WRX), Deane Buist (Ford Escort) and Jeff Judd/Grant Mara (Subaru WRX).

“We’re hoping to defend our win from last year,” commented Galbraith. “It’s going to be tough with Matt Summerfield, Jeff Judd and Richard Bateman being our main competition.”

Last year Galbraith won the rally on the last stage when Judd had a suspension arm let go on his Subaru WRX. Judd had a 15 second lead heading into a repeat of the 23 km Ahaura stage 9, where torrential rain made conditions extremely slippery. The lead between Galbraith and Judd had been swapping throughout the nine stages. Judd won four while Glabraith won two stages.

“We were nursing a cracked suspension arm all rally with no spares on board and unfortunately it broke,” commented Judd. “The car has since been completely rebuilt with a new engine going in this week. The car will be very fast and capable of winning but it might be up to me and how quick I can drive!”

Summerfield is expected to be quick but has slightly different objectives for the round.

”It’s a shakedown for us as we’re looking to do some miles in the car,” commented Summerfield. “It’s had a big rebuild over the off season. It’s exactly that, a shakedown, so we’re not worried about the result.”

The Westland Rally has been running since 1974 and continues to attract some notable entries. Ex V8 Supercar driver Greg Murphy will debut his Vauxhall Chevette 2.3 litre run by Stadium Finance Motorsport team. Back alongside Murphy will be co-driver Mark Leonard, whose father Leo won the very first Westland Rally. Murphy has made the switch to rallying competing in four events.

John Silcock/Richard Atkinson will campaign Mazda RX7 while Mike Townsend has made the trip across the Tasman and will drive a Toyota Corolla AE86.

The Mainland Rally Championship is now in its 39th year and comprises six South Island events. The Westland Rally is followed by the Otago Rally (8-10 April), Canterbury Rally (4-5 June), the Catlins Rally (6 August), the Hanmer Rally (3 September) and the final round the South Canterbury Rally (24 September).

Past winners of the Westland Rally include Timaru’s Leo Leonard (1974 Datsun 1200 and 1978 Ford Escort RS1800), Paul Adams (1980 Chevette 2300), Jim Donald (1982 Escort RS1800), Brian Stokes (1983 Escort 1600 and 1989 Ford Sierra 4×4) and Brian Green (1988 Audi Quattro).

The rally gets underway at 8:00am outside the Greymouth Repco store with the first car finishing at approximately 6:15pm at the Paroa Hotel. Drivers will tackle nine Special Stages comprising 126 km along with 330 km of touring.

Benjamin Carrell is a freelance motorsport writer and currently edits He writes for a number of Kiwi drivers and motorsport clubs. That's when he's not working in his horticultural day-job or training for the next road or mtb cycle race!

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