It was the opening round of the 1976 Pall Mall Series and the first, of what it was to become, Otago Rally. Originally called the Shoreline Motor Hotel/ 4XO Rally, it was 45 years ago that the first Otago Rally was held on April 17, 1976.
It was held in the Coast forest south of Dunedin and was won by Trevor Crowe and Austin Cole in a Datsun 1200 SSS (see main picture). Second home was Timaru’s Wayne MurdochDatsun 120Y, Southland’s Ian Begg third (Mazda RX3).
It has now gone on to evolve into one of the NZ’s favourite events, and for some time now, the opening round of the annual NZ Rally Championship.
One of the original organisers of the rally, Allan Scott, recalls the first event….
“I did the deal with Colin Herbert of the Shoreline Hotel. They had called it the Sheraton Shoreline and Sheraton USA were going to sue for name usage.
“Radio 4XO were the new boys in town with the deregulation of the air waves and a deal was put together to use there unused add time to promote the rally and the Hotel name change to The Shoreline Hotel – for free.
“I also obtained the Sunday license for the after rally event at the Shoreline with the Hotel supplying the band and all drinks at public bar prices.
“We made our money by having the sit down dinner at cost and on selling well over 100 tickets at a $5 per head profit, as well as the $25 entry fee for the rally and hill climb on Sunday.
“From memory we made around $1500 and the club made more from this one event than it had ever made in any year. The advent of profitable rallying allowed the sale of the old club rooms in Leith Valley and purchase of the new club rooms in town.”
The 2015 event
The 2015 event was one out of the bag, so to speak. That’s because Hayden Paddon and John Kennard won the rally in a 2wd Ford Escort BDA, the first two-wheel-drive car to win a round of New Zealand Rally Championship since the Mazda RX7 of Neil Allport and Rodger Freeth won the Auckland round in May 1987. So, what happened?
When you look at the list of retirements, this tells a story. More cars dropped out of the event, 38 in total, than those that finished – 33. Matt Summerfield (Subaru Impreza – head gasket), Alex Kelsey (Kelsey MC2 – Alternator), Emma Gilmour (Suzuki Swift – Oil cooler), Andrew Hawkeswood (Mazda2 – Misfire), Darren Galbraith (Evo VI – Transmission), Richard Bateman (Evo VIII) – all top 4WD competitors never saw the finish line.
Paddon, then a WRC driver for Hyundai, was in his element, driving Tony Gosling’s MkII Ford Escort. There is no doubt that he was quick but you would not have put money on him for the outright win. Nor would you have put money on the high attrition rate as all the top competitors slowly ‘fell-off’ the road and out of the rally. It was an extraordinary year that is now woven into the fabric which is the unique history of the Otago Rally.
Winners of the Otago Rally
Year Driver Co-Driver Car
1976 Trevor Crowe/Austin Cole, Datsun 12000 SSS
1977 Ian Begg/ Mazda RX3
1977 Rod Millen/Mike Franchi, Mazda RX3
1978 Bill Pottinger/Barry Boyd, Ford Escort
1979 Ian Begg/ Mazda RX3
1980 No rally
1981 Barry Robinson/Geoff, Lange Vauxhall Chevette
1982 Barry Robinson/Geoff, Lange Vauxhall Chevette
1983 Barry Robinson/Geoff, Lange Vauxhall Chevette
1984 Peter Robb/Trevor Stark, Datsun 1200
1985 Dave Brownlie/Gordon Park, Mazda RX3
1986 Larry Timpany/Warren Egan, Subaru RX Leone
1987 Roger Townsend/Geoff Adams, Ford Escort RS1800
1988 Brian Stokes/Ian Latham, Ford Siera XR6
1989 Simon Davies/John Kennard, Subaru RX
1990 Mark Leonard/Hayden Morris, Mazda 323
1991 Barry Robinson/Wade Paterson, Vauxhall Chevette
1992 Deane Buist/Conrad Smith, Mazda 323
1993 John Silcock /Robert Webster, Mazda 323
1994 Brian Stokes/Jeff Judd, Ford Sapphire Cosworth
1995 Greg Graham/Jimm Robb, Subaru Impreza WRX
1996 Joe McAndrew/ Bob Haldane, Subaru Legacy 555
1997 Geof Argyle/Raymond Bennett, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 4
1998 Joe McAndrew/ Christopher Boyle, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 4
1999 Bruce Herbert/Rob Ryan, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 6
2000 Bruce Herbert/Rob Ryan, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 6
2001 Chris West /Chris Cobham, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 5
2002 Bruce Herbert/Rob Ryan, Subaru Impreza WRX
2003 Todd Bawden/Damon McLachlan, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 6
2004 Chris West/Garry Cowan, Subaru Impreza WRX
2005 Chris West/Garry Cowan, Subaru Impreza WRX
2006 Chris West/Garry Cowan, Subaru Impreza WRX
2007 Richard Mason/ Sara Randall, Subaru Impreza WRX
2008 Richard Mason/ Sara Randall, Subaru Impreza WRX
2009 Hayden Paddon/John Kennard, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9
2010 Dean Sumner/Paul Fallon, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9
2011 Hayden Paddon/John Kennard, Subaru Impreza WRX
2012 Richard Mason/ Sara Mason, Subaru Impreza WRX
2013 Hayden Paddon/John Kennard, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9
2014 Richard Mason/Sara Mason, Subaru Impreza WRX
2015 Hayden Paddon/John Kennard, Ford Escort RS1800
2016 Hayden Paddon/John Kennard, Hyundai i20 AP4+
2017 David Holder/Jason Farmer, Hyundai i20 AP4+
2018 Hayden Paddon/John Kennard, Hyundai i20 AP4+
2019 Hayden Paddon/Samantha Gray, Hyundai i20 AP4+
2020 – No Rally due to Covid 19