Superb field for Rankleburn Rally

| Photographer Credit: Ron Veint

A superb field of rally cars will again contest the MLT/Heartland Hotels/Ernslaw One Limited Rankleburn Rally in West Otago from 10.30am this Saturday.

The event is the third and final round of the Laird Motorsport Southern Rally Series and also part of the Eastern Southland Car Club Rally Championship. It will be based at Telford Tops Road in the Rankleburn Forest, approximately 45 minutes from Gore and 35 minutes from Balclutha and will be signposted from State Highway 1.

Andrew Graves of Gore, a two-time Catlins Coast Rally winner, and winner of this event in 2012 and 2014 is the top seed for the event. Graves will have his 12-year-old son Hayden co-driving him for the first time in his Mitsubishi EVO 3. Graves has done little rallying of late but expect him to be on the pace immediately. However he will have some tough competition with Dean Bond of Balclutha in his EVO 6.5. Bond, the winner of this year’s Catlins Coast Rally which he also won in 2009 and 2011, is always fast and competitive and finished second here last year.

Balclutha driver Rhys Gardner will also be a factor in the event in his EVO 9. The winner at Rankleburn in 2013 and the Catlins Coast Rally victor in both 2012 and 2014 can’t wait for Rankleburn as it will be his first time in a rally car in over a year. “It’s all about seat time. I can’t wait,” says Gardner who also has a young co-driver, Amy Hudson of Canterbury.

Derek Ayson in his Nissan powered Ford Escort is another who admits to being “rusty” after doing few rallies this year. “My goal this year was to beat Mike Verdoner and since he is not starting after a heavy crash at Catlins, I guess I’ve achieved that already.”

Other notables in the field include Vaughan Edie of Invercargill (EVO 8), Neville Krammer of Wallacetown who has two thirds and a fourth to his name here in an elderly Subaru Legact RS, Philip Terry of Invercargill in a potent 2 litre turbocharged, 4wd Toyota Starlet and Balclutha driver Barry Mills in his rapid Hillman Avenger.

Class B, as always, will be competitive with Jake Thomas of Mosgiel (Toyota Corolla DX), Kevin Laird of Alexandra and Craig Cormack of Gore in Toyota Levin’s and Winton driver Brendon Mitchell (Datsun 1600) among the entries. Heriot driver Quintin Hazlett, debuts in this class.
Clerk Of The Course for the event Roger Laird of Gore is grateful for the support of the event sponsors as he prepares for Saturday’s rally. “We really have to thank the MLT, Heartland Hotels and Ernslaw One for their ongoing support.” The trio of sponsors have supported the event since its inception in 2012 and even before that when it was held as a sprint since 2010.

Laird adds, “Ernslaw One have always done a tremendous job and this year especially so as the rally takes part in the Ernslaw One forests which have suffered so much damage in the recent high winds and also in the snow we have had this year. They have a done a fantastic job ensuring that the rally happens and is a success.”

The rally is based over five Special Stages in largely forest roads which comprise 78 kilometres of high speed Special Stages with just 1.5 kilometres of touring mileage required to access them. The roads provide a variety of fast roads along with some slippery sections and some tight twisty roads.

As is traditional the flagship MLT/Heartland Hotels Croydon establishment on the Main Queenstown Highway in Gore will be the venue for the post rally prizegiving on Saturday evening.

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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