Auckland driver Chris Alexander returns to take part in his second Catlins Coast Rally when the event takes place on Saturday 12 August.
Alexander travelled south in 2013 to compete at Catlins for the first time, drawn south by the reputation of the event. Armed with a Datsun Sunny on that occasion, he said at the time the visit was a recce before coming back with a quicker car.
After some major upheavals since 2013 the time has come for that return when Alexander lines up this year in a very special car, a 1964 Ford Cortina MK1. The car was under construction back in 2013 but Alexander says for many different reasons the car has been seven years in the making and will now make its rally debut at Catlins.
Alexander has experienced a tumultuous time during the build of the car. “I shifted home, I moved my work premises, I had a battle with cancer which I have only recently overcome and I built another car which I destroyed in the Gisborne Rally two years ago.” That was a big accident with the Ford Escort Alexander was piloting travelling 120 metres down into a ravine. Alexander, and co-driver and partner Yvonne Fullerton, walking away from the wreck although Fullerton did injure her ribs and a finger.
The intention this year was to contest the New Zealand Rally Championship but Alexander says, “That didn’t work.” He has been kept out of the seat over the last twelve months, firstly due to his cancer diagnosis and more recently due to bereavement. However he is now back up and running. “We have given the Cortina a couple of runs. The driveshaft was initially not long enough and consequently we churned up a bearing in the gearbox. We have fitted a new driveshaft and repaired the gearbox and the first official outing for the car is scheduled to be the Kaipara Flats Bent Sprint in mid – July. There is still a lot of finishing required and while it will eventually be fitted with a Lotus engine, at Catlins it will have a 1600cc crossflow power plant, “a natty little engine that really revs.”
Alexander, owner of Suspension Tech and a former overall and 2wd Rally Xtreme Champion co-driver, fondly remembers his last appearance at Catlins. “I loved it. It is a cool rally. The Eastern Southland Car Club ensures there is an old school feel about it.”
The new Cortina is immaculate and Alexander is very proud of it. ‘The paint has been done by Brian Chivers and Evan Thompson at Otbury Automotive Refinish Solutions. They are southern boys from Canterbury and Otago and have done the job for free with their Sikkens products. They have an automotive training centre at Mangere Bridge in Auckland and that is where we unveiled the car earlier this year.”