Top seed Andrew Graves of Gore along with co-driver Jared Leebody won his third Catlins Coast Rally with a commanding drive in his Mitsubishi EVO 3 on Saturday.
Graves forged into the lead from the start, opening a good margin over second seed Jeff Judd of Christchurch in a Subaru Impreza WRX. He continued to build the lead winning five Special Stages before Judd took the sixth and final stage.
Graves secured the Darryl Robinson Memorial Trophy for the third time with a 1 minute 02.9 second margin over Judd and Grant Marra who finished second with another Christchurch driver, Michael Tall/Matt Richards in a 4-wheel-drive Mitsubishi Mirage, third.
“We had no problems,” said Graves as he savoured his third win after also winning the event in 2010 and 2013. “The car was fine, the weather was fine. I kept my nose clean all day. I was trying reasonably hard until we got a good buffer. I backed off a little but the pace was still pretty hot later in the day. I was trying not to make mistakes. There was heavy gravel near the end on Hunt Road and it would have been easy to throw it away. I’m absolutely stoked for my service crew and sponsors. It is as much a reward for them as it is for me.”
Deane Buist and Karl Celeste of Christchurch were fourth overall and first 2-wheel-drive in a Ford Escort while Carter Strang and Stewart Robbie of Wallacetown, near Invercargill were fifth in their EVO 6.
The current leader of the New Zealand Rally Championship, Matt Summerfield of Christchurch was sixth in an outing in a Subaru Legacy with co-driver James Palmer while David Clearwater/Tina Nichols of Christchurch were seventh in an EVO 4 ahead of David & Emma Quantock of Christchurch (EVO 8) and Derek Ayson/Gav McDermott of Gore in their Ford Escort FJ MK2 in ninth. Last year’s winners Vaughan Edie/Tony Johnston of Invercargill rounded out the top ten in an EVO 8.
Richie & Rachel Chadwick of Dunedin were the first Otago Sports Car Club members home in their Toyota Corolla GT winning the Glen Shirlaw Memorial Trophy for the second year running while also taking the Alexandra Auto Electrical Class B for 2-wheel drive cars from 1301-1600cc in thirteenth place. Steve and Ian Morris in an EVO 5 won the Kerry O’Donohue Memorial Trophy for the first South Otago crew home in nineteenth place.
With the top three finishers ineligible for class honours Deane Buist won the Window Tint South Class C (2-wheel-drive cars of 1601cc & over) with Carter Strang taking the Valley Coachlines Class D for 4-wheel-drives.
Derek Ayson won the class he sponsored, the Derek Ayson Farmlands Real Estate Class G (1701cc & over classics) while Garet Thomas of Darfield in an EVO 2 won the Ritchies Class E for Pre 96 4-wheel-drive cars with an eleventh place finish.
Nigel Marshall of Wyndham took the Flashclad Class F for 0-1700cc Classics honours in fifteenth and Rhys Turner took the Balclutha Auto Electrics Class A for 2-wheel-drive cars of 0-1300cc when he came home in thirty-ninth.
Father and daughter David and Emma Quantock won the inaugural Stadium Finance Generation Trophy while Andy Vause of Wanaka and James Palmer won the Monit Rally Computers driver and co-driver awards respectively.
As always there were several hard luck stories. Barry Mills of Balclutha who had finished every Catlins Rally since the first in 1999 in his Hillman Avenger retired early with mechanical troubles while other top runners, Jason Keach of Mosgiel and Bert Murray of Waimate, also retired with mechanical troubles. Two of the four North Islanders in the field were forced to retire, David Wright of Te Aroha after a fire in his Ford Escort BDA in Stage 1 and Neil Dodds of Gisborne with overheating late in the day. Sixty-seven entries started the day with fifty-three making it to the end.