While the limelight often falls on rally driver victories, a new trophy presented for the Canterbury Rally is awarded to the first local Autosport Club co-driver to finish in memory of one of New Zealand’s best known rally personalities.
Presented for the first time this year, the Fletcher Family Trophy was won by David Calder, a friend and admirer of the late Mike Fletcher, who lost his battle with cancer a year ago.
Fletcher was a founding member of the Canterbury Rally organising club, Autosport, which began in 1975, and was well known as a co-driver on national and international rallies and also a respected organiser of events.
For 44 years Fletcher contested events as a co-driver from 1972 until 2016, including a stint with the late Possum Bourne in the 1986 Kenyan Safari Rally.
David Calder (pictured right) guided Australian Rally Champion Nathan Quinn (Ford Fiesta Proto) to second place in this year’s Rally of Canterbury, finishing 9.9 seconds behind Josh Marston of Christchurch in a Holden Barina AP4.
And it was an event that was full of surprises for the Australian-Kiwi combination.
Firstly their entry was a late decision after Australian’s Ritchie Dalton and Dale Moscatt were unable to compete due to injuries sustained in a crash at the International Rally Whangarei a month earlier and Quinn was called in to shake down the rebuilt Fiesta for Shamrock Motorsport.
Calder then says the announcement of the Fletcher Family Trophy at the prize-giving event came as a “complete surprise” and he was honoured to become the first recipient.
“Mike’s methodical skills as a co-driver were inspirational and something I aspire to with each event I co-drive in. He was always willing to catch up and pass on his knowledge built over his many years of experience competing in and organising rallies,” said Calder.
“I first met Mike when I started competing in national championship rallies in 2003. We would often meet up on recce’s and compare notes when he was competing with the late Malcolm Stewart. He was a bit of a mentor to me back then.”
Presented by Mike’s widow, Marion Fletcher, she recalled how the job of co-driving was more than just sitting in the hot seat and reading instructions for the driver, it was a total passion that led to him being regarded as one of the best co-drivers in the business.
“Mike would spend many many hours checking, checking and rechecking and rewriting his notes, checking all the pages were there, checking that the mileages were correctly totaled,” said Marion.
“And he wasn’t afraid to tell the driver behind the wheel that he was driving badly or too quickly, or too slowly for the conditions.”
And for David Calder these are the same attributes that he takes into his role as a co-driver.
“There is very special meaning and memories to me that this award represents. I hope Quinny and I can continue the good form shown here into more events in the NZ Rally Championship this year. I know Mike would be spurring us on!”