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Cross Wins Southern Rally Series


Cross Wins Southern Rally Series

Gore driver Paul Cross became the 2008 Laird Motorsport Southern Rally Series Champion when he posted a fine second place in last month's Gore Rally. Cross started the event with a five point lead over defending champion and fellow Gore driver Andrew Graves, extending the margin to ten points at the finish of the rally which was the final round of the series. Graves retained second place in the series despite a puncture in the penultimate Special Stage that left him to drive five kilometres with a slow leak, costing him one and a half minutes.

The series is fought out by drivers and co - drivers with a residential address in either Otago and Southland at the three major rallies in the region each year. In the absence of the Rally Of Southland this year the series took place at the Rally Of Otago, the Southland Sports Car Club's Rallysprint at Pebbly Hills on 28 June and at the Eastern Southland Car Club's Gore Rally on Saturday 2 August.

Cross say's the title came "out of the blue." "We were aiming for the top three. We knew Andrew (Graves) would be our top competition and you can never count out Derek Ayson or Duncan McCrostie. However we got good results in all three events. It was all about being there at the finish." Cross stepped out of his Mitsubishi GSR and into a Mitsubishi EVO 4
after the first round and despite the change midway through the series he never missed a beat.

Graves' title defence had begun badly at the Otago Rally when he took the wrong road, an error that cost him five minutes. "Otago was not helpful and Gore was a bit of a dud run," said Graves at the conclusion of the championship. "However Paul put up a good fight and second is nothing to be sneezed at."

Dunedin driver Mike Wellington was third overall and early leader, Kaitangata driver Duncan McCrostie, finished fourth.

Cross also won Class 4 for 4-wheel-drive vehicles, with Graves and Wellington again second and third respectively in the class. McCrostie took out Class 3 ahead of the 2006 overall Champion Derek Ayson with Dunedin's Tony Johnston next. Class 2 was extremely competitive, Robert Auld of Otautau eventually prevailing by just one and a half points from Carter Strang of Wallacetown. Dean Bond of Balclutha was just two points behind Strang. Bond made a flying finish to the series, winning the class at both Gore and the Pebbly Hills Rallysprint. Phillip Terry was fourth and the competitive nature of this class was demonstrated by Greg Milne, who led after the opening round before dropping to fifth after a non-finish at Gore. Auld paid tribute to the competition at the conclusion of the series. "It was tight," he said.

The opposite was the case in Class 1 where David Scoles of Lumsden had a dominant victory, having the title wrapped up before the final round. Scoles finished with ninety-six points, forty-two clear of Oamaru's Peter Fridd with Kevin Laird of Gore third. He credited Jim and Jude Ford of Drummond Motors for keeping him going throughout the series.

Graves' co-driver Jared Leebody won the overall co-drivers title from Rick Wellington and Wade Horrell. That was also the result in Class 4 while Murray Marshall took Class 3 from Heather Barton and Maree McFarlane. Craig Barclay won the Class 2 co-drivers title from Jeremy Hughes and Michael Gunn while Glenn Howden took Class 1 from Cherie Fridd and Stew Wild.

Forty-eight drivers and forty-one co-drivers contested this year's series.


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