High Calibre Field for Rankleburn Rally
8 October 2012
High Calibre Field for Rankleburn Rally
Defending champion Derek Ayson of Gore in his Mitsubishi EVO 8 is the top seed for the MLT/Heartland Hotels/Ernslaw One Limited Rankleburn Rally in West Otago this Saturday, 13 October. Ayson heads an impressive line up in the event including fellow Gore driver Andrew Graves in an EVO 3, Dean Bond of Balclutha in his Mitsubishi EVO 6.5 and another Balclutha driver, recent Catlins Coast Rally winner, Rhys Gardner in an EVO 7.
The rally is the third and final round of the Laird Motorsport Southern Rally Series and a round of the Eastern Southland Car Club Rally Championship.
Ayson, a former New Zealand Rally Xtreme and Mainland Rally Series Champion and a past winner of both the Catlins and Gore Rally, won last years event after a titanic struggle with his good friend Graves. Graves held a 2 second lead when he punctured last year leaving Ayson to carry on to victory. Quizzed whether he can make it two in a row Ayson responds, "I'll give it a fair old try. We were a bit lucky last year. It will be all on with Dougie (Graves), Bondy and Rhys all there." Looking back at the battle he had with Graves in a much older car last year he says, "it is just amazing, he drives it so well."
Graves is seeded second and will renew his rivalry with Ayson at the head of the field. He has been in fine form again this season in his older EVO and looked odds on to win the Catlins Rally in August only to just miss out after a massive late charge from Gardner. "Hopefully we prove to be as quick as last year," says Graves. "There will be stiff competition as per normal." When asked about the speed he manages to extract from one of the older cars at the pointy end of the field he says, "she goes pretty good for an old bus. It is a credit to Lindsay Tressler who prepares the car that it is so reliable."
Dean Bond, the winner of the Catlins Coast Rally in both 2009 and 2011, is at three. Bond says he is looking at the bigger picture ahead of next years campaign and will be looking to get some kilometres after the disappointment of going off the road at Catlins. "I'll just sit behind the front guys and see what happens and hopefully enjoy the day."
Gardner is at four and has built up an impressive record since moving into 4-wheel-drive machinery at the beginning of the year. He won the Allcomers Rally at Otago in May and then won at Catlins two months ago to make it two from two. Gardner finished eighth in this event last year in his 2-wheel-drive Toyota. "I found the roads quite challenging last year. It will be interesting this year with more suspension travel. We will just drive our own rally and whatever happens, happens!"
Steve Wellington of Dunedin is seeded at five in his Mitsubishi EVO 6.5 while last years second placegetter Neville Krammer of Wallacetown near Invercargill is at six. Krammer is the highest seeded Subaru Legacy driver of several in the event. The Legacy is an older car but Krammer has achieved some amazing results in his example. Christchurch driver David Clearwater lines up next in a Subaru Impreza WRX followed by Neville Mennell of Invercargill in a Subaru Legacy RS, the 2 litre turbo Toyota Starlet of Philip Terry and the Hillman Avenger of Barry Mills of Balclutha, the first 2-wheel-drive car in the order.
Meanwhile Glenn Macneall will be at Rankleburn after spending last weekend co-driving for Chris Atkinson in a Mini in Rallye De France, Round 11 of the World Rally Championship. This weekend he will co-drive for one of his employees at Gilmour Motors, former Gore driver Craig Hewlett, the National Junior Clubsport Champion in just his second rally. In his first he started 77th in his Toyota FX GT and finished 34th overall and 11th in his class.
Meanwhile Macneall's partner, Emma Gilmour, the worlds top ranked female rally driver, will be marshalling at the event showing her dedication to the sport.
Fifteen-year-old George Keast of Invercargill, a Year 11 student at Central Southland College in Winton, will make his first rally start in a Ford Escort after co-driving with Deane Buist in the recent Catlins Rally where they finished fourth.
The rally prizegiving will take place at the MLT Heartland Hotels Croydon at the conclusion of the event.