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Catlins Coast Rally - From Utes To Luxury Sedans

16 JULY 2013

Catlins Coast Rally - From Utes To Luxury Sedans 

There have been some unique cars in the Catlins Coast Rally over the years and this year when the event is held on Saturday 27 July there will be everything from utes to luxury sedans.

Trevor Crowe of Christchurch will pilot a Subaru WRX Ute and Kayne Barrie of Auckland a V12 powered BMW Hartge H5.

Crowe is well known for building and developing unique competition cars.

After local hillclimb success in the 1960's he shot to prominence in the early 1970's when he raced in the OSCA Saloon category, firstly in a Toyota Corolla powered by a Corvette engine and later in a V8 powered Toyota Starlet which took him to four OSCA Saloon car titles. He also achieved a fair degree of success in more conventional cars during the Group A era winning the New Zealand Group A Championship and experiencing Group A success in the annual Benson & Hedges race at Pukekohe. He also scored a third place at the Wellington Street race (with Mark Thatcher) and then finished 4th at Bathurst with Peter Jackson. He also has an eleventh at Bathurst with Inky Tulloch. 

Successes in rallying and hillclimbs came in cars such as Datsun 1200's, Hillman Avengers and Ford Escort BDA's but as time went on Trevor starting building and competing in more and more radical cars. There was an Avenger V8, the Starlet V8, a Skoda V8 and a Subaru Justy with a mid mounted 2.5 litre turbo engine. He gained plenty of success in those as well, including class wins at the Race To The Sky and he became the first South Islander to win the Ashley Forest Rallysprint when he drove the former OSCA winning Starlet V8 to victory in 1985.

Crowe's latest creation is yet another unique machine and it is the one he will bring to the Catlins Coast Rally - a Subaru WRX Ute. The ute started life as a 1.5 litre Impreza Sedan before it was chopped to a ute, converted to 4-wheel-drive and fitted with a 2.5 litre turbocharged engine.

Crowe explains. "For me it is a technical challenge. It is doing something a bit different and it is good to see if it will work or not. The Ute was originally built for sealed events like Targa but we have converted it for shingle. It is early days. I've forgotten how to drive a 4 wheel drive and we are not expecting miracles. We are there purely for fun. There is no real advantage. We actually built a workshop ute based on a GTB Legacy once. The body on this one was harder to do as it is shorter. Doing these sort of vehicles certainly gains us some publicity and when the other competitors saw this one they just said that is typical of you!"

Of all his cars he says the Starlet was the most successful. "We won four OSCA titles and we beat the Aussies when they came over and we were the first South Islanders to win the Ashley Forest Rallysprint. When we built it people said it wouldn't work. It has all been fun. The Skoda V8 was a beast and the Justy was a like a Group B Rally Car. It was fun but a bit fragile now for rallies." Pressed for a motorsport career highlight he goes back to 1988 when he was third at the Wellington Street Race and fourth at Bathurst.   

Crowe enjoys Catlins. "The roads are fantastic. It is a friendly event and it is sensible. You get more and more stupid rules at some events. When (Assistant Clerk Of Course) Roger Laird is involved things work out pretty good. The roads are really, really good. We are so blessed in this country. There is less touring miles and a lot of Special Stage mileage too. It is a compact event. We are running for fun. I don't like retiring or crashing the car."

Barrie was a prominent competitor in the Kiwi 2 class of the National Championship some years ago. Next he tackled the Ford Fiesta ST Series where he missed the National Title by one point, or as Barrie says by a margin of 3.4 seconds. The driver who pipped him was Mark Tapper, one of New Zealand's best, and Barrie says he is comfortable with the result - "I was the second fastest driver that year," he says.

At the end of that season came the high point of Barrie's motorsport life. He was offered a wildcard entry to MSport's Fiesta Sporting Trophy Shootout in the UK. After that he dropped off the radar a little. "Business (Kayne Barrie Motorsport) and other things in life took over."

However he kept his hand in with a little endurance racing and one night over a beer decided that building a BMW rally car would be a bit of a laugh. "If we were going to do it we had to go big so it was to be V12 powered." Barrie explains why such an unlikely car was chosen. "I was trained as a BMW technician and I have a passion for BMW. You can't help but love them. There is a soft spot for the V12 amongst the mechanics so that powerplant was chosen."

Barrie says as far as "bang for buck goes it is the most fun he has had in a car. It is a lot of fun. I have no great expectations so you are rarely  disappointed. The car is obscenely fast in a straight line and excites the spectators. It is quiet but it ticks all the boxes."

Barrie has done the Paihia Rally three times, winning his class once and getting a second place in class on another occasion. He has also done the Taupo 2-Wheel-Drive Rally and placed tenth overall earlier this year in the International Classic Rally Of Otago. 

His trip to Catlins comes about as it does with so many drivers because, "everyone talks about Catlins." "I know Roger Laird quite well and Roger always said we should do it. I always said I would love to do it but with the National Championship budgets get stretched. These days we are out for enjoyment and I will get a lot of driver pleasure just slinging it about. As the rally is blind (with no pace notes) the car will not be that competitive but we will do our best not to blow it up or put it into the trees!"

One thing Barrie is at pains to point out is that the V12 powerplant is relatively standard and has over 300,000 kilometres on the clock - "and it has no oil leaks!" 

Jason West of Dunedin, himself a former driver who has several National Class titles to his credit, will co-drive for Barrie. Barrie is also keen to give credit to Adams Plumbing of Dunedin. "Whenever we come south they can't do enough to help us. When we did the National Championship they helped out when we came south and again when we did the Otago Rally earlier this year. They are on board again with us for our trip to Catlins too."   

Trevor Crowe's Subaru WRX Ute


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