Finally got a few action photos - Our thanks to Kevin Duffy for these
After many hours of work put in by Carl, Bert was ready to rock at Ascot Hotel Rally of Southland. With a brake bias valve installed and more under body protection put on, Bert was looking great when we picked him up from Carl’s place in Timaru on Thursday.
After a long drive we arrived at Dunedin where we picked up a hire van – to fit in all our new Dunlop tyres!! Dave and I drove Bert from Dunedin to Invercargill to settle into the car and try out the brake bias valve for the first time. It was raining very heavily in Dunedin and that didn’t ease up as we drove into Invercargill.
Arrived late in Invercargill, but got a good night’s sleep ready for a big day of recce on Friday. Recce was great; with experience from Otago Rally behind us, we put into practice what we discussed in our post Otago rally team conference. The roads were in great condition and I was very keen to get stuck into them. Unfortunately, I had woken up with a very sore throat so had to try conserving my voice after stocking up on the throat lozenges. It was raining quite a bit and many of the corners had large water pools on the inside which we noted as due to the weather report, plenty more was to come. Feeling very ill this evening and was sure hoping it would pass during the night.
Saturday morning dawned to reasonably clear skies but gale force wind and my flu had turned a bit worse. Arrived at auditing, once again beating new “big brother” Richard Mason who had parked behind me but didn’t want to wait so tried a cheeky undertaking move - pushing his car, cutting the apex of the corner and having the better exit line. Managed to keep my position, as he was a bit slow on the restart ;)
Can also report Deane Buist is not only quick on the stages, but this man is a legend with stickers. He managed to put his number sticker on in (according to timer Caity) 10.27 seconds with little to no bubbles. A little bit behind the pace was Richard – taking slightly longer with 59.59 seconds, still a great effort.
The rally started at lunchtime on Saturday, Teretonga was to be the first stage and my first time around it. We decided to run with a ¼ full fuel tank as we had a service straight after. Unfortunately, on the second lap we got a fuel surge, which meant the car cut out most corners and would not go over 140km/h on straight – where it could have gone 180km/h. We limped to the finish and were very happy to see our service crew!
Although there were plenty of frightening stories about the first gravel stage Pebbly Hills, after recce I wasn’t too worried about it. The rain had stopped and I was looking forward to the opportunity to run the Dunlop’s for the first time. From the very first corner, I knew I would love these tyres as they really grip the road and allow a clean pull away from the corners. Next we moved onto Dunsdale – Dave’s favourite. This stage went even better; I had more confidence in my brakes and in the car’s handling. Repeat of Pebbly hills followed and we managed a 30-odd second faster time. Turned up at Invercargill service to find that I’d managed to smash the glass out of the driver’s wing mirror, Deane Buist and Kayne Barrie had done the same –but obliterated their whole wing mirror. Lesson learnt – retract ears in at start of stage!
After an hours service, the cars went into parc Ferme for the night. Had an early night ready for a full and eventful day two.
For the first time, we awoke to blue skies! Was feeling slightly better and was keen to make some time back today with nice weather conditions. We started the first stage with fresh energy and noticed that a lot of the calls like ‘water pool inside corner’ were no longer needed.
Kept the service crew busy with the under body protection that kept coming half off after each stage. End of stage 6 we noticed a very strange noise from the back of the car, had stage 7 to do before a service and hoped that it was only a stone. Turned up to service to find it was a broken sway bar mount. All good, we got it wired up and ready to go. I also found that if you go over ruts, the car can get a bit airborne!
Stages 8 was repeated in stage 10, I thoroughly enjoyed this stage and we were buzzing after it each time as we knew we’d done well!! There was a jump that was cautioned in the notes but during recce, David and I decided we’d take out the caution and just go for it! We came over it (Dave looked at the Speedo) at 160kph, got airborne and landed with a bit of a thud. Was LOVING this. Talking to Richard at prizegiving, he said they’d buttoned off to 145kph for it!
Stage 9 came, this was going very well… until… around 1-2km from the end we slid wide on a 3 right leading onto a bridge, causing us to be stuck in the mud for between 1 ½ - 2minutes, until some VERY nice spectators pushed us free (thanks guys!!!). Mark Tapper had gone off just after the bridge, Rex Vizible had gone off before us and Bruce Herbert had rolled just before there too, Rex said several others had gone off here as well. We were lucky as there was a very large drop about a foot away with several logs to make the fall pretty rough – I hadn’t noticed it so thanks Rex for letting me know! However, in the words of Petter Solberg “things like this can happen but not again.”
The rest of the stages ran smoothly and although the rain set in very heavily there was plenty of action and excitement but most was controlled. We finished the day pleased with our result, I’d learnt more in this rally than I’d learnt in the last 3 rallies before combined.
What a rally, our best performance to date – even with the fuel surge, off road excursion and a problem with the times in the final results ?. Bert performed like a true Toyota and never gave us problems; the Dunlop’s pulled us out of the corners very well and the service crew worked as a true team.
Congratulations to Todd and Damon, Richard and Hamish, Andrew and Sam, the top 3 teams overall. Also to Deane and Bert, Jason and Charmaine, Kayne and Peter who were the top three 2WD teams. Congratulations to all those finishers as it was a tough rally!
Our deepest thanks to Carl Rabbidge who spent hours working on the car leading up to the rally - thanks Carl, because of your efforts it ran like a dream. Thanks also to Carl’s wife for letting him spend those hours on my car and helping bleed the brakes etc!
Thanks to the awesome and very strong spectators who pushed us back onto the road –Dave and I aren’t the strongest people in the world and our rally could have very well been over if it wasn’t for you.
Thanks to the most supportive and greatest people Mum, Dad, Caity and Becky. The hours these guys put into helping out is incredible and, as Carl says “you’re meant to get real snappy before a rally, its natural”. These guys are the ones that have to put up with it, and are still so keen to get out there and back me more than 100%.
Thanks to Nana & Grandad who did all the baking for the crew and kept us updated (via phone from Nelson and using the Car.co.nz website) with results during the rally.
Thanks to Ian and Josh our awesome Southland service crew. We had total confidence that you two, dad, mum and Caity would have the car sorted for us at each service and we were most impressed at how professionally you worked.
Thanks to the Richard Mason service crew for offering help when we looked in trouble working on the back of the car (sway bar) and to Richard for the bottle cap.
Thanks to A1 Auto for giving us the workshop to work on Bert in and letting him stay over for the night.
Thanks to David for keeping me on the road, recce had paid off and the notes were pretty spot on.
Thanks to my sponsors – Toyota New Zealand, Dunlop, Beaurepairs, Car.co.nz, Victory Automotive, Laird motorsport, LemonCheck and my parents.
Thanks to everyone who wished us good luck and followed us through the rally, the support has been overwhelming.
I’m very keen to get my teeth stuck into Rally of Rotorua in six weeks time and if we can carry on the progress, I’m sure we can make it a great one. We currently stand at 4th in the NZ Rally Championship 2wd class and 3rd in Mainland Series Class B and 10th overall.
So after 17 hours of driving home (thanks to mum and dad) we’re back in Nelson. It’s pretty hard to get back into the old rhythm of school and settle the adrenaline by coming back to earth after such a great weekend, but it’s not long till our next outing - I just wish it was tomorrow!!