Stage Previews – Drivesouth Rally Otago
Round two of the Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship – driven by VINZ – is the iconic OtagoRally, which this year runs as a round of the NZRC for the 20th consecutive year. Canterburys Jeff Judd is an experienced driver and co-driver having rallied all over New Zealand and Internationally, we asked ‘Juddy’ to help provide a drivers ‘eyeview’ of the stages this weekend.
After the traditional Friday night start in the Octagon, teams leave the Southern Cross hotel at 8am on Saturday morning and head towards the opening stage, Fallaburn. At 13.5km, it is a nice length to start the event but those looking to ease into it will get a rude awakening, the road is wide and fast. After a few medium speed corners at the start of the stage, this becomes a near flat out blast down to the spectator junction. After the 90-degree left where the stage joins a new road, it is again very very fast but does tighten up a bit towards the end where the stage runs around the edge of some forestry.
A short three kilometre tour brings cars to the 22km Gooseneck stage, and the small tour will make tyre management tough, as crews also have to tackle the 50km stage three before service. This stage is slightly tighter in general than the previous stage, but is still by no means a slow stage. Has a couple of second gear sections around a couple of the junctions that are common place through this stage, with the final section of road running between the trees that is likely to be a medium speed section of road.
After a quick refuel, it is straight into the longest stage of the event, and more than likely the entire 2014 NZRC season, the 50km Manuka Hill. This stage was run as part of the Silver Fern Rally back in 2010 and is astonishingly fast. In the Silver Fern, an event for classic cars and without pace notes, ShaneMurland won the stage at an average of just over 109km/h. This stage also is the first time an NZRC stage has cracked 50km since this event in 2008, although this monster stage is 100% public roads.
Once the monster has been completed, crews will get their first chance to service the cars before heading back out to some more frighteningly fast stages that start with Cairn Road. Again this is another fast blast, but does have a couple of tighter sections. Stages five and six are finally familiar territory for NZRC competitors again, albeit in the reverse direction. Last time out, Andrew Hawkeswood won both of them in his spectacular Audi, can he do the same with his new Mazda? Stage six is particularly fast, when Hawkeswood won it in 2011 he did so at an average of 116.67km/h.
Teams then head into town for the now infamous Super Special Stage around an industrial block on tarmac. It looks as simple as turning left four times per lap, but huge bumps and surface changes mean that almost without fail, someone will have a moment in front of the huge crowd that assembles.
Day two on Sunday sees the event return to the more traditional OtagoRally roads based around the service park at Lake Waihola.
First up is Taieri Beach, famous for the acute junction with the steep drop off. A coastal forest stage, this one has a character all of its own with plenty of undulations and can be particularly slippery if wet. This stage has claimed a few victims, with Jimmy McRae tipping up a BDA Escort while local driver Mike Turfus managed to roll at the aforementioned acute junction, rather embarrassingly as the zero car!
Stage nine is Kuri Bush, affectionately known as ‘Little Finland’ due to the large number of crests, plenty of which have corners on or just after them. This stage is an absolute boomer and the favourite of many not just in this event, but any event. Cars are almost constantly light or airborne and commitment to a good set of notes is absolutely critical to setting a fast time. Certainly not for the faint hearted.
Stage ten, McIntosh road, is short, sharp and intense. Very fast and flowing at the start through to a tarmac junction that is popular with spectators. The road then narrows with a huge big drop over a crest before some tight corners to finish off.
Tighter than pretty much every other Otago stage is WaiporiGorge. The stage winds alongside a river and includes a narrow bridge as the stage crosses from one side of the river to the other. Although this stage would appear a lot slower, a good flow lets teams keep up a higher than expected average speed.
Stage twelve, Terrace Range, is based in the Berwick Forestand at just over 40km, will be a deciding stage amongst Sunday’s action. Although quite open and flowing, it can become slippery in the rain and as our resident expert Jeff Judd puts it ‘not what you’d call rough, but it can be a bitboney.” This is a stage that has provided plenty of dramas in the past, Richard Mason lost a rally with a puncture in the stage, only to lose the limelight when Andrew Hawkeswood emerged two cars later with the roof hanging off his Mitsubishi after an altercation with a forest gate. This stage has also given trouble to three former World Rally Champions, namely Hannu Mikkola, Bjorn Waldegard and Ari Vatanen.
Akatore runs through some forestry for the first 10km before joining into the final 15km of Taieri Beach as run first thing in the morning. Following that is another partially repeated stage Dickson, which uses some new and previously used sections of Kuri Bush.
The final stage of the event is Whare Flat, a stage that no Otago Rally would be complete without. Although it feels deep in the bush, this stage is quite literally on the outskirts of Dunedin and has a good flow to it. Run in this direction makes the three Fords not quite so troublesome. After that is a short tour to the finish at the Dunedin Railway Station.
To download a Spectator Map and for more information including running time of stages visit: Otago Rally Spectator Information
Remember to always listen to the safety marshals.