From the Service Park – Rally Otago

Our last visit to Dunedin in 2019 saw Dylan Turner famously book the NZRC team into a hostel that resulted in some team members coming down with a mysterious rash and others forced to sleep in the car.

Sleep deprived and with a stiff neck, the corresponding edition of From the Service Park highlighted the ordeal.
It was with delight that Blair Bartels organised accommodation for the 2021 trip and the digs were met with universal approval on Thursday upon arriving.
Turns out Turner was also staying at the same motel and while things started well (except for some strange reason having Roxy Music’s song Avalon stuck in my head all weekend) the situation unraveled quickly.

Musical beds
Sleeping arrangements were thrown into chaos on Thursday night when an unnamed member of Turner’s rally team arrived late with the car on the back of the trailer. The trip from Auckland is long and torturous but the car was due in around lunchtime on Thursday.
When it finally turned up just after dark, said team member was quizzed why he was so late.
It seems he’d taken a slight detour via Greymouth and had picked up a hitchhiker, who then became a traveling companion for the duration of the trip.
It meant poor co-driver Malcolm Read had to join the NZRC team in one of their rooms.

Bell gets stood up
Simon Bell decided some months ago to enter the rally and suggested a road trip down to Otago with good friend Turner.
But after initially agreeing to the join Bell on the drive, Turner opted to send the previously mentioned team member down driving the car and waited an extra day at home before flying to Dunedin.
Word has it they identified Bell’s bright yellow Subaru on the back of the trailer midway between Christchurch and Oamaru from the air and arrived fresh and well before poor old Bell.

Extra boost for Turner?
To help patch things up Bell and Turner decided to have dinner together in Dunedin on Friday night.
They made a poor choice however, going to an Indian restaurant, which proved disastrous the next morning.
Turner is understood to have made a mad dash to knock on a local’s front door, asking to urgently use their bathroom in between stages.

Thank goodness
On a serious note, we are all very pleased to hear that Turner and Read came out of their horror crash on Sunday relatively unscathed and we know we speak for the entire rally community when we wish them luck getting the car repaired and back in the championship as soon as possible.

Travel bubble helps Read
On the Read front, we hear he has been asked to get the passport ready and is likely to be co-driving internationally in the coming months.
Watch this space.

Haggis has a laugh
Hat tip to the very funny Sean Haggerty, who turned up to scrutineering with two brooms cable-tied to his mud flaps on Friday.
Haggerty was first car on the road on Saturday and took the role of gravel sweep seriously much to the delight of the scrutineers.

Peden his pants
Mal Peden very nearly had a wee accident at Wellington airport on the way to Rally Otago.
Having gone through the metal scanner the guards picked up something strange around Peden’s midsection.
They honed in on the area and were concerned about him hiding something in his er… hind quarters.
After being quizzed about it Peden offered permission for a pat down, nervously watching to see that no-one put on a rubber glove.
Much to his relief he was left to border the flight with the guards satisfied all was where it should be.

Young to join NZRC?
Mike Young is targeting joining the championship from Timaru onwards and is trying to secure a suitable car.
The Asia Pacific rally star will be a welcome addition at the pointy end of the field.

If the glove fits
How about Matt Summerfield’s start to Sunday? He got a puncture that hurt him on the day’s first stage and then took off to the second test desperate to make up the lost time.
My spies tell me he misplaced his gloves at some point and was forced to drive back to get them before entering the second stage of the day.
As fate would have it the unlucky Cantabrian then got another puncture without a spare and his rally was ruined.

Twinkle toes Cox
Steve Cox is one of the more experienced drivers in the NZRC field but he showed lightning fast reactions to avoid a catastrophe on Sunday.
He had stopped with a mechanical issue in his Toyota Starlet and was parked up mid-stage.
Standing on the road side as a spectator, he had to jump down a drop to avoid Matt Adams and Lisa Hudson in their Mitsubishi, who had run wide on a corner.

Tyre changing practice needed
Shane Murland was primed for a superb result in his Ford Escort on Sunday when he too had the misfortune of suffering a puncture.
But he endured one of the all-time great tyre change fails when he changed the flat tyre for a spare, put everything back in the boot and then jumped back behind the wheel only to realise the car was still jacked up.
They had to jump back out, remove the flat tyre from the boot to get the rattle gun to lower the jack, wasting an extra couple of precious minutes.
It didn’t get better, unfortunately for Murland he got another puncture later in the day and co-driver Kane Seymour jacked up the wrong side of the car.

Nothing gets by him
We are pleased to hear that driver-turned-livestream commentator Darren Galbraith is training to become a detective in his hometown of Timaru.
Our experiences with him on rallies is that he couldn’t locate Carmen Sandiego if she was safely hiding out in the South Canterbury town.
However the wannabe sleuth had no trouble hunting down dessert at the prize giving buffet dinner on Sunday night.

Flying without wings?
Apparently Dylan Thomson is a big fan of helicopters. Thomson proved very fast upon his return to the FIA Group N 2WD class at Otago and took out the class win in his Ford Fiesta.
Co-driver and fiancé Amy Hudson has been moaning to friends about his recent obsession.

Blair Bartels offered to drive Kingsley Jones’ Auckland Denture Clinic Skoda R5 to scrutineering on Friday. He stalled the car nearly 10 times just getting out of the carpark while half the NZRC field watched on from the balcony.
It was almost as bad as Krystal Brock and Dale Budge recording the first end of stage interview on stage 3 with the microphone turned off.

Bad luck for Blackberry
Grant Blackberry looked set for a terrific first up result in his cat 1 debut at Rally Otago before he too struck misfortune.
He stopped on Sunday afternoon with an engine failure. Upon closer inspection though it turns out the trouble was a plug for one of the injectors had come off. They were able to plug it back in and the car was fine again.
Unfortunately he had already withdrawn from the rally.

Has anyone seen Klinky?
Marcus van Klink was safely sitting with a podium position midway through Sunday’s action but hasn’t been seen since entering SS10.
Drivers reported seeing co-driver Dave Neill standing on the side of the road giving a thumbs up sign but there have been no sightings of Klinky or his Mazda RX8.


About The Author


The New Zealand Rally Championship is this country’s premier nationwide rally championship. It attracts New Zealand’s best drivers to compete in numerous categories for the prestigious MotorSport New Zealand-sanctioned rally championship titles. In 2024, there are six NZRC rounds, each with a unique character reflecting the diverse regions – from Northland to Invercargill