From the Service Park – Southern Lights Rally

Our hard-working NZRC Live team were out and about, beanies and all, at the Southern Lights Rally finding out everything there is to know for this column.

Hat-tip to Rally Race Group
It is a big task bringing a new event (after two decades we can call it a new event) back to the calendar, particularly when those organising it live in a different island.
But the Southern Lights Rally was a massive success on all fronts with competitors and spectators alike, raving about the weekend.
Paul, T-Mac and their crew deserve a serious pat on the back and encouragement to make the visit to the Deep South an annual excursion.

Major car swap on the cards?
Rumours have been circling for a few weeks about one of the NZRC’s premium cars changing hands next season, which could see a talented youngster given a shot in the best machinery money can buy.
There were denials as well as admissions of some chance of the sale happening so we’re not sure what chance there is of it happening but it is certainly worth keeping an eye on over the next few months.

It has happened to many drivers over the years, but Robbie Stokes was the latest to leave his gloves on the roof of his car over the weekend.
He drove off to the next stage oblivious to them falling off. Thankfully it didn’t stop him turning in another superb performance to make it three straight podiums on the season.

Ooops 2
Which experienced co-driver had a similar moment in front of the NZRC Live team at the end of SS2 on Saturday morning?
The offender jumped out of the car with the intercom cable still connected to her helmet, before falling over as she tried to exit the car.
Of all the places to have a little moment.

Ooops 3
Blair Bartels is never one for exercise but a few people did notice him walking hastily the long way across Teretonga on Friday afternoon – but the question is why?
He may have jumped out of the Omega Rental Car for a meeting, leaving the rest of the team to move champagne and trophies to the finish a few hundred metres away.
The car was to be left for BB while the rest of the team headed back into town in the other rental but, Bartels had the keys in his pockets still and his car was unable to start, meaning he’d need a brisk walk across the track to get back the ceremonial start in time.
It also needs to be pointed out that Bartels managed to get lost, despite his teammates advice, on the way to the first livestream stage on Saturday.

Historic cars to join field
While the historic 2WD class has been a little light on numbers so far this season, expect to see at least two serious contenders enter when the championship moves north.
I’m hearing a couple of contenders from previous seasons will be back by the end of the year.

Tight squeeze
Which member of the rallying community was caught in a tight squeeze in the wee small hours on Sunday morning?
There may have been celebratory birthday drinks involved – just saying.

Good Samaritan
How about a bit of acknowledgement for David Clearwater, who stepped up to help fellow competitor Caleb Macdonald on Saturday?
Clearwater’s rally was over by the morning service at Winton due to a gearbox issue but he offered Macdonald the use of his rear wing after Macdonald had some damage in the opening stage of the day.
It allowed Macdonald’s car to handle much better and he brought home another class podium as a result.

Give that man some coffee
Andy Martin proved a great host at Rally South Canterbury but it doesn’t spare him from copping some grief in this column.
Martin was at the pre-event welcome on Thursday at the spectacular Transport World Museum (a must see if vising Invercargill) and publicly asked about whether coffee would be available at the next night’s start at Teretonga.
What Andy didn’t realise is that the start was actually from Transport World, which has a terrific café.


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