Stage Previews: Lone Star Rally of Canterbury
Round three of Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship driven by VINZ sees the series stay in the South. The first of the one-day rounds of this year championship, the Lone Star Rally Canterbury in association with Joes Garage sees night stages return to the championship and while last year’s event was exclusively forestry, this year sees half the stages based on public roads that are as far north as Cheviot.
Once again the rally will start at The Palms Mall in north-eastern Christchurch on Saturday afternoon. Cars will be on display from 3.15pm with the all important start order selection for the top 5 championship runners taking place on the start ramp at 3.45pm. Who will want to lead into the forest on Saturday night? After a driver signing session, the first car departs the ramp at the Palms at 4.45pm to head straight to the Okuku forest for the first two stages of the event. While crews were in the same forestry complex last year, the cover of darkness should add an extra challenge to the action.
The opening stage, Straight N Paint, is 13.26km long and starts just shy of an hour after sunset at 6pm so the spectacular sight of bright spotlights and glowing brake discs will be well in effect by the time the first cars enter the stage. The stage itself starts out fast as it works in from the boundary of the forest, starting to tighten up as the stage heads into the forest and runs along the ridge line between the trees. The road then opens out along the ridge lines and towards the end of the stage passes through a section of forestry that has been felled as the stage once again opens up for a descent to the finish. Our inside knowledge suggests the condition of the forestry roads is top notch and even if the weather does rain (Forecast suggests cold and dry, dropping to 0 degrees in the evening), the road should not become overly slippery, something not typical of forestry roads.
Stage two, Palmside NZ Ltd, is slightly longer at 18.19kms and starts in an open section outside the forestry on a fast and flowing section of road for the first few kilometres and the crews will enter into the forestry again in a felled area so the surface of the road should be good. Towards the end, the stage tightens up and runs through some dense forestry before finishing with a downhill run to keep everyone on their toes before heading to Rangiora for service and then overnight parc ferme at the Showgrounds.
Crews restart from Rangiora at 7.50am on Sunday morning and head north to SS3, Rubber Developments Ltd, which covers 28.41km of public roads, starting right out by the coast at Motunau. The start of the stage combines long straights with tighter but sweeping corners through farmland that should not cause any dramas. Crews will have to be careful on several sections of tarmac that surround several single lane bridges as the stage snakes both Boundary and Black Birch Creeks. The stage then becomes very fast with the odd tight corner thrown in the keep teams on their toes, so expect some smoking brakes at the end. The tightest sequence of corners comes just after a ‘T’ junction that is not far from state highway one, so should attract a few spectators. This follows on to a near flat out blast to the finish.
Service in the Cheviot township at 9.45am follows, before Stage four, P M Trailers, which starts inland from Cheviot and is the most northern stage of the event and at 33.07km, is the longest as well. Starts out fast and flowing, but tightens up as the stage moves into the Lowry Hill Range. The stage then opens up for the downhill run to the finish. Like the previous stage, this is one that will reward the brave and committed. Given the length and nature of these two stages, it will be a safe expectation that those drivers challenging for victory will have played their cards by this stage.
Another service in the Waikari township at 11.30am then on to Stage five. Diggalink or known to the locals as Ram Paddock Rd is used in part as a Autosport rallysprint road, but in the opposite direction so expect the likes of Summerfield, Jansen and Baddock to be quick. The stage is comparatively short at 15.63km and is a real fast blast, including one straight that will show who has the best engine builder. Plenty of flowing corners, expect this to be popular with most drivers, particularly those with plenty of power.
The shortest stage of the event is SS6, Top Wire Contracting, is the shortest of the event at a mere six kilometres, but is not to be taken lightly. Has a slightly tricky and technical section between two junctions.
Service in Rangiroa at the Alfred Street Carpark follows at 1.20pm. Stage seven, Heavy Diesel Parts/Service, sees the rally return to the Okuku forest and this stage uses the majority of stage two in reverse, albeit in daylight this time. But the end of the stage uses around 10km of new roads, bringing the distance up to 25.52kms. The new section throws up plenty of challenges including a couple of fords, one that is particularly deep so as the penultimate stage, it could well provide a sting in the tail.
The final stage of the event, Brita Safety, is also the power stage so there is no chance to back off early. This stage is a complete repeat of stage one from the previous night, but again in the opposite direction. With the big drops that line the middle of the stage across the ridgeline now visible, it will be interesting to compare times from the previous night.
Teams then have a tour back to The Palms mall where they started the night before where the winners and survivors will cross the finish ramp from 4.20pm. then let the podium celebrations and spray of Moa Beer commence.
A spectator map and itinerary can be downloaded from the event website, click here: Spectator Info
Matt Summerfield Rallisport and Stadium Cars are hosting a guided rallytour with tickets available to purchase and proceeds going to Cystic Fibrosis. Check out the Matt Summerfield Rallisport Facebook page for further details.
Spectators are reminded to follow the instructions of marshals and ensure they stand well clear of the road’s edge – inside the taped off viewing areas. Enjoy the rally.