11/08/2017

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Euan Cameron

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Neil Dodds in action in the AE86 turbocharged Toyota Corolla he will drive in the Catlins Coast Rally on Saturday 12 August

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Four top class North Island competitors will make the long trek to the Catlins for this weekend’s Catlins Coast Rally.

Two of the four, Chris Alexander and David Wright, have been to the event before while Neil Dodds and Brian Green will tackle the roads for the first time.

Aucklander Chris Alexander came south in 2013 to compete at Catlins for the first time, drawn south by the reputation of the event. Armed with a Datsun Sunny on that occasion, he said at the time the visit was a recce before coming back with a quicker car.

Alexander fulfils that promise this year in a very special car, a 1964 Ford Cortina MK1. The car has been seven years in the making and will make its rally debut at Catlins despite a tumultuous time during the build of the car. “I shifted home, I moved my work premises, I had a battle with cancer which I have only recently overcome and I built another car which I destroyed in the Gisborne Rally two years ago.”

Neil Dodds cut his teeth rallying down south. Originally from Dunedin he started competing when he was fifteen. “I had many vehicles over the years – Datsun 1600’s, Datsun 1200’s, Ford Escort’s and Mazda RX3’s. I did the Wyndham Rally, the Gore Rally, Claytons Rally’s, and the Rally Of Southland when it was a National Round. I rallied until I was about thirty-two. I stopped when I went to learn how to fly helicopters,” says Dodds who now runs the Eastland Community Trust Rescue Helicopter service in Gisborne.

Dodds brings an AE86 turbocharged Toyota Corolla to Catlins to “tick it off the list.” “I know how well the Eastern Southland Car Club run events and it is a place that offers some of the best roads in New Zealand. It’s a family affair too. My brother–in–law Wayne Scott from Dunedin services for me and my younger brother will come from Queenstown to service as well. The goal is simply to throw some stones around, enjoy some cool scenery and make it to the end.”

David Wright of Te Aroha competed at Catlins in a Nissan Pulsar in 2013, unfortunately retiring with gearbox issues. He also travelled south for the 2006 Gore Rally and also competed in the south when he was a competitor in the National Rally Championship. Wright was the 2007 2-wheel-drive NZ Rally Xtreme Champion and will bring a wealth of experience when he returns to Catlins this year in a Ford Escort MK1 BDA. Wright has just purchased the car. “I have had lot to do with the car in the past and the previous owner will co-drive for me.”    

“It is a great event,” says Wright, “that’s why we are coming back. There were two local events we could have done but we are doing this instead. We are coming down to have a bit of fun”.

Brian Green of Palmerston North is a veteran of the New Zealand rally scene, first competing in the Golden Shell Silver Fern Rally based out of Christchurch in 1970.

Since then he has done what is thought to be in the vicinity of seven hundred rallies over the last forty-seven years. However this is his first Catlins Coast Rally.

Green has previously rallied at National Rounds in Southland and Otago and did the Silver Fern Rally last year which used some of the Catlins roads. “We used Jeff Judd’s Ford Escort RS1800 for that event. We have a very good relationship with Jeff and it’s a real step back in time driving a 5 speed manual, 2 wheel drive car after driving a 6 speed sequential 4-wheel-drive car in recent times. In the Silver Fern I was absolutely stuffed after a few days and I didn’t think I would be able to carry on. We have agreed to do three rallies in the Escort – Catlins, Hanmer Springs and Geraldine.”

Green’s goals for Catlins are “to go as fast as I can and stay on the road,” but having said that he admits that once you are at 8500 revs with a lot of noise going on things can change. “We are just looking to have some fun. The locals have a huge advantage.”

The 2017 Catlins Coast Rally is Round 5 of the Stadium Finance Mainland Rally Championship and also a points round for the ESCC Rally Championship Trophy.

The event is scheduled to depart from Owaka Motors in Campbell Street, Owaka at 10am on 12 August. The rally will be based in Owaka this year with servicing of the rally cars taking place in the township between stages. Six Special Stages await competitors before the rally finishes in Owaka at approximately 3.44pm.

Major support for the 2017 Catlins Coast Rally comes from Rosebank Lodge Balclutha, Fulton Hogan, Owaka Motors, Yuasa Batteries and Stadium Finance.

Lindsay Beer
Catlins Coast Rally
021 351 499