Graves takes Rankleburn Rally title

Andrew Graves and Glenn Frew in their Mitsubishi EVO 3 on the way to winning the 2021 MLT/Croydon Hotel and Ernslaw One Rally on Saturday. Photos: Tracy Michelle/Stephen Russell
James Worker, of Lumsden, and co-driver Bradley Smith in their Mitsubishi EVO 6 on their way to second place.

GORE driver Andrew Graves won the Eastern Southland Car Club’s MLT/Croydon Lodge and Ernslaw One Limited Rankleburn Rally in the Rankleburn Forest in West Otago on Saturday.

The win earned Graves the Darryl Robinson Memorial Trophy and was his fourth in the event after previously taking victories in 2012, 2014 and 2018.

Graves, driving a Mitsubishi EVO 3, won all four stages, extending his lead throughout to finish the event 1 minute 06.1 seconds ahead of James Worker, of Lumsden, in an EVO 6 while David Clearwater, of Christchurch, brought his EVO 4 home in third place.

“It was a great day and a great event by the club as per normal. It was nice to clean sweep every stage,” Graves said at the end of the day.

“The car ran faultlessly and I had a new co-driver, Glenn Frew, in the hot seat. My usual co-driver, son Hayden, had a speedway commitment although that event was cancelled so he came and assisted at the event. I have to thank my sponsors too, Graves said as he mused about retiring the ageing EVO 3 which is still winning events.

Worker kept Graves honest during the day, finishing second in the first three stages before
easing back in the last stage to make sure of the runner-up spot. It was just his third event in the car which had won the rally for the past two years and he was “pretty happy” to be just half a second a kilometre, off Graves’ times.

Clearwater recorded top-five finishes in every stage to secure third place with Charlie Evans, of Hamilton, in a Mazda RX7 fourth, a result that netted him Class C honours. Evans left Hamilton on Wednesday night, after alert level restrictions dropped, arriving in the south on Friday night.

“I came down as I have family and friends in the area, plus I was hanging out for some rallying. My niece, Dayna Kiekebosch, has just got her competition licence so it was an opportunity to give her some miles in the co-driver seat. The event was fantastic, it was like the good old days of rallying, it wasn’t officious and things were made easy. The
people were great and their helpfulness was wonderful.”

Paul Cross was fifth and the winner of Class D in his Subaru Impreza H6. Brendon Mitchell, of Winton, finished sixth overall and runner-up in Class C in his Datsun 1600 with Craig Cormack, of Gore, seventh and first in Class B in his Toyota Levin. Damian Vincent, of Gore, David Ralph, of Timaru, the runner-up in Class B, and Dave Jenkins, of Riverton, rounded out the top 10.

Chris Herdman, of Rangiora, won Class A in 12th place overall.

Steven Thompson, of Mosgiel made a scorching start in his Class C Ford Escort MKII, finishing third in the opening stage, only to retire before the second stage with a bent driveshaft. Ninth seed Simon Taylor, of Cromwell, was another early casualty with a blown head gasket while others to retire were sixth seed Rodney Lang, of Rangiora, (gear selector) and Paul Preston, of Te Anau (exhaust).

The Glen Shirlaw Memorial Trophy was awarded to the first Otago Sports Car Club co-driver home in the absence of drivers from the club this year, going to Graves’ co-driver Frew.

The Mark Parsons Award for the novice driver went to ex-pat Italian Mauro Balzarini, a former works motorcycle racer in Europe, in his second rally and the co-driver award went to Worker’s co-driver Bradley Smith in his second event.

Clerk of the course Roger Laird said, “The drivers loved the new stages and the event itself.
Thank you to our sponsors including Ernslaw One for the use of their venue for the event.”

  • Lindsay Beer, on behalf of the Eastern Southland Car Club