MATT Summerfield, of Christchurch, drove superbly to win the 20th Catlins Coast Rally in his Mitsubishi Mirage AP4 last Saturday.
Summerfield won four of the six special stages, taking the lead after the third, and building a gap of 52 seconds before Gore driver Andrew Graves won the final stage, cutting the margin to 38.8 secs at the finish.
“We had a really good day. You have to drive pretty hard to beat Duggie (Graves),
“We had a spin in the first stage and I had to change what I was doing but the day went pretty smoothly. It was a good battle and it is a great event. Duggie really kept the pressure on.”
Four-time winner Graves, with son Hayden co-driving, finished second in his ageing Mitsubishi EVO 3 after winning the first and last stages of the event.
He paid tribute to an “exceptional” drive by Summerfield.
“Credit to Matt, he did very well. We are happy with second.”
Kaikoura driver Regan Ross, a late entry into the event, was third almost 3 mins behind Graves in a new Ford Fiesta R5, which he had only got running on Monday night.
“We exceeded expectations, we had only just driven up and down the road at home before coming here.”
Three-time winner, Dean Bond, of Balclutha, was fourth and took the Kerry O’Donohue Memorial Trophy, along with co-driver Scott Milne, for the first South Otago crew home in their Mitsubishi EVO 6.5.
Canterbury’s Josh Marston, in his first start at Catlins in 15 years, was fifth after going into the final stage third.
“It was a hell of an experience. We had fun, the car went well and I enjoyed the roads.
“I need to come back with more knowledge. I was disappointed to lose a couple of places in the last stage but it was insanely fast with crests.
“The regulars knew where the roads go.”
Deane Buist was the first two-wheel-drive competitor home in sixth place with fellow Cantabrians Matthew Wright, last year’s winner Garet Thomas, Marcus Van Klink and David Clearwater completing the top 10 with New Zealand champion Ben Hunt, of Auckland, 11th in a normally aspirated Subaru Impreza H6.
Richie Chadwick, of Dunedin, in his Toyota Levin won the Glen Shirlaw Memorial Trophy as the first Otago Sports Car Club driver home in 14th place.
Several competitors struck problems including Hayden Paddon, who, while not competing, was using the event as a test session, in his Hyundai i20 AP4.
Unfortunately, Paddon had to park the car after just two stages.
Both Robbie Stokes and Sean Haggarty, seeded inside the top 10, were well placed early on only to suffer problems.
Stokes was third after two stages but retired with an oil leak, while Haggarty was fourth at that point before trouble struck.
He continued and ended the day 12th.
Barry Mills, of Balclutha, was another casualty with a water leak, only the third time in 20 years he had not finished the rally.
Sixty-two of the 81 starters made it to the end.