Veteran driver notches up 40 years

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Dave Jenkins in action in his Datsun 1600 at a rallysprint at Revie Rd in 1988. Photos: Dave Loudon Photography

A VETERAN of Southland motorsport will mark 40 years of rally competition when the 2017 Catlins Coast Rally takes place next month.

Dave Jenkins, of Gropers Bush near Riverton, will not be competing this year, instead he will be at the wheel of the Zero Car, the lead car in the event to let spectators know the field is on its way and also to alert organisers of any problems on the stage.

Zero car duties require a driver who can drive at rally speeds and it is appropriate that Jenkins marks four decades leading the field.

Hosted by The Eastern Southland Car Club each year, the 1977 Gore Rally, was where Jenkins made his debut in a Datsun 1600.

Jenkins had been a member of the Southland Sports Car Club doing sealed events and race meetings at Teretonga Park in a road car before watching a mate in one of the early Gore Rallys.

That sowed the seed, and he and mate Barry Pannett brought a written-off Datsun 1600 with low miles and went rallying.

“There was little to fix up really. We did the work, fitted a roll cage, it was bog standard.”

Jenkins doesn’t remember too much about that first Gore Rally, but does recall making it to the finish. Club records show he started at 50 in the 73 car field and finished in 52nd place.

“Barry and I took turn about driving in rallies. In 1978 we did several Pall Mall National Rally rounds… we went to Christchurch and Nelson… we drove the car to the events.”

In the intervening years he had only used seven different rally cars.

“I had three other Datsun 1600s, a Datsun Sunny, a Datsun 200B and the Subaru Legacy I have used for the last eight or nine years. For a few years through the mid 1990s I didn’t have a car, but I borrowed one to act as Zero Car for the Rally Of Southland. I have been involved in every Rally Of Southland that has been held.”

Highlights are many but Jenkins remembers the mid 1980s particularly fondly.

“That was when I had my third 1600. It was a 2-litre car and it was the days before the four-wheel-drive cars. I did really well and won two or three Claytons Rallys and finished in the top ten in the Rally Of Southland when it was part of the National Championship. I won a Gore Club Rally in about 1987 or 88. It was a night rally and was the only Gore Rally I ever won. I did well in the Wyndham Rally too. One year I came so close to winning. I lost time in the first stage and then won every other stage. I didn’t win the rally due to the time lost early on.”

Another highlight was having his daughter Brodie alongside him in the co-driver seat for many years.

8259 Dave Jenkins with son-in-law Sam Henderson co-driving in his Subaru legacy at the 2016 Dusky Forest Rally: Credit: Becky Ladbrook

Jenkins has missed just two Catlins Coast Rally’s in the entire history of the event.

“It is an awesome event. The roads are so cool. The number of entries received for Catlins each year tells the story.”

This is the second year that Jenkins has driven the Zero Car.

“Last year in the Zero Car was amazing. We had frozen snow, there were no wheel marks… man it was slippery. Even at 80 to 90km/h we were getting wheelspin in the four-wheel-drive. We had a job to do and we had to get through”

Catlins Coast Rally, Saturday, August 12, 10am at Campbell St, Owaka (opposite Owaka Motors), encompassing six special stages at Tawarnui, Puerua, Puaho, Catlins Valley, Cannibal Bay and Romahapa, encompassing 150km, finishing back in Owaka at 3.44pm. The Catlins Coast Rally is Round 5 of the 2017 Mainland Rally Championship and a points event towards the Eastern Southland Car Club Rally Challenge Trophy.

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