THE Catlins Coast Rally celebrates 20 years of action this Saturday and the spectacular entry list of more than 80 competitors is appropriate for such a momentous occasion.
Spectators will see some of the biggest names in New Zealand rallying with no less a driver than Hayden Paddon running at the head of the field, not competing, but testing his Hyundai i20 AP4.
It will be an amazing opportunity for local motorsport fans to see the only Kiwi to win a World Rally Championship event, a former Production World Rally Champion and four-time New Zealand Rally champion in action.
Paddon will run with notes to prepare for upcoming events, something the actual rally participants would not be able to use.
Four-time Catlins Coast Rally winner Andrew Graves, with son Hayden in the co-driver’s seat, is the top seed in his ageing but fast Mitsubishi EVO 3.
Graves was well on target for win number five last year only to lose a wheel and go off the road on the penultimate stage while leading by more than 3 minutes.
At two and three are top New Zealand Rally Championship contenders Matt Summerfield and Josh Marston respectively.
Both had been extremely prominent in the New Zealand Rally Championship during the past few years. Summerfield, who will pilot his Mitsubishi Mirage, was seldom out of the top four in recent years and Marston, in his Holden Barina AP4, claiming third and second in the last two championships.
Robbie Stokes, of Waiuku, runner-up in the FIA Category two-wheel-drive class of the NZ Rally Championship last year, will start at four in his Ford Fiesta AP4.
At five is last year’s winner Garet Thomas in his father-in-law Dave Ollis’ Subaru WRX Sti, the car he won the event in last year after entering the final stage in third place but advancing as other cars fell by the wayside.
Thomas was also the Mainland Rally Series Champion.
Three-time winner Dean Bond, of Balclutha, who finished third last year is seeded at six this year in his EVO 6.5.
Two-time New Zealand Rally Champion, Ben Hunt, of Auckland, who was the reigning national champion, will also contest the event in a Subaru Impreza H6.
The rally would start at 10am on Saturday from Campbell St, adjacent to Owaka Motors, in Owaka. The race would feature about 153km of high-speed special stages before concluding back in Owaka just after 3.30pm. Servicing will be held throughout the event in Owaka.