By ROBYN BRISTOW
The Lone Star Canterbury Rally tomorrow, (Sunday, June 2), will be an exciting challenge for competitors, with a mixture of forestry and public roads.
The rally makes a return to gravel roads, with four stages in areas like the Blythe Valley near Motunau.
The other four stages will be in the more familiar surrounds of the Ashley Forest, with two of them at night.
The 2019 rally, in association with Joe’s Garage, is the third round of the Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship (NZRC), and also the third round of the MRF Tyres Mainland Rally Series.
The New Zealand Rally Championship is this country’s premier nationwide rally championship. It attracts New Zealand’s best drivers to compete in numerous categories for the prestigious MotorSport New Zealand-sanctioned rally championship titles.
A strong field of 68 cars have entered the rally, which will have a ceremonial start beside the Lone Star Cafe and Bar in Manchester Street, Christchurch, at 5pm this Saturday, before the rally proper gets under way outside Joe’s Garage in Rangiora at 7.50am the following day.
The battle at the front should be intense, with last year’s rally winner Josh Marston up against the current leader in the NZRC, Ben Hunt. Also in the hunt will be Matt Summerfield, a previous winner, and Phil Campbell in his new Ford Fiesta AP4.
The various other classes will also be hard-fought and are expected to provide a great competition.
Stage 1 takes competitors through Ashley Forest, starting at the main gate and finishing at the Kowhai River exit. The only viewing in Ashley Forest is at the top of the rally sprint road. Spectators will be able to drive up the “downhill” of the rally sprint and park at the hair pin.
From there, competitors tour to Amberley for servicing and then up to Blythe Valley for the Rubber Developments Ltd second stage, with great views for spectators available at the Stonyhurst/Blythe Valley Roads intersection.
The first car starts this stage at 10:11am.
Next is a 25-minute service in Cheviot and a tour to the RD Petroleum third stage, starting at 12 noon. Spectator viewing is at the intersection of Leamington and Downs Roads, Parnassus.
Cars then tour through to Waikari for another service before tackling the Weldworks Ltd fourth stage and the Flooring Warehouse fifth stage.
Stage 4 starts at 2.21pm, with spectator viewing on the corner of Broxton and MacDonald Downs Roads, Broomfield. There is no spectator viewing in the fifth stage.
Following this, there will be a short tour to service in Broomfield before heading back to Ashley Forest for the Morrison Cars Rangiora sixth stage, starting at 3.49pm. This is the Power Stage for the New Zealand Rally Championship competitors, with the five fastest cars collecting extra points towards the championship. This stage runs the entire length of Mt Grey Road and finishes on the “uphill” road of the rally sprint, with great viewing at the same location as stage 1. It includes the spectacular “noters” corner.
Competitors then tour back to Rangiora for a slightly longer service to allow teams to fit driving lights for the final two forest stages in the dark.
Agnew Bros Upholstery Ltd’s special seventh stage starts at 5:26pm and takes crews back through the forest for a repeat of the sixth stage.
The Autoparts Ltd eighth stage starts at 6pm. Viewing at spectator point 1 is bound to be exciting at night, with crews already having run this stage in daylight.
Crews then head back to the Rangiora service park for a splash and dash before heading back to Lone Star Cafe and Bar in Manchester St for the ceremonial finish. The first car is due back in Eaton Place at 7.14pm.
Spectator maps are available from all the stage sponsors mentioned above, plus Autotech Rangiora, Magnum Compliance and Palmside NZ.
The only spectator viewing in Ashley Forest is at the top of the rally sprint, which is spectator point 1. There is absolutely no access to any other part of the forest. This is a stipulation of Matariki Forest and will be strictly enforced.