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John Giltrap wins while Westland Rally takes its toll

The Canterbury pairing of John Giltrap/Daph O’Rourke (Mitsubishi Evo) have convincingly won the 2021 Westland Rally by 31.7 seconds from local’s Graham Ferguson/Ross Moody (Ford EscortRS1800), with Sean Haggarty/Sean Sands (Subaru WRX) third.  The opening round of the 2021 Mainland Rally Championship was run in fine dry conditions and took a high toll on the field with 17-retirements from the starting field of 49 entrants.

“It’s been brilliant,” commented Giltrap.  “No problems at all today.  Good tyres, a great navigator and have gone hard all day.  These Westland roads are pretty good, really fast and in the end, they are the same for everyone.”

The high toll rate on competitors was evident early in the day with eight cars retiring on Special Stage 3 including several top runners.  First was rally favourite and last year’s winner, Josh Marston/Andrew Graves (Holden Barina AP4) who retired with a failed turbo.  Reagan Ross/Katrina Renshaw (Ford Fiesta R5) hit a tree while Deanne Buist/Karl Celeste (VW Gold Gti) and Jeff Judd/Sarah Brennan (Ford Escort RS2000) both retired with mechanical problems.

This initially paved the way for local Graham Ferguson/Ross Moody (Ford Escort RS1800) to take over the lead, only for Giltrap to get ahead on SS4 and hold top spot to the end.

“We’ve had a fantastic day which started off really well,” said Ferguson.  “Had some pressure on us from behind while a few others ‘fell-off’ and here we are second overall.  Had an excellent battle with John (Giltrap), he is pretty good on those roads and got the 4WD to get up those hills.”

Also thrilled to be on the podium was the Haggarty/Sands pairing.

“The day went very well,” said Haggarty.  “Typical rallying, some rough roads and some fast.  In the end you go chasing the clock as you can’t go chasing people or things happen.  We did what we needed to do, so very happy with the result.   Being able to drive the car onto the trailer at the end of a rally is a very good result.

The day saw four Special Stages, each used twice by competitors, with faster times coming in the afternoon on the second run through.  Stage 4 (Cape Terrace), with its rough surface and initial steady climb, proved to be the decider for Giltrap who was able to extend his lead over Ferguson on both runs through the stage (SS 4 and SS8).  The stage suiting his 4wd Mitsubishi Evo over Ferguson’s 2WD Ford Escort.

The 2021 Mainland Rally Championship comprises six rounds with overall and class titles (including prizes) to be decided for both driver and co-drivers’.  Vehicles are divided up into six different classes according to engine size, year of manufacturer and two or four-wheel drive.

First home in Class A (2WD 0-1300cc) was the Toyota Starlet of Taylor Judd/Kyle Thomson.  Class B (2WD 1301-1600cc) winners were David Birkett/Jack Birkett (Toyota Levin). Robbie Stokes/Grant Marra (Ford Escort) convincingly won Class C (2WD 1601cc and over) and finished fourth overall. Class D (4WD 1601cc and over) was also won by Giltrap/O’Rourke while Class E (Pre-1996 4WD) was won by John Simpson/William Shortus (Subaru WRX).  The Classic Class F went to Ferguson/Moody and the Class H (Subaru H6) was won by James MacDonald/Tim MacDonald.

Next up after the Westland Rally is Rally Otago (Saturday only) 24 April followed by Rally Canterbury (6 June), Rally South Canterbury (19 June), Rally Hanmer (25 September) and either Catlins or Lawrence Rally (T.B.A.) (15 November).

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