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Meeke’s hot pace gets him Otago International Classic Rally win

The Otago International Classic Rally has been won by Irishmen Kris Meeke and Noel O’Sullivan, with their Sunday speed capping off a fine weekend.

The pair won all but one gravel stage on Saturday and followed it up with another impressive performance today in a Ford Escort RS1800 that’s been driven by some of the sport’s greats.

Meeke is a five-time World Rally Championship event winner and on his debut on New Zealand roads, added his name to the list of internationals to win the Otago Rally.

That list includes the likes of Jimmy McRae, Pasi Hagstrom, Markko Martin and Mikko Hirvonen, and Meeke was grateful for his experience at the Dunedin-based event.

Second to Meeke on the leaderboard throughout the entirety of the weekend was longtime Otago Rally competitor Deane Buist.

Buist has won the International Classic Rally in three different types of cars over the years and used his trusty Escort to get himself another fine results.

John Silcock and Donna Elder rounded out the podium in their crowd-pleasing Mazda RX7.

Deane Buist/Karl Celeste. Photo: Peter Whitten
Silcock’s Mazda was the only non Ford Escort to appear in the top nine positions and got there after a great drive all weekend long.

Richie Dalton made it three Irishmen near the top with his drive to fourth. After competing at the Otago Rally in four-wheel-drive cars previously, Dalton made the switch to a rented Ford Escort RS1800 this year and his result showed his talent behind the wheel.

He held off a fast-finishing Ally Mackay who, despite overheating issues, battled hard to reach a fine fifth overall in his Mk 1 Escort, ending just 6.2 seconds off fourth.

Mackay and co-driver Mikko Johnstone ended the event in great form, finishing the final three stages with top four stage times in the classics field.

Losing out in that day-long battle for the fifth position was Graham Ferguson, however, he’ll surely be content with his top six placing.

Tim McIver was seventh, while first-time Otago Rally competitor, Queenslander Tristan Carrigan, overcame brake problems on Saturday to finish in eighth place.

Jake Thomas/Matt Webber. Photo: Peter Whitten
Stephen Gill was ninth, followed by the giant-killing performance from Jake Thomas’ Toyota Levin in tenth.

Day two of the Otago Rally was held in fine and sunny conditions near Waihola, with little attrition affecting competitors throughout Sunday’s action, meaning many of the top positions remained unchanged.

The Rally is grateful for the support of Dunedin City Council Premier Event funding.

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