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KC returns for another Otago Rally

The popular Australian husband and wife team of Keith and Mary-Anne
Callinan will return to New Zealand in May for another shot at the
Dunlop International Classic Rally of Otago.

After several appearances in the event in previous years driving a thundering Holden Monaro, the Callinans will drive a recently-purchased Ford Escort RS1800 in the 2008 event, to be held over the weekend of May 10 and 11.

The Mackay (Queensland) Holden and Hummer dealer has been competing in tarmac rallies in Australia of late, driving his gorgeous De Tomaso Pantera, however a drive of a Mk 1 Ford Escort in last year’s East African Safari Classic Rally has once again given him the taste for gravel rallying.

“I love the Otago Rally,” Keith Callinan says. “The roads are sensational and the people in Dunedin are just fantastic — it’s without doubt one of the best rallies in the world from a competitor’s point of view.”

Callinan contacted Dunedin car dealer, and fellow competitor, Mark Laughton, to start searching for “a $15,000 club car”, but it wasn’t long before the price — and the quality of the machinery — escalated.

Kiwi Richard Buthune had a brand new, full Group 4 specification, Mk 2 Escort rolling shell for sale, which was duly purchased.

“The car was in Christchurch, so Deane Buist then went to have a look at it for me,” Callinan adds. “He gave the car the thumbs up, and then proceeded to sell me a BDG engine for the car!”

So what started off being a $15,000 club car soon turned into a full Group 4 Escort costing nearly ten times that much, but the successful businessman doesn’t seem to mind.

The car will be prepared by the Buist brothers at their Palmside Automotive business in Christchurch, with the Callinans flying in just before the rally.

“It’s going to be a great car, but I’ll just be happy to play mid-field this year, rather than push for a top ten place,” he says. “I’m entering for the social side of the rally, and this year we won’t even use pacenotes — we’ll drive the rally blind.”

Part of the reason for driving the rally off the roadbook, and not with pacenotes, is that the Callinans have also entered the car in the Silver Fern Rally in October, which doesn’t allow pacenotes.

After the recent torrential flooding in their home town of Mackay, the Callinans are looking forward to heading ‘across the ditch’ for the Otago Rally. The Monaro they have previously campaigned often proved unreliable, so with a proven package like an Escort under them, they’re looking forward to enjoying the Otago Rally to the fullest.

The 2008 Otago Rally will include round two of the Vantage Aluminium New Zealand Rally Championship, the Dunlop International Classic Rally of Otago, and Rally Xtreme which will allow any vehicle to be part of the field.

This year’s rally will entail 13 special stages covering a total competitive distance of 258km. As well as two days of flat-out competition, a high-profile pre-event Motor Show will be held on the Friday night, enabling competitors to display their cars in front of a large crowd of spectators and rally fans.

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