Otago Rally brings icons out to play
Some of the most well-known names in New Zealand motorsport will come out to play in April’s Dunedin-based Rally of Otago, including the father of V8 Supercar driver Shane Van Gisbergen.
The southern hemisphere’s premier classic rally has been one of the most innovative events in recent times, with a string of international stars gracing its entry lists since 2002.
Former World Rally Champions Hannu Mikkola, Bjorn Waldegard and Juha
Kankkunen have all contested the rally, and this year the 1997 Monte
Carlo Rally winner, Italian Piero Liatti, will join the list.
But it’s a trio of veteran New Zealand drivers who have tongues wagging.
Shane Murland, Carl Rabbidge and Robert ‘Cheese’ Van Gisbergen have all
entered the classic component of the rally in Ford Escorts, and will
generate plenty of interest of their own.
Murland, from Paraparaumu, just north of Wellington, started rallying
in a Mini Cooper way back in 1972. His heyday in the sport was from
1979 to 1981 when he was a member of the GM Vauxhall Dealer Team,
driving a Chevette 2300 HSR in the New Zealand national championship
and on Rally New Zealand.
He finished fifth overall on Rally NZ in 1979 in the Chevette, retired
on Rally NZ the following year, and was third in 1981 (Rally NZ,
though, was not a WRC round that year).
Murland also finished third in the New Zealand Rally Championship in
1981, with his best overall result being runner-up on the final round
of the season. His best experience in rallying was reaching the finish
line of the 2004 London to Sydney Marathon, finishing third in a Honda
Timaru’s Rabbidge has had a career as a driver, co-driver, team manager
and event organiser in an almost 40-year long association with the
His international rallying experience dates back to the early days of
Rally NZ, or as it was known back then, The Heatway Rally. Driving an
Escort, he finished 61st in 1973, 11th in 1975. He drove a Mazda RX3 to
17th in 1978 and took a Nissan Bluebird Turbo to 15th on Rally NZ in
Later, he co-drove for another stalwart of NZ rallying – Hugh Owen – in
the NZRC and on the NZ round of the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship.
Most recently, Rabbidge has been responsible for the route of the Silver Fern International Marathon Rally.
Robert Van Gisbergen was a prominent name in rallying and has become
more well known because of son Shane’s career as a V8 Supercar driver
with Stone Brothers Racing in Australia. He’s certain to attract plenty
of interest at spectator points and around the service areas –
particularly if his son is on hand to lend morale support.
The 2010 Otago Rally is also the first round of the New Zealand Rally
Championship and will offer competitors 16 special stages covering 265
kilometres of competitive driving, with a total event distance of 780
A one-pass reconnaissance will be available to all competitors prior to
the rally, however the distance involved in 2010 means that the recce
will take place on the afternoon of Thursday, April 8, and on Friday,
The rally proper will get under way with a ceremonial start at the
historic Dunedin Railway Station on the Friday night, before the rally
hits the gravel stages early on Saturday morning.