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Quality field for 2011 Rally of Otago

Rally of OtagoThe 2011 DriveSouth Rally of Otago is shaping up as one of the most memorable in recent memory, with a star-studded entry list for the April 8-10 event.

Once again based in Dunedin in New Zealand’s South Island, the event is round one of the 2011 New Zealand Rally Championship, while also including the popular International Classic Rally of Otago, and the Allcomers Rally.

According to Rally of Otago event spokesman, Roger Oakley, everything bodes well for a classic event.

“We’re delighted with the quality of the field for this year’s event,” Oakley said.

“Entry numbers are up on last year, we have more quality drivers and we
expect the event to be hugely competitive across all categories.”

Reigning NZ Champions and 2010 event winners, Dean Sumner and Paul
Fallon, head the field in their Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X, but a host of
former Rally of Otago winners will be snapping at their heels.

Regular World Rally Championship competitor, Hayden Paddon, won in 2009
and will contest the event just days after completing the Rally of
Portugal in a similar Subaru Impreza WRX. It will be Paddon’s first
competitive drive of a Subaru on home soil.

Richard Mason (Subaru) and Chris West (Mitsubishi) are also past winners
of the event and will be pushing hard for more success, while local
favourite, Emma Gilmour, will be determined to have her Subaru on the
podium at the end of the 14 special stages.

2009 Queensland Rally Champion, Matt Van Tuinen, will add some
international flavour to the NZRC field, driving a Subaru Impreza WRX.
It will be Van Tuinen’s first entry in the rally, but past results show
that he will be a driver to keep an eye on.

“The depth of the NZRC field is greater than it has been for some time,
and winning is going to be very difficult,” Oakley added.

The entry list includes two Ford Fiesta Super 2000 cars, to be driven by
veteran Dave Strong, and Andrew Keighley. Developed and built in
Australia, the Fiestas previously competed in the Australian Rally
Championship as part of a Ford factory team.

A trio of front-wheel drive Fiestas will be battling hard for two-wheel
drive honours, with Ben Hunt, Phil Campbell and Josh Marston at the
wheel, while Matt Summerfield will be hoping for ‘Czech mate’ in his
Skoda Fabia RS.

With 39 competitors, the field in the International Rally of Otago is
the most competitive for some years, with Finland’s 1981 World Champion,
Ari Vatanen, and co-driver Fabrizia Pons, heading the entry list.

Vatanen will drive a Ford Escort RS1800 and will lead the classic field
away, but pre-event favourite is the winner of the event for the past
two years, Derek Ayson and Greg Scott in their Nissan-engined Escort.

“We’re delighted to have a field that includes nine internationals,
which is a real vote of confidence for the event,” Oakey said.

“The presence of Ari Vatanen has obviously been an incentive, and has
brought out Roger Townshend in his Escort RS1800s – a former winner of
the classic rally.”

Jeff Judd and Shane Murland will also push for the classic victory in
their Escorts, while the best Australian hope is the Porsche 911 of Jeff

The Sydneysider is contesting the event for the third time and is one of
six Australians in the classic field. Regular Darryn Snooks will again
drive his Datsun Stanza, while Stewart Reid and his brand new Ford
Escort RS1800 should also be on the pace.

The field again includes the Escort RS1800 Robert Van Gisbergen. The
father of V8 Supercar driver, Shane, Robert contested the event in 2010
and will benefit from the experience.

Leading the field in the Allcomers Rally is former NZRC front-runner Andrew Hawkeswood, driving an Audi Quattro.

The exuberant Hawkeswood’s homemade Group B Quattro replica was one of
the highlights of the 2009 event, and is sure to attract a big following
again in 2011.

Pushing the Quattro for victory will be the Mitsubishi Lancers of Andrew
Graves and Dean Bond, the winners of the Allcomers Rally for the past
two years.

Former International Otago Classic Rally winner, Brian Stokes, will also
contest the Allcomers Rally, driving the hybrid Ford Escort that he has
previously used in the Silver Fern Rally.

After a ceremonial start in Dunedin on the Friday evening, April 8, the
DriveSouth Rally of Otago begins with three night-time stages with a
competitive distance of around 50 kilometres.

The rally will continue on Saturday with six daylight stages, including
the popular tarmac super special stage around the streets of central

On Sunday, a further six daylight gravel stages will see a total event competitive distance of approximately 275 kilometres.

Many of the event’s classic stages, including Whare Flat, Waipori Gorge,
Kuri Bush and McIntosh Road have again been included in the event

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