Our Tours - Silver Fern Rally - 2008
Day 0 Christchurch Rally Tours used the afternoon motor show in Cathedral Square as a meeting point to collect our Tour together. This spectacle included most of the competing vehicles which stayed until the ceremonial start early in the evening where the Mayor set the competitors off on their eight day adventure.
Day 1 Christchurch - Queenstown After an early start in Christchurch (omen of things to come) we toured to Geraldine where we managed to arrive (just) before road closure and got in between two stages. We watched the first 25 cars at ss2 then used the link road to watch entire field at ss3 Hanging Rock, from where we traveled out over the stage to try to get ahead of the rally again. We toured to Lake Tekapo enjoying spectacular views of the southern alps covered in snow (which the normal tourists miss by coming in the summer) and grabbed a quick bite of lunch before turning off behind the Tekapo Military Camp to watch the first 25 cars enter ss5. Then we were off again across the Mackenzie country and over the Lindis Pass to watch the entire field at Phillips Rd ss6. Again we followed the cars out over the stage and on to Queenstown to meet drivers at Park Ferme and check into our Hotel. Our evening meal was at “The Cow” where several crews were “relaxing” by the time we arrived.
Day 2 Queenstown - Queenstown An early start to travel to St Bathans before the first cars to watch the whole field.
Then a haul back to Bannockburn to drive into The Nevis, where our mid stage viewing position gave us a view of some kilometres of special stage and a sequence of corners, plus an outstanding view over Cromwell to Lake Dunstan.
As this stage was used in two directions, by special arrangement with the organisers we moved to another hairpin for the second running of this iconic stage. After all the cars had passed we were able to follow the sweeper out over the stage and then return to Queenstown where the highlight of our evening was a rally function at the Skyline Restaurant which is reached by Gondola. This gave us our first opportunity to meet all the drivers, crews and stage officials and for the first round of “true stories”.
Day 3 Queenstown - Dunedin A very early start to get into the 93.60 km Lake Onslow stage. We drove through the stage to get to the last intersection – a link road between stages 13 and 14. Wow! If you have seen Lord Of The Rings you would recognise parts of this stage! The bits in snow were “interesting” and this stage has everything – rocky rutted tracks, slippery snow covered peat, slippery clay, and fast graveled county roads. Did I mention it was slippery? The stage was delayed and we damn near froze. We would have loved to have watched in the middle of the stage, but if we were to see anything later that day we had to compromise and selected the last intersection,
After most of the field we went to the intersection of ss14. Andrew Grundy tried a novel line to enter this corner, coming up and over the bank instead of using the road. Just before the intersection we were watching, the engine in car 50 (Lawless/MacKintosh MkII Escort) cried enough so we towed them out through the remainder of ss14 to find their crew on the road to Millers Flat.
That only left us with the chance of ss17 Berwick Forest where we knew a particularly nasty corner was easily accessible. They are often the worst kind – open looking 90 degree corner which isn’t, and has a culvert on the outside and with a camber leading towards it.
That was it for day 3 – off to Dunedin for a feed and a rest.
Day 4 Dunedin - Invercargill First stage spectating was at a blind crest followed by a junction left at McLaren Gully Rd. How many drivers tried to drive into the farm gate?? You could certainly tell who wasn’t familiar with the road (some had a less generous view).
We then drove to viewing at the picturesque Puerua Valley and later even better action at the Maclennan stage in the Catlins before the final stage of the day at Waikawa Valley - famed from the Wydnham Rally.
We watched final service at Invercargill, before a quick shower and an excellent evening meal put on by the Southland Car Club at the astonishing Bill Richardson Truck Museum.
Day 5 Invercargill - Dunedin Despite losing the fabulous Gore Rally stages in Rankleburn and Beaumont forests on this day, we found great viewing at Chatton North and Winding Creek part 1 before the regroup at Tapanui. On out next touring section we tested our own wheel changing skills with a puncture.
To fill in a delay before the next stage we spectated at a very fast straight intersection on ss30 where we could view the cars at their impressive top speed, and see who didn’t lift for the blind brow! Moving on into the middle of ss31 we found a spectacular view of a sequence of fast downhill corners on Fallaburn road with a sphincter clenching drop on the outside.
Day 6 Dunedin - Timaru First up was Taieri Peaks with a fast approach and faster departure, but with an awkward blind corner which meant you had to regard it as a 90, whereas it was much less, but hard to read. We watched the first 30 cars before moving on to ..
Hampden Forest It’s funny how much different a road seems when they take the trees away! The start was further in than I recall, but it is always good to see one special stage start line in a rally tour. It was also good to catch up with drivers before the start. We had time to see the whole field here again.
Coal Pit Road – a typical fast stage from the old North Otago Rally, we watched the whole field round a wide easily read corner where driver confidence is much higher.
Waimate Forest - My biggest regret of the rally was not getting to Meyers Pass stage – but spectating was difficult, access impossible and the timing just would not work. Pity – it’s the only stage I have started and not finished – I knew where that rock was. However the spectating spots we found on Waimate Forest have returned some great images. We watched the whole field here too.
The day finished at service in Caroline Bay followed by a barbeque meal organised by the South Canterbury Car Club, and round three of “the tales of the event.”
Day 7 Timaru - Christchurch Kakahu Forest was our the first stage of the day, just in and uphill from the finish on a very smooth and fast section.
Next we again got into a road between two great stages. The first was Pig Saddle Road and having watched nearly the whole field there we moved 6km to the intersection of Malvern Hills Rd to watch the whole field negotiate a junction followed by a wooden bridge into a sweeping corner. As we followed the stage out we had to pull a spectator van out of the ford at the end of the stage.
Okuku pass – spectating opportunities were limited as the stages neared Christchurch and in addition dust was no longer a problem. The very fast downhill finish of this stage showed a brilliantly held tankslapper on the slippery clay and then the eventual winner (Andrew Grundy) finished overheated with all the dials off the scale at the end of this stage.
Then it was back to the airport so David could meet his flight to see the Indy Cars.
A quick look in at service let me catch up with the crew in the Integrale to arrange shipping Greg’s gearbox back to Auckland.
Day 8 Christchurch - Blenheim Blythe Valley - Cars have to fight with cows for the road here, but an interesting sealed approach to the intersection. Wet again.
Kaiwara Road Very fast flowing photogenic spot. The best line here was arguably from the car with least power – driven by Andy Walker. Watched the whole field,
Service at Kekerengu The “store” has not disappointed. Their coffee is excellent, but the food is better.
Blind River Last corner of the rally for us, and the first real sing of drivers cruising to the end.
Prize giving was worthwhile in it’s own right. Now everyone is getting faster. Seriously good yarns are being told and the price of everything just gets bigger as the night goes on. The in-car footage is again a big hit with the assembled crowd, and the admiration of the precision of the victory skid was only exceeded by the mirth that the smoke from it set off the fire alarms in the neighbouring building.
I’d like to make a special point of thanking all the organisers who were so helpful to Rally Tours in so many ways, and to all the volunteer helpers without whom this event could not be run, but especially to all the competitors for making our “Tour” such a spectacle. This report and images from John Kilpatrick and Dick Gardener.