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Family focus . . . Father and son Carl and Andrew Rabbidge in their Ford Escort MK2. PHOTO: EUAN CAMERON

Carl Rabbidge, of Timaru, has done it all in New Zealand motorsport racing, rallying, officiating.

His first rally was the 1970 Silver Fern Rally and now, in 2020, he will celebrate 50 years of rallying in the Catlins Coast Rally as it celebrates its own 20-year milestone.

In the 50 years since his first rally, Rabbidge has driven, co-driven, service-crewed and been an official.

“It’s been a bit of fun,” he says.

Of the many memories , there are standouts – “that first event is one of them” – but the one he really singles out is the 1973 Heatway International Rally.

“It was inspirational. No-one who competed in it will ever forget it.”

It covered both the North and South Island and his No1 son, Andrew – his co-driver at Catlins – was born during it.

“It was a bit of a surprise. He was two weeks early,” he says.

“We were on the Interisland ferry ready to leave Lyttelton. They held the sailing up for 20 minutes to find me and tell me. I fell off the road the next morning.”

With Andrew arriving in the middle of one of the biggest international rallies ever seen in this country, it is little wonder he is also involved in the sport.

Carl Rabbidge says his father was very keen on motorsport, and was a foundation member of the Marlborough Car Club.

“I followed on and enjoyed it.

“I was never going to be a world-class cricketer or an All Black but I could do this. My wife, Eileen, has been involved, too.”

The children followed on, and now grandsons are also involved.

He has seen many changes in 50 years.

“Back then, it was all about endurance. Now, it’s a sprint ..

“They are a sight quicker nowadays but that is the growth of the sport.”

There is no doubting his pleasure in winning.

“We won the first NZ Group One Championship, in 1976 with the Mazda RX3 and that was special, as was winning our class in the 1975 Rally NZ with our twin-cam Escort and later winning the Mainland Series back to back in 1981-82 with the RS2000 and the Datsun. Competing in the Philippines was another adventure, plus I had a total new experience when I spent many years co-driving for the Owen brothers.”

Fifty years on, he lines up for Catlins.

“I have done a few Catlins but my first time through there was the 1976 International Rally. I used many variations of some of the stages when I was organising the NZ Silver Fern Rally years later.”