by Al Williams
Welshmen Meirion Evans and Lestyn Williams took the lead in the 2016 New Zealand Silver Fern Rally from fellow Ford Escort Mk2 RS1800 runners Stewart Reid and Dave Neill in a dramatic weekend in South Canterbury and North Otago.
With less than a minute in it at the end, Evans and Williams did enough on the final day to win the rally which finished in Christchurch on Sunday.
Second home was the sister car of Australian Reid and Kiwi co-driver Neill.
Third was the Porsche 911S of first the local duo home, Allan Dippie and Paul Coghill, from Wanaka, 10 minutes back.
The Porsche 911S of Dippie and Coghill, and Hamilton father and son Stuart and Brad McFarlane, who finished sixth, were the exceptions in this year’s event, dominated numerically and on the road by Mk2 Ford Escort RS1800s.
The other eight top-10 finishers were in Mk2 Escort RS1800s.
The Nissan FJ20-powered Mk2 of Derek Ayson and Gavin McDermott, from Gore, dominated the Challenge Rally category for late model or non-standard historic-era cars, crossing the finish line in Christchurch with a buffer of half an hour over Australian rally veteran Ed Mulligan and co-driver Tony Brandon (BMW E30 325i).
The biennial, seven-day rally is one of the few genuine marathon-style, multi-day gravel events left on the world historic rallying calendar.
This year’s event covered over 1000km of closed special stages and more than 1700km of touring stages between Christchurch and Papatowai.
Historic : 1, Meirion Evans/Lestyn Williams (Ford Escort Mk2 RS1800). 2, Stewart Reid/Dave Neill (Ford Escort Mk2 RS1800). 3, Allan Dippie/Paul Coghill (Porsche 911). 4, Phil Squires/Nigel Hutchinson (Ford Escort Mk2 RS1800). 5, Keith & Mary-Anne Callinan (Ford Escort Mk2 RS1800). 6, Stuart & Brad McFarlane (Porsche 911). 7, Brent Rawstron/Ian McKee (Ford Escort Mk2 RS1800). 8, Shane Murland/John Benton (Ford Escort Mk2 RS1800). 9, David Hills/Paul Bennett (Ford Escort Mk2 RS1800). 10, Simon Tysoe/Paul Morris (Ford Escort Mk2 RS1800).
Challenge: 1, Derek Ayson/Gavin McDermott (Ford Escort). 2, Ed Mulligan/Tony Brandon (BMW E30 325i). 3, Brodie Anderson/Brad Lyons (Ford Escort Mk2). 4, Darryl Campbell/Phil Walker (Toyota Altezza). 5, Charlie Evans/Sue O’Neill (Honda Civic 1800). 6, Bruce Herbert/Jim Hey (Mitsubishi Lancer EX Turbo). 7, Mike Wheatley/Tudor Davies (Ford Escort Mk2). 8, Brent Taylor/Chris Ramsay (Toyota FT 86). 9, Tony Quinn/Cassidy Solomon (Toyota 86). 10, Warren Briggs/Gerry Bashford (Ford Mustang).