When Car 9 rolled into parc ferme for the Silver Fern Rally at Manfeild last night, it was different from most of the other Ford Escorts.
This RS1800 was left-hand drive, driven by Christophe Jacob who had freighted it to New Zealand from Belgium for the rally.
And he and co-driver Isabelle Regnier were no rookies. They were lying fifth last night.
Jacob works for a United Nations meteorological agency and flits to work between Belgium and Geneva.
"I had heard a lot of good things about this rally and came here since it's a long one," Jacob said. "This is the first time we have done a blind rally [without pace notes]."
There are only tarmac rallies in Belgium but he has competed on gravel in France, Britain and Morocco.
"These are the nicest roads I have been on. Here it is pretty smooth gravel."
Among 17 overseas drivers, another Belgian was contesting the Silver Fern, Christian Kelders, who lives in Luxembourg. He was lying 26th. Ford Escorts filled the top 12 places last night.
Christchurch driver Dean Buist had taken the historic class lead from Paraparaumu's Shane Murland, who spun backwards into a ditch, both in Escort 1800s. The man from Suffolk, England, Grant Shand, was third ahead of Neil Allport.
The star entry, Rhys Millen from California, yesterday withdrew the Mazda RX7 they had brought from Europe. It had a myriad of mechanical problems.
One of the smallest cars was a Skoda 130LR with a 1300cc engine driven by Aucklander John Coker. He found it on a farm, it didn't go and he paid $400 for it.
Aussie Michael Francis in his Alfa Romeo Alfetta GTV6 said: "I'm still amazed at how fast some of these people go. They must know the roads or something."
Papakura driver Greg Paul proudly described how his Fiat 125T had once been in the Peking to Paris Challenge.
- © Fairfax NZ News