The two-wheel-drive battle in today's Catlins Coast Rally has become even more interesting.
With some quality combinations already in the lineup, the late entry of the South Island's best drivers - Regan Ross (Kaikoura) and Deane Buist (Christchurch) - in Ford Escort BDAs, has delighted organisers.
Ross and Buist are fast and adaptable drivers, and both have competed at Catlins before in four-wheel-drive and two-wheel-drive machinery.
Buist is a former Catlins Coast Rally winner in his Mitsubishi EVO 4, and he and Buist are accomplished no matter what they drive. Both will be in the mix but they will come up against several other exceptionally fast competitors.
Derek Ayson has starred in both 4WD and 2WD machines at Catlins and, like Buist, he is a former winner.
However, perhaps some of his finest drives have come in 2WD machinery - last year's third overall in a Nissan-powered Ford Escort being a case in point.
Marcus Van Klink, of Kaiapoi, finished an impressive fifth in his Toyota Corolla AE86 last year, while Barry Mills, of Balclutha, did better by taking fourth overall in his ageing Hillman Avenger. Mike Verdoner, of Balclutha, is another in a Ford Escort who is ultra-quick and knows these roads well, running inside the top 10 last year.
Crews will cover 161km of Special Stage competition with a further 82km of Touring stages. The first car leaves the start at Owaka Motors in Owaka today at 9am, while the final stage again takes place at the popular spectator-friendly Riverside Reserve in Balclutha today at 3.40pm.
One positive aspect for the event is the number of novices (25), who have three or fewer events to their name, indicating new competitors coming into the sport.
- The Southland Times