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Monthly Archives: August 2017


Murray Thompson

Awards presented as part of 50th celebration of New Zealand rallying

Seventeen people have been recognised for their contributions to New Zealand rally sport during the Motorsport New Zealand 50th anniversary of rallying celebratory event which took place in Hamilton overnight.

Fifty years ago, in 1967, the Hamilton Car Club ran a competitive motorsport event called the Rally of the Pines which is now regarded as the first rally in New Zealand. The half-century milestone of one of New Zealand’s most popular motorsports was marked with the 19 August celebratory dinner at Claudelands Event Centre in Hamilton and the inaugural presentation of these 17 Heritage Awards.

“MotorSport New Zealand established its Heritage Awards in 2014 to celebrate our motorsport heritage and those people that helped shape motorsport both here in New Zealand and overseas,” says Wayne Christie, President of MotorSport New Zealand.

“Since their creation, the Heritage Awards have typically been presented to those involved in circuit racing, so as part of our celebration of the 50th anniversary of rallying in New Zealand, we are delighted to present the first collection of Heritage Awards to those who have made significant contributions to rallying.”

The inaugural recipients of the MotorSport New Zealand Rally Heritage Awards are:

  • Mike Marshall, Auckland, a top competitor for many years from 1970, the first New Zealand driver to compete overseas, started the first New Zealand rally safety business with Marshall Rally seats (became Autosport seats), ran the first NZ Ford-supported rally team and recently campaigned a Peugeot at Rally Barbados.
  • Blair Robson, Auckland, a competitor who started out in trialling, becoming the NZ Gold Star Trials Champion in 1966, ’67 and ’68, also the NZ Gold Star Rally Champion in 1978, the first New Zealander to compete in an Australian rally, and generally acknowledged as the fastest driver in the Masport rally team.
  • Doug Benefield (posthumously), Auckland, a competitor in national Gold Star trials and rallies, instrumental in the formation and management of the dominant Woolmark Ford Team and Masport Escort Team in the ‘70s, formed the Rallies and Trials Enthusiasts Club (RATEC) and the Rally Pilots Association, and made lasting contributions with personnel development and national organisational structure and management.
  • Murray Thompson (posthumously), Wellington, a marshal at the 1969 Silver Fern Rally, a competitor-turned-event organiser for the Wellington Car Club team who organised the NZ Heatway Rallies, a MSNZ Executive member, chairman of ROANZ (before it became Rally NZ) and the driving force behind the FIA’s decision to include Rally NZ in the World Rally Championship calendar.
  • Dave McCahon, Christchurch, competitor in a Datsun 1200 and Mazdas, founding member of the Canterbury Rally Panel and the Autosport Club, a Rally Clerk of the Course and rally organiser, and a former member of the MSNZ Executive.
  • Jim Scott, Whangamata, a competitor starting in the 1971 Heatway Rally, turned to co-driving and won the Heatway alongside Andrew Cowan in 1972 and 1976, his most high-profile co-drive was alongside a young Ari Vatanen in New Zealand’s first World Rally Championship round in 1977, a team manager with the Masport team and Possum Bourne’s Australian rally campaigns, a MSNZ Competitor Relations Officer and Steward officiating at an international level, and a former MSNZ Executive member.
  • Gary Smith, Hamilton, a competitor and engineer from the ‘70s on, a co-driver for Tony Teesdale – they became the first recipients of the Woolf Whittaker medallions, the local co-ordinator at Rally NZ for the Ford and Hyundai world rally teams, chairman of the NZ Silver Fern Rally, member of the MSNZ Rally Commission, director at Rally NZ and driver mentor.
  • Robin Curtis (posthumously), Fielding, photo-journalist for more than 50 years, publisher of the fortnightly Motor Action in the ‘70s and contributor to Speedsport magazine for over 20 years, and manager of the Chevette dealer rally team in the ‘80s.
  • Bob Haldane, Auckland, a national motorcycling champion before turning to rally as a co-driver, winning the New Zealand Gold Star Champion Co-driver title in 1988, 1989, 1990, 1993, 1994 and 1996.
  • Neil Allport, Auckland, a competitor and engineer, winner of the New Zealand Rally Championship in 1986, 1989 and 1992, Ford World Rally Team driver, and the instigator of the use of stage notes in New Zealand rally events and a member of the MSNZ Rally Commission.
  • Mike Fletcher (posthumously), Christchurch, a competitor as both driver and co-driver, a founding member of the Canterbury Rally Panel and the Autosport Club, an organiser of numerous rally events and a member of the MSNZ Rally Commission.
  • Malcolm Stewart (posthumously), Dannevirke, a competitor since 1974, the 1983 NZ Gold Star Rally Champion, competed in more Rally NZ events than any other New Zealand driver and introduced the first Group B rally car to New Zealand domestic rallying with the Audi Quattro A2.
  • Roger Laird, Gore, a competitor, scrutineer and organiser at his first rally in 1976, roles he continues to fill with the Gore, Southland, Rankelburn and Catlins rallies, a MSNZ Rally Clerk of the Course and a former member of the MSNZ Rally Commission.
  • Norman Oakley, Dunedin, a competitor during the ‘80s, an exceptional event organiser and motivator of people who developed the Otago Rally into a prestigious and internationally-recognised event, a former MSNZ Executive and Rally Commission member.
  • Brent Rawstron, Christchurch, a competitor since the mid ‘70s becoming the 1981 and 1983 NZ Group One Rally Champion, active as a sponsor and team owner bringing top overseas drivers to Rally Otago, and a member of the Silver Fern Rally organising committee.
  • Willard Martin, Auckland, a competitor in the 1969 Shell Silver Fern – the first-ever international rally run in New Zealand, a Gold Rally Clerk of the Course and the Clerk of the Course for many events organised and run by Rally NZ, an FIA WRC and APRC Observer, the route co-ordinator for WRC Rally NZ and APRC Rally Whangarei, a Rally NZ board member and recipient of a MSNZ Distinguished Service Award in 1996 and an Award of Merit in 2010.
  • Brian Green, Palmerston North, a competitor since 1972, contesting more than 400 rallies in New Zealand, Asia and other countries, winner of the 2004 Malaysian Championship, the first New Zealander to compete in the Arctic Rally in 2009, rally organiser and sponsor of the New Zealand Rally Championship and other regional events.

The next major milestone of motorsport in New Zealand to be celebrated in 2022 will be the 75th anniversary of MotorSport New Zealand since its establishment in 1947 as the Association of New Zealand Car Clubs.

Source: MotorSport NZ PR

Photo: Geoff Ridder

Dinner to commemorate 50 years of New Zealand rallying

Fifty years ago, the Hamilton Car Club ran a competitive motorsport event which is now regarded as the first rally in New Zealand.

The May 1967 event was called the Rally of the Pines and was won by club member Bill Purvis in a 1951 Morris Minor that he rebuilt after bidding for it as a write-off in an insurance company tender – it was both his road car and designed to perform well enough to satisfy his sporting needs.

Now aged 72, Mr Purvis recalls how the event evolved. “Hamilton Car Club members, headed by Allan Gough, wanted to develop something that resembled the European style of rally, but the Motorsport Association of New Zealand, as MotorSport New Zealand was then called, had no regulations to control such an event at the time. It was proposed to run an event based on existing car trials regulations mostly on private forestry roads, which meant that usual road speed limits would not apply. Those who followed the correct, sign-posted route at the best speed would do well.

“The rally, unlike modern rallies, attracted mainly the owners of ordinary road cars. When I turned up in a car with lap-diagonal seatbelts, and my navigator, Don Cattanach, wearing a crash helmet, we were the odd ones out. As there were no pace notes and the competitors were on unfamiliar roads, we had to drive with safety on our minds and we all had to drive home after the event. I was fortunate to win what is today considered the first rally in New Zealand.”

Since 1967, rallying has become one of the most popular motorsport disciplines in the country with 1,676 licenced rally drivers and co-drivers participating in club, regional and national level rallies many weekends of the year.

With 2017 marking the half-century since the first Rally of the Pines, the milestone is being celebrated with a grand dinner and gathering in Hamilton on 19 August. The event at the Claudelands Event Centre in Hamilton is being organised by the Hamilton Car Club with long-time club members and rally competitors Graeme Robertson and Laurie Brenssell heading the organising committee.

“We’re delighted that more than 450 people are already set to enjoy a wonderful evening on 19 August to mark the milestone of 50 years of rallying in New Zealand,” says Brenssell. “We have capacity for around 500 people and think we’ll easily welcome this number of attendees to the celebration.”

Rally drivers Scotsman Alister McRae and Jean Louis Leyraud, from New Caledonia – both having rallied in New Zealand many times over the years – are confirmed international guests.

“The registration list is an absolute who’s who of New Zealand rallying,” Brenssell says. “From our early rally pioneers to our national Gold Star champion drivers and co-drivers, say a name and they’ll be there. We’re rapt to have great representation from the South Island and to welcome Bill Purvis, winner of the Hamilton Car Club’s Rally of the Pines, the event which started it all in 1967.”

Brian Budd, CEO of MotorSport New Zealand says: “New Zealand has a very proud history in rally which has continued through until the present, where rally competition is still a very vibrant and important part of the motorsport scene. Rallies over the years have attracted the best competitors from all four corners of the world and have also enabled New Zealand drivers to develop their craft and achieve both in our domestic competition and abroad. MotorSport New Zealand is very proud of all those who have organised and competed in special stage rallies in New Zealand and that we can celebrate the successes achieved over 50 years.”

The Motorsport New Zealand 50th Anniversary of Rallying celebratory event includes:

  • 30pm ‘noggin and natter’ – gather with friends, colleagues and past competitors in the hall adjacent to the function room. Enjoy displays of memorabilia and rally cars representing five decades of New Zealand rallying, plus commercial exhibits of a rallying nature by companies which have supported the sport over the years.
  • 00pm – move to the function room to enjoy celebrate our rally pioneers, Gold Star champion drivers and co-drivers, and an array of forums hosted by long-time motorsport commentator and radio host Brian Kelly.
  • A presentation to the first-ever recipients of the Motorsport New Zealand Rally Heritage Awards concludes the evening.

Brenssell adds: “We welcome several companies who have and continue to play an important role supporting rallying in New Zealand as the service park hosts in the main function room. Thank you to Subaru New Zealand, Brian Green Property Group, Hella New Zealand, APL (Vantage) and Hyundai New Zealand for supporting this celebration of our sport.”

Tickets are still available via the MotorSport New Zealand website, http://www.motorsport.org.nz/. Go to Sport, Rally, then 50th Anniversary of Rallying. Ticket options include single or double tickets, or a table of 10. Select which ‘service park’ you want to be part of and dress up in your old rally team attire, or wear smart casual.

Find out more on the public Facebook group 50 Years of NZ Rallying Dinner.

Source: MotorSport NZ PR