It was a long, and successful, road trip for Balclutha’s Craig Barclay and co-driver Andrew Wardell at the weekend.
After more than 1000km on the road they came out with a stunning sixth place in the Otago Classic Rally, and 22nd overall in the 2021 Otago Rally.
“It was a great weekend for us, and coming sixth was special,” Barclay said.
“But it was a long one, which started for us last Wednesday. We did two runs through the entire rally course on Thursday and Friday and that clocked up over 1000km on the roads around Lawrence, Milton, Waipori and the Taieri Mouth. It was good because it was my brother-in-law Andrew’s first time driving with me and we needed to build up our confidence with each other.”
Barclay’s Cortina-powered Mk 2 Ford Escort didn’t miss a beat all weekend and powered him to his highest placing so far in the rally. “You know, I would have been happy just to get into the top 10, so sixth was a real win for us,” Barclay said.
Road conditions varied from fast, swept roads to bumpy and slippery gravel.
‘‘Special stage 11 was rough, and caught many drivers out. Cars were dropping off everywhere.’’
“Our rally worked out really well and, despite using up eight sets of tyres, it went well.”
“It’s a credit to Dean Bond, and Mike Verdoner who help me with my car; Mike was very happy that the two cars he helped prepare finished, the other being driven by his son Jared, competing in his first ever rally,” Barclay said.
Young Balclutha driver Jared Verdoner’s weekend was equally rewarding, crossing the finish line eighth overall in the classic rally, two places behind Barclay and first in class for drivers not using pace notes.
“We’re basically driving blind in the rally without the pace notes other drivers have,’’ he said.
“We have brief notes supplied by the rally organisers, but you don’t know what’s over the blind hill or around the next corner you are coming up to at speed.’’
Verdoner said he had only done a few rally sprints and hill climbs before he tackled the Rally of Otago in his 1976 Ford Escort Mk 2 rally car, prepared by father Mike.
“Our goal was to finish and, despite driving a lot more cautiously on these roads simply because I didn’t know them all that well, I really enjoyed the experience and hope to do some more rallies this year.”
Clydevale’s Scott Gouman (Toyota) finished 45th overall and seventh in his class in his first time in the rally.
‘‘The car didn’t miss a beat and, other than some driver errors, we did very well. It was an awesome event,’’ he said.
Fewer than half the 113 starters finished the gruelling two-day rally, won convincingly by Cromwell’s Hayden Paddon (Hyundai i20 AP4), who won by more than seven minutes, despite suffering two punctures on Sunday’s latter stages.