Stokes beats Marston for opening Mainland Rally Championship round win in Otago
Robbie Stokes/Dave Neill have won the opening round of the 2023 Mainland Rally Championship held on the first of the two-day Otago Rally, on Saturday. The first of six rounds produced a close see-sawing battle at the top between Stokes (Ford Fiesta AP4) and rival Josh Marston/Andrew Graves (Holden Barina AP4). Third home was Marcus van Klink/Toby Marsh (Mazda RX8) ahead of Deane Buist/Karl Celeste (Ford Escort RS1800).
“I didn’t know what the times were, but we are just enjoying ourselves,” said Stokes. “We have a completely rebuilt car (from last season) and a lot of niggly things we need to get around but I’m happy with the day.”
It was Jonty Brenssell/Ben Trevelyan (Mitsubishi Lance Evo 9) who took the initial lead winning the misty opening 21.6km Ridge Road Special Stage 1 just north of Oamaru soon after sunrise on Saturday morning. Their rally finished soon after in SS2 after an off-road excursion with Stokes winning the next four stages from Marston with van Klink, Buist, Mike Tall (Mitsubishi Mirage) all keeping in touch.
Heading into the iconic 29.9km Danseys Pass sixth stage, Stokes had a narrow 9.5 second lead over Marston who went about taking nearly fifteen seconds off him and leading heading into the last two shorter Special Stages.
Stokes effort wasn’t about to be undone, eventually winning by 20.5 seconds and repeating his round victory at the Otago Rally 12 months ago.
“The car is going really, really well,” said Marston. “We just keeping on chipping away. We are not where we need to be but we are heading there and it’s all going well.”
RDL Performance, Brita Safety, Palmside NZ and Winmax Brakes have put up cash prizes for each Class winner at the end of the Mainland Rally Championship season. $500, $250 and $100 for first, second and third respectively for each class as well as trophies for all classes and overall for both driver and co- driver. Vehicles are divided up into seven different classes according to engine size, year of manufacturer and two or four-wheel drive.
Pat Norris/Kevin Cooke (Toyota Yaris) take the lead in Class A (2WD 0-1300cc) with David Birkett/Jack Birkett (Toyota Levin) winning Class B (2WD 1301-1600cc) ahead of Craig Cormack/Mike Wilson (Toyota Corolla AE86) and Raimon Wilkinson/Ryan Wilkinson (Toyota Trueno).
Marcus van Klink with new co-driver Toby Marsh (Mazda RX8) made a winning return to Class C (2WD 1601cc and over) beating last season’s championship winner, Deane Buist/Karl Celeste (Ford Escort RS1800) with Dylan Thomson/Bayden Thomson (Ford Fiesta ST150) third.
“The roads have been great today, some of the best conditions we have had in Otago,” said van Klink. “Toby’s done a great job as well!”
Stokes leads the ‘fast’ Class D (4WD 1601cc and over) just ahead of Marston (Holden Barina AP4).
Jeff Judd/Lisa Hudson (Ford Escort RS1800) were first home in the Historic Class F ahead of 2022 title holder Tim McIver/Tim McDonald (Ford Escort Mk2 BDA).
Despite being disadvantaged in the running order in the closely fought Class H, Paul Cross/Janey Blair (Subaru Impreza H6) took the honours from James Macdonald/Josh Edwards (Subaru Impreza H6) and Nick Marston/Peter Calvert (Subaru Impreza H6).
“It has been an awesome day,” commented Cross. “It was slippery first thing (this morning) being second car on the road.”
Round 2 sees teams and competitors heading to the Lone Star Canterbury Rally in association with Joe’s Garage, taking place over King’s Birthday weekend (4 June). Eight gravel stages totalling 130 km will take place on some great North Canterbury roads.
Pos Driver/Co-Driver Make Model Class Total Time
1/ Robbie Stokes/Dave Neill, Ford Fiesta AP4 D 1:13:14.0
2/ Josh Marston/Andrew Graves, Holden Barina AP4 D 1:13:34.5
3/ Marcus van Klink/Toby Marsh, Mazda RX8 C 1:16:22.9
4/ Deane Buist/Karl Celeste, Ford Escort RS1800 C 1:17:08.0
5/ Andy Martin/Rocky Hudson, VW Polo R5 D 1:18:19.8
6/ Dylan Thomson/Bayden Thomson, Ford Fiesta ST150 C 1:19:17.4
7/ Jeff Judd/Lisa Hudson, Ford Escort RS1800 F 1:19:47.2
8/ Caleb MacDonald/Kevin Laird, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 6 D 1:20:00.0
9/ Brian Green/Fleur Pedersen, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9 D 1:20:00.7
10/ Paul Cross/Janey Blair, Subaru Impreza H6 H6 1:21:32.1
11/ Tim McIver/Tim McDonald, Ford Escort Mk2 BDA F 1:21:32.2
12/ David Birkett/Jack Birkett, Toyota Levin B 1:22:50.4
13/ James Macdonald/Josh Edwards, Subaru Impreza H6 H6 1:23:17.9
14/ Ally Mackay/Mikko Johnston, Ford Escort F 1:23:23.9
15/ Nick Marston/Peter Calvert, Subaru Impreza H6 H6 1:23:25.4
16/ Stephen Gill/Grant Molloy, Ford Escort Mk2 F 1:25:54.6
17/ David Owen/Mitzielene Machida, Ford Escort RS2000 F 1:26:26.9
18/ Brendon Mitchell/Glenn Howden, Datsun 1600 F 1:26:37.0
19/ Craig Cormack/Mike Wilson, Toyota Corolla AE86 B 1:26:44.3
20/ Raimon Wilkinson/Ryan Wilkinson, Toyota Trueno B 1:27:44.6
21/ Tom Milliken/Chris Cunningham, Subaru Impreza H6 H6 1:28:19.9
22/ Dean Schroder/Adrian Leitch, Toyota Trueno B 1:30:10.3
23/ Alan Garrick/Hamish Garrick, Toyota Trueno B 1:31:35.0
24/ Adrian Jones/Jake Luckin, Toyota Corolla FX GT B 1:33:03.5
25/ Pat Norris/Kevin Cooke, Toyota Yaris A 1:33:54.1
26/ Ray Casey/Max Casey, Ford Escort B 1:35:14.3
27/ Glenn Alcorn/Shaun McMacken, Ford Escort RS2000 C 1:35:53.9
dnf Jonty Brenssell/Ben Trevelyan, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9 D 1:12:14.2
dnf Dave Ollis/Gemma Thomas, Subaru Impreza WRX D 1:25:29.4
dnf Russell Burgess/Hayden Kirk, Subaru Impreza E
dnf William Shortus/Hamish Sands, Subaru Impreza E
dnf Nigel Ede/Mark Grimmer, Subaru Legacy RS H6 1:15:09.8
dnf Michael Tall/Matt Richards, Mitsubishi Mirage D 1:56:24.6
dnf Thomas Paul/Terri Taylor, Honda Civic B 1:34:26.4
dnf Daph O’Rourke/Brianna Little, Ford Fiesta R2 B 1:33:56.7
dnf Brendon Wadsworth/Sean Sands, Toyota Starlet B 1:36:41.7
dnf Jared Parker/Kyle Shears, Toyota Corolla 1600 B 1:57:59.2
dnf Kerry Sloan/Henry Raymond, Toyota Starlet B 1:36:32.1