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Geoff Portman and Peter Whitten lead a quartet of Australians into the top ten on the opening leg of the Otago Classic Rally.

The battle for top honours was dominated by New Zealander Deane Buist (Escort BDA), who charged to a 36sec lead over Italy ’s Alex Fiorio (Porsche 911) on day one of the two-day event. Another Kiwi, Bert Murray, took his Mazda RX7 to third ahead of another local, Derek Ayson (Escort).

Portman slotted into fifth in his Datsun Stanza, just ahead of Kiwis Duncan McCrostie (Nissan Bluebird Turbo) and Richard Kelsey (Mazda RX7).

Whitten ended the day placed eighth, despite admitting he was still learning how to drive his locally rented Ecsort BDA to its potential. Fellow Australian’s Michael Boaden and Darryn Snooks completed the classic top ten.

Peter Riseborough (Escort) ended the day placed 20th, and John Hills (Datsun) 24th.

Competitors face a further seven stages tomorrow (Sunday), with conditions forecast to improve from the bitterly cold and sometimes wet weather that was a feature of Saturday’s leg.

Dunlop International Classic Rally of Otago

Results : Leg One

1. Deane Buist/Rocky Hudson, Ford Escort RS1800, 55:23.5

2. Alex Fiorio/Fabrizia Ponz, Porsche 911, 55:59.5

3. Robert Murray/Stuart Jenkinson, Mazda RX7, 56:05.3

4. Derek Ayson/Greg Scott, Ford Escort MkII, 56:23.9

5. Geoff Portman/Ross Runnalls, Datsun Stanza, 57:55.4

6. Duncan McCrostie/Murray Marshall, Nissan Bluebird Turbo, 58:02.2

7. Richard Kelsey/John Tee, Mazda RX7, 58:10.7

8. Peter Whitten/Roger Oakley, Ford Escort RS1800, 59:15.7

9. Michael Boaden/Helen Cheers, Ford Escort, 59:28.7

10. Darryn Snooks/David Johns, Datsun Stanza 160J, 59:40.6

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