Andrew Graves has used his local knowledge to good advantage to take a 53 second victory in the Catlins Coast Rally, south of Balclutha, on Saturday.
Driving an ageing Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 3, Graves and co-driver Jared Leebody won fourth of the event's six stages, defeating 2017 New Zealand Rally Champions, Andrew Hawkeswood and Jeff Cress, in the process.
But it nearly wasn't to be, as Graves survived a last stage off-road excursion that saw him drop over half a minute to Hawkeswood and his Mazda 2 AP4.
Andrew Hawkeswood thrilled spectators with his sideways driving style. Photo: Geoff Ridder
Hawkeswood won two stages, but had a few spins along the way. He finished 43 seconds clear of Carter Strang and Stewart Robbie in a Lancer Evo 6.
Christchurch's Jeff Judd brought his Subaru Impreza WRX home in fourth place, just clear of David Quantock's Lancer Evo 8.
Although the event was run in perfect weather, with clear blue skies, the forest stages were wet and slippery after recent rain.
This meant that two-wheel drive cars were at a disadvantage, with the highest finisher being Gore's Derek Ayson in his Ford Escort Mk2.
As sideways as ever, Derek Ayson was the first 2WD finisher. Photo: Geoff Ridder
Ayson and Gavin McDermott finished nearly a minute and a half ahead of rivals Marcus van Klink and Dave Neill, who brought their Mazda RX8 out for a run in the sun.
The leading casualty was fourth seed Dean Bond, who crashed his Lancer Evo 6.5 on stage three, while Barry Mills destroyed his Hillman Avenger after a big first stage accident.
Aussie veteran, Ed Mulligan, keeps his BMW neat and tidy at Catlins. Photo: Geoff Ridder
Australian Ed Mulligan, a regular to South Island events, finished 36th in his BMW 325i, with Neil Wooley in the co-driver's seat.
Leading NZRC contender, Matt Summerfield, set a string of top four stage times, but was only 58th quickest on stage two after encountering overheating problems. He eventually finished 19th in his Subaru.
The event was organised by the Eastern Southland Car Club.
Full results from the Catlins Coast Rally can be found on the ChrisSport website HERE.
Andrew Graves survived this last stage scare to win the Catlins Coast Rally. Photo: Geoff Ridder
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