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Jimmy McRae returns to New Zealand this week to compete on the Silver Fern Rally, based in the South Island, with the start and finish in Blenheim and a halfway halt in Dunedin.

Last year McRae and Gary Smith won the Classic Otago Rally based in Dunedin driving a Mk 2 Ford Escort. Their return to the rally this year was not so successful when Jimmy damaged his ribs on an Enduro bike accident before the rally, and then crashed out on the second day of the event.

That hasn’t dampened his enthusiasm to return for the Silver Fern. Gary, who is on the organising committee for the rally, convinced Jimmy that it was a rally not to be missed.

The Silver Fern, using high speed special stages on smooth gravel roads, will be the first time a major international status rally of this type has been held in NZ’s South Island since the days of the Heatway and Motogard Rallies in the l970s and 1980s.

“When I was told that there would be 1400km of stages in one week on what I consider are the best stages in the world, I knew that this would be an event I would enjoy,” McRae said.

“The London to Sydney, my first long distance endurance rally, offered the same competitive mileage over four weeks. I led that event in Europe, winning the European section. Unfortunately, I lost time with mechanical problems in the middle of Australia, south of Ayres Rock, which dropped me well down the leader board.

“I will drive Gary’s Honda Integra, which will be maintained and run on the event by Gary’s two sons, Adrian and Troy, along with willing helpers who were actually involved when Gary’s team ran two Ford Sierra Cosworths in the l989 Rally of New Zealand for Colin and I.

“It will be very much a family and friends run team with (my wife) Margaret and Gary’s wife Frances on the catering.

“I have not driven a Honda Integra and I am looking forward to testing the car this week. This will be a tough event with several stages over 70km in length, the longest being 92km. It depends on how much money you are prepared to spend on parts and tyres as to how you drive the cars.

“The rally has attracted a strong entry, including Stiq Blomqvist, whose family live in New Zealand, and he will be quick in a Ford Escort. Dessie Nutt and Francis Tuthill will be driving their familiar Porsches and there are several New Zealanders who will be looking for a win, including Joe McAndrew and Andrew Hawkeswood.

Before McRae headed off to New Zealand he contested the McRae Stages Rally, where he, Colin and Alister all drove Ford Escorts.

Alister won the event, ahead of three Subaru Imprezas and a Ford Focus (!), but Colin and Jimmy had less luck. Colin blew an engine on the first stage, and Jimmy had transmission failure on SS5.

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