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The Flying Scotsman, Alister McRae, holds a commanding lead after the first day of the Dunlop International Classic Rally of Otago in Dunedin.

Driving a Ford Escort RS1800, McRae and co-driver, Erin Kyle, hold a one minute and 34 second lead over the Nissan-powered Escort of Derek Ayson, while Brad Goldsbrough is the first of the Australians in third place in his Datsun 1600.
A high attrition rate has seen many of the more fancied crews fall by the wayside, including former winner, Deane Buist, who rolled his Toyota Corolla, and Aussie Darryn Snooks, who suffered numerous mechanical problems in his Datsun Stanza.

The first day of the Dunlop International Classic Rally of Otago was held in fine, but windy weather, with eight stages totalling 132 kilometres of competitive driving.

McRae was fast out of the blocks, beating everyone by at least 17 seconds on the first 12.85km stage at Whare Flat, and he was never headed from there on. His BDA Escort, prepared by Bryce Biggs, ran reliably throughout the day, although a gearbox drama late in the day saw the Scotsman having to hold the car in second gear.

“We’ve had a fantastic day,” McRae said. “The car’s gone well, the roads have been sensational, and I can’t wait to get out there again tomorrow.”

Deane Buist’s charge ended when he rolled his BDA-powered Corolla on his favourite stage, McIntosh Road. While he rejoined the rally later in the day, his hopes of repeating his 2007 victory are over – at least for another year.

Both Ayson and Goldsbrough have been impressive and are still in with chances of standing on the top step of the podium, should McRae have a problem on Day 2. Another Australian, Jeff David, drove brilliantly on his Otago debut, putting his Porsche in fourth place at the end of the day, with a six second gap over Ross Dunkerton.

An Otago Rally veteran, Dunkerton spent his day coming to grips with his newly purchased Escort RS1800, and got quicker as the day wore on.

Local speedster, Duncan McCrostie, is sixth in his Nissan Bluebird Turbo after the first day, well clear of Brent Rawstron in seventh.

Darryn Snooks had hoped to better his eighth place from 2007, but accelerator and suspension problems saw him stranded on two stages during the day. Fellow Aussie Keith Callinan also had a shocker, first breaking a ball joint on his BDA, then a gearbox.

Regan Ross impressed on this event last year, but he left the road and retired on stage seven, despite winning stage three – the only gravel stage McRae didn’t take the honours on.

Tomorrow sees a further six stages and 124km of competitive driving, before the finish back in the centre of Dunedin at around 3pm.

Dunlop International Classic Rally of Otago
Results after Day 1:
1. Alister McRae/Erin Kyle, Ford Escort RS1800, 1h21m13.7s
2. Derek Ayson/Greg Scott, Ford Escort FJ2000, +1m34.8s
3. Brad Goldsbrough/Aaron Topliff, Datsun 1600, +2m55.3s
4. Jeff David/Grant Geelan, Porsche 911, +3m49.7s
5. Ross Dunkerton/Alan Stean, Ford Escort RS1800, +3m55.9s
6. Duncan McCrostie/Murray Marshall, Nissan Bluebird Turbo, +4m48.5s

CLICK HERE for Otago Rally results and photos
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