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Twice Australian Rally Champion, Geoff Portman, will contest New Zealand’s Dunlop Classic Rally of Otago, to be based at Dunedin, in the South Island.

Held the week after Easter, the rally will be the next Snooks Motorsport adventure, with both the team’s Nissan Stanzas entered in the two-day event.

Portman and long time navigator, Ross Runnalls, who navigated Portman to his championship victories in 1981 and 1982, will rally in Stanza #2, whilst Stanza #1 will be crewed by Darryn Snooks and David Johns.

Portman and Runnalls won the championship in 1981 in a works Nissan Stanza, moving into the famous ‘Grunter’ Datsun 1600 for the next year’s championship.

The Classic Rally of Otago is open to cars constructed up to 1982, with an inclusion this year of cars up to 1987 but with restricted modifications in comparison to the earlier cars.

The Australians will be up against the might of a host of Ford Escort RS1800s, which have won the event eight times since its inception in 1997, the last six in succession.

Scotland’s Jimmy McRae won the event in 2005, whilst Finn Pasi Hagstrom took the winner’s laurels in 2004 and 2006.

Portman, in the Snooks Motorsport #2 Stanza, convincingly beat all-comers in the stages he contested competitively in the Trussme National Capital Rally, held around Canberra last November.

“I’ve never been to New Zealand for a rally and I have heard so much about the supposedly fabulously quick roads,” Portman said when offered the ride.

“It will be great to have a crack at the dominance of the Escorts. Going back in time there were some colossal scraps in the Southern Cross Rally and the Australian Rally Championship between the Stanzas and Escorts, and it will be great to relive those times of an era past.”

“On paper the Stanza shouldn’t beat the Escort, taking into account the specifications and power to weight ratio, but the Stanza is capable of being close to the Escorts’ times and with a ‘take no prisoner’ approach, it will certainly be very interesting.”

“Based on the performances of Portman in the Stanza in Canberra I’m sure he will give the Escorts a shake-up. Car preparer Justyn Snooks has brought the #2 Stanza up to the same specifications as #1, so he will have a fully developed car,” Snooks Motorsport’s Darryn Snooks said.

An eight person service crew from Australia will be headed by Justyn. He will have the invaluable assistance and advice from Les Collins

Collins, the original owner of the Melbourne-based Datrally establishment that was so prominent and successful in rally car preparation, was associated with preparing Portman’s cars from 1977. He developed the famous Grunter in its heyday in the early eighties and also built the LZ powered Bluebird for Portman in the mid-eighties

“I have been out of rallying for quite some time now. The Group N and four-wheel drive style of rallying has had no interest for me,” Collins said. “I just love the sound of the classic cars from the seventies and eighties, and when I hear a good car on song being well driven it sends a tingle down my spine.

“So, the opportunity for me to go to New Zealand for the rally, to be involved once again with Geoff, particularly in the Stanza, help out with the servicing and recapturing some feelings of the past is irresistible. But you can be sure that I’ll take every opportunity I can to just listen to the Stanzas, the BDAs and the other classic cars as they make their ‘music’.”

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