Big names sought for rally

Driver Dean Bond and co-driver Craig Barclay, of Balclutha, in their Mitsubishi Evo 6.5 during ...
Driver Dean Bond and co-driver Craig Barclay, of Balclutha, in their Mitsubishi Evo 6.5 during the 2009 Catlins Rally. Photo by Gregor Richardson.
The Eastern Southland Car Club has combined with Auckland rally enthusiasts, the Grey Roots Group, to draw some big names for the 2013 Catlins Coast Rally.

The Grey Roots Group was formed in 2006, with the aim of maintaining the profile of motor rallying over the summer period when motorsport fans are more inclined to focus on circuit racing.

At the completion of each rally season, the group members release lists ranking the fastest New Zealand rally drivers for the year.

Group spokesman Dylan Turner said they believed the rankings had gained some ''real credibility''.

''By factoring out punctures and mechanical problems, we've established a true measure of each driver's outright pace.''

He said an unexpected bonus of the lists' publication is that many drivers use them in the difficult search for sponsorship.

''Recognition by your peers does not just provide bragging rights. The ability to go to a prospective backer, and show you are one of the fastest drivers in the country is a powerful tool.''

The Eastern Southland Car Club has also offered the number one ranked gravel driver free entry to the 2013 Catlins Coast Rally.

Mr Turner said the Catlins region was a special part of New Zealand and the roads were legendary throughout the local motorsport fraternity.

The man judged the fastest outright New Zealand rally driver for 2012 is Geraldine's Hayden Paddon, who already has a free entry to the 2013 event.

Eastern Southland Car Club president Craig Jessop said Paddon had always been a strong supporter of the club and in 2011 offered him a free entry to their annual dinner.

''Unfortunately, an additional unplanned event in Europe clashed with the 2012 rally, so he was hoping to use it in 2013.''

The free start has been offered to another exciting young driver, Nelson's Ben Hunt, Mr Jessop said.

''Ben was ranked as the number one two-wheel-drive gravel driver in the country, after storming runs at Gisborne and the World Rally Championship round. We'd love to see him down here enjoying our fabulous flowing roads, particularly if Hayden brings his protege David Holder - who is the second-ranked two-wheel-drive gravel driver - with him.''

The 2013 Catlins Coast Rally will be held on July 27 instead of August, in the hope that it will allow 2011 production world rally champion Paddon to contest the 2013 event, before departing for Rally Finland.

The club believed the July date should make it an attractive run-in for national championship contenders contesting the Canterbury rally in August.

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