Rally of Otago
steals the show
The fans who turned out in their
hundreds to witness a display of Finnish rally driving virtuosity were
thrilled by the skills of Juha Kankkunen and Pasi Hagstrom in the
classic division of the Otago Rally.
But it was the understudy, Hagstrom, who stole the show from the master
and team mate, Kankkunen, as both drivers gave the locals a lesson in
how to hustle an early 1980s Ford Escort BDA over Otago's rally roads.
Hagstrom, whose day job is test driving for the Subaru world
championship team, won at a canter, despite this being his first-time
rallying in a right-hand-drive car, and his first time without
By the time the rally's first leg had concluded he had won six of the
seven stages and was already over a minute and a half ahead of
Kankkunen. He in turn held an advantage of almost three minutes over top
local Derek Ayson of Clinton. By the end of the event Hagstrom's lead
stood at a massive four minutes over Kankkunen, and six and half minutes
"Being third behind a Subaru rally team test driver and a
four-times World Champion is something I have to be pretty happy
about," said Ayson. "It has been a great event from my point
Hagstrom was also satisfied with his weekend, but it was clear that his
champion team mate did not enjoy being beaten.
"The first day was fun, but today we suffered some mechanical
problems which was frustrating," Kankkunen said after nursing his
car around the final stage on three cylinders.
The cause of the Finnish duo was aided by the early demise of last
year's winner and former New Zealand champion, Brian Stokes, with
Brent Buist, the other fancied New Zealand resident, was delayed on leg
one when his Escort sustained two broken gearsticks. He fought back
magnificently on Sunday's second leg, setting fastest time on two stages
as he powered from 14th to sixth overall.
His brother, Deane, also had a fine rally in a less powerful 1600cc BDA
Escort, but was forced to retire from a top-four result with an engine
problem late in the event.
Expatriate Kiwi, Rod Millen, struggled with the handling of his Mazda
early in the rally, but gradually fine-tuned the car to his liking, and
finished a fine fourth, breaking Ford's dominance of the top places,
just as he did in New Zealand rallying back in the 1970s.
"It was a blast, and I'm already thinking about how to come back
and do better in the future," he said.
Ross Dunkerton was the top Australian, despite a troubled weekend in his
locally prepared Nissan Bluebird. On leg one the car's turbo fell off
and the engine also suffered from fuel sensor problems, while on leg two
the turbo wastegate came out.
Final Results - Classic Rally
1. Pasi Hagstrom/Ian McKee (Finland) Ford Escort RS, 2h46m44.2s
2. Juha Kankkunen/Seppo Harjane (Finland) Ford Escort RS, 2h51m07.4
3. Derek Ayson/Andrew Graves (Clinton) Ford Escort Mk2, 2h53m17.6s
4. Rod Millen/Emil Kuttle (USA) Mazda RX-7, 2h54m22.6s
5. Robert McCallum/Sean Sands (Christchurch) Ford Escort RS, 2h56m25.1s
6. Brent Buist/Glenn Buist (Christchurch) Ford Escort RS, 2h56m54.2s
7. Ross Dunkerton/Alan Stean (Australia) Nissan Bluebird turbo,
8. Steve Parker/Grant McKenzie (Timaru) Nissan Sunny, 2h59m04.1s
9. Barry Mills/Mark Allington (Balclutha) Hillman Avenger, 2h59m18.5
10. Mark Leonard/Robin Kingan (Timaru) Mazda RX7, 2h59m52.0s
Stage times here
(By David Thomson, rallysport.news.com.au)