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Interesting Yarns Aplenty in Caitlins Coast Rally

With such a large entry it is inevitable that there will be some interesting back stories among the competitors in the twentieth running of the Catlins Coast Rally on Saturday.

Jeremy McIlwrick and Bradley Dawson’s first rally together was the Wyndham Rally of 1998 and they competed together in the first Catlins Coast Rally a year later. Every time they have competed at Catlins since then they have been together which McIlwrick thinks is unique. “We have missed two or three but every single Catlins that we have done I have driven and Bradley has co-driven,” says McIlwrick.

McIlwrick is from Winton and Dawson, a very successful circuit racer in his own right, is based in Invercargill. The pair met at high school and their friendship has endured.

When you ask Jeremy for a favourite Catlins memory he says, “they have all been good. It’s all about having a good time.”

There have been several cars over the years, the pair starting in a Toyota KE25 in Class A, working through a couple of AE86 Toyota’s, a Subaru WRX and then their most recent car, a Mitsubishi EVO 4.

McIlwrick does admit the pair have had their share of off-road excursions over the years. “Last year at Catlins was our worst. We were going pretty good and putting in pretty good stage times,” he says. “It was gut wrenching.” McIlwrick had climbed from 23rd to 8 th when the incident occurred on the third stage of the event.

As for Catlins 2020, twenty years on from his first crack at it – “I want a good solid finish, I want to be there at the end.” Meanwhile Gordon Beeby of Timaru is just happy to be back at Catlins this year. Beeby thinks he has only done the event four or five times. “I remember doing the Gore and Wyndham Rally’s but only a few Catlins,” he says. “I did some of the early ones but there was a gap of about thirteen years before I did it again about four years ago.”

Two years ago, he missed the event for good reason, as he had only just undergone triple by-pass heart surgery. “I got away with that one,” he says. He would have been back last year but wife Vicki was “crook”. Vicki is co-driving this weekend. “She used to service but she did our local rally when my co-driver was away fishing and she is in the car for this one.”

The car is a Datsun 120Y with a Nissan FJ20 engine. “I have had it about twelve years. It is a cool wee car.”

Gordon Beeby in the Datsun 120Y, Photo: Aaron Staples photography

Beeby decided to return to Catlins after talking to Assistant Clerk Of The Course for the event, Roger Laird, at the Ben Nevis Station Hillclimb just before lockdown. “Roger said he was stepping down from his current role as it was the twentieth year. I thought I better make the effort!”

The rally will commence at 10.00am on Saturday 8 August from Campbell Street, adjacent to Owaka Motors in Owaka and will feature approximately 153 km of high-speed Special Stages before concluding back in Owaka just after 3.30pm that afternoon. Servicing will be held throughout the event in Owaka.

The Eastern Southland Car Club is delighted to have the support of the Clutha Licensing Trust through their Rosebank Lodge Balclutha establishment, plus Southroads, Owaka Motors, Yuasa Batteries and Stadium Finance. The club is also especially grateful to Rayonier Matariki Forests, the Clutha District Council and the McNab Family for their assistance with the event.

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