Rallying is enjoying resurgence at a national level, but the classic component of this type of competition has developed its own unique status in a similar manner to circuit racing classics. This is especially evident in the annual Otago Rally, with the 2018 edition boasting a bumper field of 50 classic cars within an overall field of 114. This number not only witnessed the cars as the stars, but also the presence of a true international competitor in the form of current WRC Citroën works driver, Mads Østberg.

NZ WRC driver Hayden Paddon with visiting Citroën driver Mads Østberg (Photo Geoff Ridder)

To the thousands that throng the Otago Rally route each year, the presence of a top line driver out of Europe is something that they can be forgiven for taking for granted. Since 2001, a stream of similarly ranked drivers has made the trek south, although most of them had already retired from international rallying. Østberg was an exception to this.

Classic Rallying in New Zealand

This type of motorsport was essentially pioneered by a syndicate headed by Canterbury farmer and wine grower, Brent Rawstron, who remains an integral part of the team that brings these drivers to Otago. Not only does he share in the costs with the rally organisers, he also supplies a car (a Ford Escort RS 1800), the service crew and assists with entertaining the visitors.

The roots of the classic rally scene go back to 1991, when Rawstron decided it was time for rallying in New Zealand to also include something for the cars that had helped create the wonderful history that this form of motorsport has offered since the late 1960s.

Mads Østberg (Photo Geoff Ridder)

“Race meetings like the SKOPE caught my attention and the realisation that rallying should also do something about it. So, we made a decision to run what was the 21st anniversary of rallying in New Zealand and the Silver Fern Rally was born,” he explained.

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