Ann Gillis and Filip Engelen win New Zealand Classic Rally in their Porsche 911 Targa

Olivia and Martin Hunt take vintage class win by over 8 minutes in their Bentley

Event deemed a huge success by competitors

Teams travelled 7000 kms around both the North and South Islands of New Zealand, taking in 52 regularities and 6 tests on the New Zealand Classic Rally. They visited 105 timing points and numerous passage controls over the course of this epic adventure in the land of the long cloud. A superb combination of competition and adventure travel, the event was a huge hit with crews and officials, most of whom fell in love with one of the true wonderlands of the world.

Ann Gillis and Filip Engelen won the New Zealand Classic Rally in their Porsche 911 Targa by xxx mins seconds from Sherif Hwaidak and Jack Harashchenko in their Porsche 911 Carrera after a great battle between the 911 crews over 23 days of competition. Ann and Filip lead from Day 4 after both Amin Hwaidak and Jens Jarzombek’s Mustang had lead for two days with Mike and Lorna Harrison’s Volvo snapping at their heels then settling into a consistent third until trouble struck later on.

Ann Gillis and Filip Engelen, Porsche 911 Targa 1st O/A, Ann; “ We are so very happy and very grateful to get this win in such a beautiful and special country as this. The last two days were tough mentally, then I felt really tired but seeing Mont Cook cheered me right up.” Filip; “Ann was feeling the nerves but me, not so much. I know if I stay calm I can get the best performance out of Ann. It’s no good both of us being nervous, then it won’t work. But we did it, I said thank you to Sherif and Jack for pushing us to the limit! This rally was very well prepared, one out of the books and now we have solved the last part of our puzzle with a win. We are both so happy!”

Olivia and Martin Hunt won the vintage class by a whopping eight minutes and eight seconds, 8th overall in their Bentley after a great performance by the husband and wife team to haul the big car into the top ten.

Olivia and Martin Hunt, Bentley 4 ½ Litre Open Tourer, 1st vintage class, 8th O/A; Martin;” We are absolutely thrilled to win the vintage class. We would have like a few more opponents in our class but they are all great sports, fun people to drive against. The scenery has been stunning, the people charming and just wonderful driving roads.”

After such a fast and consistent performance in their Volvo PV544, briefly taking second then holding third for the bulk of the rally, Mike and Lorna Harrison were sidelined by a dislocated rear axle on Day 20 when the U bolt punched through, damaging the suspension as well. That dropped them to fifth overall. They were relieved to hold onto the prestigious and hard fought class 2 win. The bonus was in snatching back another place on the final day by just two seconds!

Lorna and Michael Harrison, Volvo PV544, 1st in class 2, 4th O/A; Mike ”There was such a contrast between the scenery, from jungle to forest all in such a compact area with great coastal routes. Mark Appleton got balance of competition right, everything was well organized, spot on. Add to that the fact that we managed to take fourth place from the Porsche of Charlotte and Bertrand Van Houtte after a good battle on the last day, we enjoyed a bonus. That’s not bad to be just two seconds apart after 23 days of competition.”

Adrian Hodgson and Mark Bramall have enjoyed a sometimes nervous time on the event as the Peugeot lost a headlight, chewed up it’s tyres and decided to stop it’s engine after suffering low oil pressure. They also had trouble with cones on a race track, but they finished a superb 1st in class, 3rd overall.

Adrian Hodgson and Mark Bramall, Peugeot 504 Ti, 1st in class 3, 3rd O/A; Adrian; “It has been a tremendous experience, it has been a great, a well organised rally and New Zealand is a lovely country. I’m not sure I will comeback as it is so far away but it is real rally territory. We said we had to make sure we didn’t cock up over the last two days and that’s what we’ve done. A great result with the class win and third overall, Mark and I are really pleased.”

With the two Porsches finishing first and second overall they are ineligible for the class 4 win which went to the consistent and reliable Mercedes crew of Nicole and John Whitelock. It is remarkable that they even made the event at all after Nicole, through no fault of her own, was involved in a serious car accident in the UK just a few days before they were due to fly out. Nicole bravely navigated with a very sore rib cage which improved as the event went on.

Nicole and John Whitelock, Mercedes 280 SL, 1st in class 4, 11th O/A; Nicole;”You have to take yourself out of your comfort zone and keep trying and that’s what we’ve done. We kept trying and we got there, we are very happy. Now I can’t wait to get home and see our new granddaughter.”

John:”Nicole has been a brave girl, we nearly didn’t make it after her serious road accident just before the event but she decided to make the trip. The first few days were painful for her, every bump and lump in the road caused her to whince but she kept going and improved every day. We have loved the event, the country is amazing but the people on the rally have made it special.”

Mark Appleton, Clerk of the Course, New Zealand Classic Rally; “As organisers we are really happy with the way it’s all gone. New Zealand is such as stunning country so to be able to show how wonderful it is to all our competitors has been great.  It’s a relatively small group but everyone has just had a good time – it couldn’t have gone any better really.”

The Highlights of the New Zealand Classic Rally should remain in competitors minds for quite a while, hopefully as lasting memories of an adventure competition set in one of earth’s wonderlands. The way the teams gelled in the spirit of friendly rivalry was great to see. The scenery was just jaw dropping.

Memories are made of this. From Whangarei to Russell a small but charming colonial town which became the first European settlement and the incredible Nine Mile Beach. Gisborne and Captain Cook history, Taupo and it’s geysers then the volcanoes, Mount Ruapehu, the largest on NZ. The cool and calm of Wellington. The Scottishness of Dunedin.

Once in the Southern Alps, the Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers. Mount Cook, Pancake Rocks! Milford Sound will live on for those lucky enough to board the wonderfully convivial boat and experience one of the world’s great wonders.

Mountains, lakes, rivers and incredible roads.

Whether tarmac or loose surface, regularity or link section, the remote driving roads were as Tim Eades said; “To die for.”

There were race tracks like Highlands and Hampton Downs, WRC or NZ rally stages traversed such as the incredible Motu Road in North Island or the Kuri Bush section used for NZ’s number one rally, the Otago Rally. Memories were evoked of Bruce McLaren and Colin McRae.

Along the way the rally met UK TV and Radio celebrity Noel Edmonds who cheered the teams past. Four times Americas Cup winner Tom Schnackenberg OBE joined us as a navigator after volunteering to marshal on North Island and ferrying parts and people around in his own aircraft. For all his efforts he won the ‘Spirit of the Rally’ award.

The media team met NZ Rally Champ and WRC winner Hayden Paddon to talk classic cars.

The rally witnessed the New Zealand’s love of motor bikes, jet boats and classic cars, and journeyed into Lord of the Rings and Hobbiton where Gandalf’s hat was on sale for a cool NZD 345!

There were numerous birthdays during the event, from Collette Owens to Charlotte Van Houtte but Operations Director Brian Whyte received the biggest birthday treat of all. Five renditions of Happy Birthday with full operatic vocals from theatre star Gris Gordon.

Peter and Gris Gordon’s lovely Talbot failed but they bought an MGB GT locally and carried on the rally. Peter and Louise Morton’s Porsche 912 expired as well. They rented New Zealander Mark Donald’s BMW 2002 Ti so they could carry on. Mark, a HERO and ERA regular keeps one of his rally BMW’s in the UK to make it easier to enter European events as he did on the London Lisbon Rally last year.

Leigh Pullen and Donald Robart were not so fortunate in their Austin Healey 3000 Mk 111. After many issues including a small fire, they went off the road damaging the Healey too badly to continue. But they bought a Honda Accord and have followed the rally to the end – despite not being allowed on the gravel as part of the ’buy back’ clause.

Bill and Olivia Holroyd, Bentley 4 ½ Litre, 2nd in vintage category overall, Bill; “It’s been a really, really good rally. The group have gelled so well, the competition has been great, the travel adventure has been great – I can’t think of a better rally I’ve been on. It has been so well organised, for example after the delay caused by the bus break down at Milford Sound, I was blown away by the how the organisation dealt with the cancellations and rescheduling. They produced new tulip routes and instructions ready for when we got back!”

The Team Award was won by the Team Lomu, named after the famous All Blacks rugby player Jonah Lomu. Each team was named after famous New Zealanders with car numbers drawn out of the hat. It just so happens that like the great player who played for a super team, so was the composition of the winning rally team. Team Lomu was represented by Ann Gillis and Filip Engelen who were first overall, second place Sherif Hwaidak with Jack Harshchenko navigating, and third place and class winners Adrian Hodgson and Mark Bramall.

The event started with the ‘Haka’ almost a month ago and finished with the winning teams lining up and attempting their own version of the ‘Haka’ at the drinks reception prior to the Awards Dinner.

Sherif Hwaidak and Jack Harshchenko, Porsche 911 Carrera, 2nd O/A, Sherif’ “We were very happy to hold onto second and I am very proud of Jack and the job he did. It has been a steep learning curve and we really have learned a lot. There were some issues with the car which we will fix before the next rally.

“I congratulated Ann and Filip, they did a great job and deserved the win, but I did add that we intend to get our revenge on Lima Cape Horn later in the year.” Both crews have entered the rally.

Stephen and Collette Owens, Jaguar SS 100. 1st in vintage class. Stephen; “It was a bit of a surprise to win the class but nice to be there and great to finish – that was our objective. We really enjoyed the rally it was a very well organised event, but the country was simply stunning. I felt the South Island had the edge, there was natural beauty around every corner.” Collette; “We have had a marvellous time although for me it was quite hard a times, but I survived!”

Julia Kirkham and Ed Charlesworth, Austin Healey 3000 Mk 111, 19th overall, winners ‘Against the Odds’ award. Ed; “There were a lot of issues we had to overcome not just with the car, but as newbies to rallying there were so many people there to help us. The sweeps were wonderful, they ended up giving us a better ride height and helped with repairs along the way, actually the car stood up well. We really enjoyed the last couple of days driving the Healey.”

Julia; “This country has the most amazing scenery and pant life, the two things I love, plants and cars! (Julia’s job is landscape garden designer). To get this combination on an event is a real winner, if we can get that again I’ll do more rallies!”

The final praise from the group was reserved for the technical assistance crews or ‘sweeps’ as they are known in rallying parlance. Claudine Bloom, who along with her team mate and driver Andrew Twort finished 9th overall and 2nd in class 2 in their Volvo, organised a group bonus for the four technicians. This was gratefully accepted, once the reluctant heroes were literally dragged on stage to receive it at the Awards Ceremony.

View The Final Results And Read The Syd Stelvio Rally Reports Here

Watch New Zealand Classic Videos Here

View New Zealand Classic 2020 Photos Here

Photos by Will Broadhead