Stokes aiming for third consecutive MRC win heading to Rally South Canterbury

Straight off their victory at the Lone Star Canterbury Rally, Robbie Stokes/Dave Neill (Ford Fiesta AP4) are aiming for three consecutive wins in the 2023 Mainland Rally Championship (MRC) as they attack the Stadium Finance Rally South Canterbury on Saturday. The pairing also won the opening round at Rally Otago in April and have a healthy 14-point lead over Josh Marston/Andrew Graves (Holden Barina AP4) and Marcus van Klink/Toby Marsh (Mazda RX7) who are tied for second. Also in the mix is the very quick Dylan Thomson/Richard Fairhall (Ford Fiesta ST150 2.3) who came home a surprising second at Canterbury.

Stokes is back in his Ford Fiesta AP4 after winning the Canterbury Rally two weeks ago in a 2WD Ford Escort. It was a unique podium with three 2WD cars sharing the honours. However, Marston was the fastest all day and held the rally lead heading into Special Stage 6 where he punctured and lost too much time, finishing fifth overall. This Saturday, Stokes and Marston are expected to battle for the lead in the one-day rally over ten Special Stages totalling 152.95km.

The competition for separate Class titles also continues with some close battles.

David Birkett/Jack Birkett (Toyota Levin) has a huge 22-point lead in Class B (2WD 1301-1600cc) with a close fight for second between Kerry Sloan (Toyota Starlet), Raimon Wilkinson (Toyota Trueno), Murray Christofferson (Toyota Levin), Dean Schroder (Toyota Trueno), Alan Garrick (Toyota Trueno) and Adrian Jones (Toyota Corolla FXGT).

Dylan Thomson is likely to increase his lead in Class C (2WD 1601c and over) now that Marcus van Klink has made the switch from his Mazda RX8 to his older and competitive RX7, moving to Class F (Historic). Thomson’s main competition is likely to come from last season’s MRC title holder Deane Buist (Toyota Corolla AE86). Buist retired out of Rally Canterbury and lags 12-points behind Thomson with Glenn Alcorn (Ford Escort RS2000) in contention for third in class.

In Class D (4WD), Josh Marston has a six-point lead over Caleb MacDonald (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 6) with Stokes in third ahead of Dave Ollis (Subaru WRX Sti).

At Rally Canterbury Mike Barltrop/Vahur Ots (Subaru Impreza) won Class E (Pre 1996 Classic 4WD) from Hayden Shakespeare/Chris Sunman (Mitsubishi Lance Evo 3). With Barltrop having missed the opening round, he has a 16-point deficit to make up heading into the weekend.

It’s a close battle in the Historic Class F&G with Ally Mackay (Ford Escort) and Tim McIver tied on 30-points. David Owen (Ford Escort) is five-points further back with Marcus van Klink coming into contention and Jeff Judd (Ford Escort) not competing this round.

The ever-popular Class H (Subaru H6) continues to be led by James Macdonald with Nick Marston and Tom Milliken not far behind.

RDL Performance, Brita Safety, Palmside NZ and Winmax Brakes have put up cash prizes for each Class winner at the end of the Mainland Rally Championship season. $500, $250 and $100 for first, second and third respectively for each class as well as trophies for all classes and overall for both driver and co- driver.

The event also doubles as the third round of the NZ Rally Championship with 78-cars entered. The event gets underway from the Timaru International Raceway, Levels, at 8am with the field returning for the final Special Stage 10 around the circuit at 3:15pm.

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