Stokes and Marston continue Mainland Rally Championship battle at Canterbury Rally this weekend

Just four-points separate Robbie Stokes and Josh Marston heading into the one-day Lone Star Canterbury Rally in association with Joe’s Garage this Sunday. It’s the second round of the 2023 Mainland Rally Championship which has attracted a top field across all Classes. Also, within striking distance of taking the overall series lead are Marcus van Klink (Mazda RX8) and 2022 champion Deane Buist (Toyota Corolla AE86), third and fourth on the points table. Add in Michael Tall (Mitsubishi Mirage), David Quantock (Skoda Fabia) and Sean Haggarty (Subaru Impreza WRX) and we have a fierce battle over eight gravel Special Stages totalling 130 km taking place on some great North Canterbury roads.

While Stokes and co-driver Dave Neill won the opening round at Rally Otago in April driving a Ford Fiesta AP4, they have made the switch to a classic Ford Escort and will start sixth on the road. Marston and Andrew Graves (Holden Barina AP4) now start favourites as first seed ahead of Tall, Quantok, Haggarty and Van Klink.

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. Vehicles are divided up into seven different classes according to engine size, year of manufacturer and two or four-wheel drive.

A full field of Ford Escorts plus a Datsun 180B make up the Historic Class F & G. Jeff Judd/Grant Marra (Ford Escort RS1800) currently lead the Class ahead of Tim McIver/James McIver (Ford Escort) and Ally Mackay/Mikko Johnston (Ford Escort Mk1). These three may have their hands full with the very competitive Graham Ferguson/Ross Moody (Ford Escort RS1800) having entered and the return of Brent Rawstron/Ian McKee (Ford Escort RS1800).

Marcus van Klink makes a return to the event as the top Class C (2WD 1601cc and over) driver having missed the 2022 round, although Stokes and Buist will be tough competition. In 2022 Buist finished first in Class and fourth overall and this Sunday it could be a matter of who has the best car and driver combo that suits the North Canterbury roads.

The ever-popular Class B (2WD 1301-1600cc) has 12 entrants and will be a battle of the front vs rear-wheel drive. David Birkett/Jack Birkett (Toyota Levin) won the class in 2022 and will have some tough competition from the likes of Harri Silcock/Mark Greenwood (Toyota Starlet), Jack Stokes/Sarah Faulkner (Ford Fiesta R2), Jared Parker/Lachlan Thomson (Toyota Corolla) and Kerry Sloan/Henry Raymond (Toyota Starlet).

The competitive Class H will again be a close fight between James Macdonald/Josh Edwards (Subaru Impreza H6) who last season finished sixth overall and first in Class, Nick Marston/Peter Calvert (Subaru Impreza H6), Tom Milliken/Chris Cunningham (Subaru Impreza H6) and Amy Keighley (Subaru Impreza H6).

Rally cars, drivers and teams will be on display from 3:30pm Saturday 3 June at the Lone Star on Manchester St, Christchurch. Sunday’s action gets underway at the Ashley Forest (Ashley Forest Sprint Rd) with the first car departing at 8:18am before six more stages around Amberley, Cheviot and Hawarden before returning to Ashley Forest for the eighth and final stage at 4:06pm and then returning to the Lone Star, Christchurch, from 5:06pm. Spectator Guilds are available form Lonestar Manchester St and Joes Garage Rangiora. Spectator viewing points can be found on the Autosport Club Facebook page or at autosport.org.nz .

Overall Points after 1/6 rounds (Top 15)
1/ Robbie Stokes 30
2/ Josh Marston 26
3/ Marcus van Klink 23
4/ Deane Buist 20
5/ Dylan Thomson 18
6/ Jeff Judd 17
7/ Caleb MacDonald 16
8/ Brian Green 15
9/ Paul Cross 14
10/ Tim McIver 13
11/ David Birkett 12
12/ James Macdonald 11
13/ Ally Mackay 10
14/ Nick Marston 9
15/ Stephen Gill 8

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