Buist out to upset Escort dominance

Christchurch's Deane Buist looks to be the only driver capable of upsetting the Escort juggernaut at this year's Winmax Brakes Otago Classic Rally.

Deane Buist SS8Deane Buist is the top rated non-Escort driver in the Otago Rally. Photo: Peter Whitten

In a top 10 littered with RS1800s, and headed by Norwegian WRC star Mads Ostberg, Buist's Volkswagen Golf GTi will be fighting a lone hand against the might of Ford's greatest ever rally car.

The classic field is dominated by powerful rear-wheel drive cars, but Buist's front-drive VW bucks that trend, and as shown by his second placing last year, he's more than capable of matching it with the best.

Ostberg will start as the clear favourite in his Rossendale Rally Team car, but last year's winner, Regan Ross, is eyeing back-to-back wins.

The always-sideways Jeff Judd will mount another attack for his second Otago Rally win, while local Derek Ayson, a three-time Otago Rally winner, looks to be on top form in his Escort.

Australian front-runners Stewart Reid and Grant Walker are back for another Otago Rally, while Kiwi-based Australian, Mike Townshend will debut a beautiful Toyota Corolla Levin.

The top seeded Dunedin driver is Richie Chadwick in another Toyota, and Jake Thomas (Toyota), Mark Laughton (Hillman Avenger V8) and Rob McConachie in a Toyota Starlet will also be pushing hard to uphold local honours.

There are 36 classic two-wheel drive cars in the 132 car field, which also includes 15 in the newly introduced Classic 4WD rally.

Dunedin's Greg Keen is the top seed in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 1, ahead of the Subarus of Invercargill's Neville Krammer (Leone RX Coupe) and Christchurch's Matt McGlinchey (Impreza WRX).

Mads Day 2Mads Ostberg has returned from Norway for his second Otago Rally. Photo: Peter Whitten

Tom Bond and Zeke King will also be Subaru mounted as they represent the home city in their push for victory.

The top seeds in the popular Allcomers Rally are New Caledonian Eugene Creugnet, and Auckland's Matt Adams, both in Mitsubishi Lancers.

The two-day Otago Rally also acts as the opening round of the 2019 Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship.

Starting on Friday night in Dunedin's Octagon, the Dunedin Isuzu Otago Rally takes place over 15 special stages covering 272 kilometres.

Widely acclaimed as having some of the best rally roads in the world, the Otago Rally will again feature the event's famous stages, including Kuri Bush, Whare Flat, Waipori Gorge and McIntosh Road.

Spectator information and stage maps are available from the Otago Rally website at www.otagorally.com.au

Live video feeds will be available on the website and the rally's Facebook page throughout the weekend.

The Otago Rally receives Major Events funding from Dunedin City Council, and is supported by the Otago Community Trust.