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Adventure racer to rally driver joins Southern Lights entry list

Dunedin’s Anthony Eyles has returned from the sidelines and adventure racing to dust off his Toyota Trueno BZG for the Transport World Southern Lights Rally. Known for his endurance in events such as the Coast to Coast and 100km adventure runs, Eyles has a special connection to rallying that began long before his multisport days.

 

“1998 was the first rally I ever watched, as I’m from down here,” explains Eyles of his southern roots. “It was the Southland Rally.”

 

This early exposure ignited a passion for rally that never left and then in 2007, participated in his first rally, the Daybreaker.

 

“I was living in Palmerston North at the time. I bought a $2000 Nissan Pulsar and spent another $1500 getting it ready,” Eyles recalls. Despite having no experience driving on gravel or participating in hill climbs or autocross, and with his wife as co-driver, finished their first event 34th out of 40 finishers.

 

With no Southland Rally on the horizon and a young family, they returned to Invercargill, where Anthony purchased another car for $300. “That was 2013, and interestingly, Transport World is where our house used to be – it got demolished a year after we moved in.”

 

He continued, “I was working for Stresscrete Southland – they sponsored me and helped build the roll cage. One of my mates from Invercargill rebuilt the motor – and that’s our rally car. The rest is completely standard. It’s done 223,000km on the clock.”

 

Eyles used this car in a few local rallies, including the Catlins and Lawrence events. “Catlins was in 2016 where it snowed. I got the bits for the car about three weeks before the rally, got it all together then drove it to the rally from home for its first drive. I got to the start line, remember the start crew saying where there was black ice and where it was slippery then 3,2,1 go!”

 

Adventure racing soon took precedence, culminating in a 16-hour, 40-minute finish in the 2019 Coast to Coast One-day multisport event. “I’ve done a couple of 100km runs too. But they’re shorter, they only take 14 hours,” he casually adds.

 

Fast-forward to the news of the Southern Lights Rally taking place in his old hometown, and Eyles knew he had a date with destiny. He’s heading back to where it all started, embracing the challenge of the night stages. “Well, I like an adventure, so that adds to the challenge. I reckon I’ll be alright. I’ve got some basic LED driving lights to add to the factory Toyota high beams."

 

Another first will be having his friend Corin Dawson join him as co-driver. Equally important is his service crew and their preparation. Joining him will be his father-in-law and brother, all staying at his mum’s place in Invercargill.

 

"It will be great to finally get to compete in this challenging event where it all began for me after never having had the opportunity to before. Just another adventure to be had, I can't wait"

 

The Transport World Southern Lights Rally kicks off on Friday night, 21 June 2024, from Invercargill and covers 157km of special stages through Southland. The rally begins with a ceremonial start at 4pm at the iconic Bill Richardson Transport World. Competitors will then head into the dark for the first special stage in the Pebbly Hills Forest region. The competition resumes on Saturday morning with nine more special stages, including service stops in Winton and Tuatapere. The event concludes with a final stage at Teretonga race circuit, a combination of gravel and tarmac, ending with a ceremonial finish at 5pm. Spectators can enjoy the action with a $10 donation to charity at the door for the ceremonial start, and $10 entry for both the Pebbly Hills night stage and the ceremonial finish. Tickets are available from Invercargill’s Transport World, E Hayes & Sons, Auto Centre, and Harrison Supplies in Gore, or at the gate.

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