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Late entry for front-running Andrew Graves

Gore’s father and son Andrew and Hayden Graves are a confirmed late entry for the Southern Lights Rally – due to awaiting parts to get their Mitsubishi Lancer mobile.

Following a mechanical failure at the South Canterbury Rally, Graves scoured parts suppliers for gearbox internals to suit his Lancer. The search resulted in a hand-made gear kit being prepared and air freighted. Now, just a week out from the event, Graves is anxiously awaiting its arrival on his side of the Tasman.

 

“I’m blue in the face from holding my breath – it’s really to the wire,” he said. “I was always intending to enter, and after blowing up the gearbox, I held back on getting the paperwork done until I was sure everything would be here in time. Now it’s looking like it’s going to happen.”

 

Switching from his role as a winning co-driver in 2023 with Josh Marston, Graves returned behind the wheel in 2024. With his son Hayden calling the notes, they won the 4WD classic category at the Central Machine Hire Otago Rally. Although their season-long plan and budget faced setbacks at the next event, including their planned entry for Southern Lights, Graves is still intent on maximizing their home-town advantage.

 

From his backyard in Gore, Graves offers simple advice to those visiting the region for the first time: “Definitely bring a woolly hat. Be ready for a wet event – so that may help with tyre choice too. The road conditions will be different from South Canterbury and Otago – they will be wet and slippery. Some sections will be fast, like at Lawrence, while others will be more technical. It’s a mix, and the darkness will be another factor again.”

 

Musing on past events over the Southland roads Graves remembers as a young fella names like Brian Green – and is honoured to be on the same entry list so many years later. “I’m really looking forward to being out there with the likes of Brian – remembering him as being at New Zealand’s top level. It’s a real kick to be doing this at our home event so many years later with those who have been around all those years.”

 

Graves saves the best for last – the memory of his first rally: “That was with Paul Cross, back in about 1997, the Catlins rally – which we didn’t finish. Our enthusiasm outweighed our ability. Speed was right, corner was too tight – or something like that.”

 

Event Details

 

The Southern Lights Rally, set to begin on Friday night, 21 June 2024, from Invercargill, will cover 157km of special stages through Southland’s diverse terrain. The rally kicks off with a ceremonial start at 4pm at the iconic Bill Richardson Transport World, leading into the first night stage in the Pebbly Hills Forest region. The competition resumes on Saturday morning with a further nine special stages, including service stops in Winton and Tuatapere, and concludes with a final stage at the Teretonga race circuit. This stage, a combination of gravel and tarmac, will bring the competitors to the track-side ceremonial finish at 5pm.

 

Spectators can enjoy the action with entry to the Transport World ceremonial start available for a $10 donation to charity at the door, while spectator entry for both the Pebbly Hills night stage and the ceremonial finish is also $10. Tickets can be purchased in advance from Invercargill’s Transport World, E Hayes & Sons, Auto Centre, and Harrison Supplies in Gore, or directly at the gate.

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