Silver Fern Rally 2014


This is a 'warts and all', blow by blow description of the 2014 event

I did a 'preview' then a daily write up then the Epilog

In 2006 when the boys were still in Primary school, they were granted the time off to 'do the rally', as long as they wrote a report every night, to be emailed back so it could be read to their classmates the next morning. This they did (well sort of), and I added my own comments throughout the trip - that year we did 5000 km in something under 10 days.

This practice has more or less continued throughout our rally involvements until the present day when James is now 18, virtually left school,and we now have what appears to be some 12 or 13 teenagers (boys and girls) joining us this year.

We leave tomorrow night at about 7, for the 2014 Silver Fern Rally, for which we are providing '8 block marshalls, for each of the 8 days', a somewhat larger undertaking that the 3 or 4 of us that have formerly been involved.

For this first '10,000 word missive', I lay out what we are expecting to be doing for the next 10/12 days. I shall attempt to do a writeup each night and send it off (without relying on the boys/girls, to contribute very much). If you know of anyone who might be interested, then do please either forward the emails, or give me their email addresses so I can include them on the list. SO, Tomorrow (6th Nov 2014) we leave here (Tairua on the lovely Coromandel Peninsula), at about 7 p.,m.we should have 12or 13 teenagers, plus Connie and myself. (Connie came on the 2010 event and is really looking forward to this year's event - as indeed we all are.)

Several of the team have never even been to the Mainland before, let alone doing the 'whole nine yards' that we will be doing. In theory we won't be taking any newbies though, everyone has been a member of the SBT Stage Timing Team on some previous occasion.

This time we are not doing any really technical work, even though Block marshalling is actually a vitial part of the operation (being a mixture of security and public relations) Most of the the team regard it as 'glorified spectating' rather than any real work.

After collecting everyone, we plan to drive though the night arriving in Wellington before daybreak and go over on the Interislander @ 8.30 that morning.

We intend to spend the Friday night with James' grandmother in Blenheim. Might even catch up with George !!

The Rally proper starts in Picton on Sat - but oh joy, we don't actually have to work that day.

Sat night we will be in Nelson, as we have the 8 points to block marshall on Sun morning.

Sun night at top ten holiday park in Greymouth. Monday block marshalling out the back of Lake Brunner then arriving in Christchurch sometime in the afternoon - descending as you might say on my best friend Bob.

At that stage we also pick up the next 'adult' member of the crew, Lisa, who despite her protestations, she is not a 'newbie' as she has been a member of the SBT Stage Timing crew before - flying finish 'bomb drop operator' no less.

She will be with us for the rest of the event, probably leaving us on our return to Christchurch.

Tuesday morning, up bright and early working out on Banks Peninsula - I have horror memories of Bossu Road, but James seems quite happy to drive it.

That night we are in Timaru Top Ten.

Wednesday the cars go out Kurow way, then over Dansey's pass - we end up at Waihola camp ground (about half an hour south of Dunedin).

Thursday inland from Balcultha (Pomahaka or whatever), we end up in Invercargill - whether we get to Richardsons Motor Musemn or not I am not sure.

Friday up through Central Otago, we will be staying with our friends at Forest Range station, 'situated 15km south of Lindis Pass in the South Island high country'.

Another likely early start on Sat morning has us in Thompson's Gorge, Philips Rd and gettting to Highlands motor sport park.

The event winds up that day with the finish being in Queenstown that afternoon and after the 'after match function' we once more descend on the good folk at Forest Range - well if we have managed to perusade them to join us for this last rally day they will already be with us.

But wait there is more !!

Sunday we have to get back to Christchurch to put two of the boys on a plane to Auckland so they can be picked up and transported back to Thames so they can sit exams on the Monday!!!!

The rest of us, have to be in Picton by noon on the Monday, and will decide just how far we are able to drive once we gat back to Wellington that night - heading back home hopefully 'tired but happy'.

There is likely to be a charter that Tues 18th but if so David has agreed to do it for me - I am likely to be in 'no fit state'.

So there you have it.

Our plans for the next two weeks, real appreciation of my other driving colleagues, especially David, who is coping magnificanty with the bookings and admin - no mean feat I assure you - Daily updates I hope.

The bus we will be travelling in has GPS tracking fitted - so if you want to follow our progress just ask and I can give you the website, the login ID and the password.

day 1 Good and bad!

We did leave Tairua near enough on time (Thurs 6th) 7 p.m.collected the rest of the crew and headed away.

I drove as far as Taupo then james drove the rest of the way to Wellington - arriving in plenty of time to catch the ferry.

He did REALLY well driving throught the night, over the desert rd, with a significant amount of heavy trucks going in each direction to cope with.

In Wellington we had the absolute pleasure of meeting Nick, my grandson for the first time - theanks ever so much to Kate and Sean for bringing him down.

James drove both on and off the ferry We caught up with George during the afternoon.

It was during the trip down that we discovered that the bus heater, which we knew was 'not very good' in fact was useless!!

So we had about 12 almost frozen bodies when we got to Wellington.

But a lovely crossing, happily esconsed @ Lorraines, 3 tents in the back yard, collected our running instructions, hi-vis vests etc.

The adults went out for a meal - the event itself starts tomorrow (Sat)

But this is where the bad news nstarts.

I am (again, still, or whatever you want to call it) Absolutely disgusted with Vodafail.We have no actual wireless internet access today, but never mind, we have our Vodafail sticks (2 of them in fact), but not only will Vodafail not let me connect (even though I have done so many times before) but neither wil they let me know the 'ph no' so I can either complain loudly, or do something else about it.

It suspect that 'get stuffed Sykes'must be one of their standard phrases.

Anyway - I'll send this as soon as I can get access- Even dial up.

Warwick And













Hi all,

For the first time so far, a rift is appearing between management and staff !!

Some behaviour has been obnoxious to say the least, and unhappily led by those who should know better.

Right to the stage of one or more likely to be left at one of our overnight stops and having to make their own way home.

However, with a mutiny being organised I have succumbed to the fact that I neeed them more than they need me and simply cannot fulfill my obligations without them- there is, therefore something of an uneasy peace.

Anyway after a pleasant night with Lorraine, we watched the start of the rally in Picton then proceeded quietly to our camp ground in Nelson.

Connie and I had Burger King, the rest had McDonalds, we refuelled Humphrey with diesel and then prepared for our first real 'day of work'.

For those tracking us it should be a most interesting day !!

hi all, Well what can I say ??

There was good bad and disastrous !

The Good, the fact that all the crew were up in time for us to meet our 'out of the gate by 8 deadline!

It was also good that we were at our appointed place in plenty of time.

Also under this heading was the fact that we sucessfully dropped (not literally) all our marshalls in their correct places.

But then there was a tree trunk across the road at one point which was high enough for cars to pass under but not good old Humphrey !

We did realise that we would always need to drive the whole rally stage (twice in fact, once dropping marshalls and once collecting them),and, seeing the target time for the rally cars was over an hour, then it was likely to be nearer two hours in Humphrey(each time).

With the tree problem a detour added another 30 mins or so.

When we went to collect our crew I turned around on the detour 1 point too early, Zac didn't tell me I had done so until some half hour later we discovered we were missing two !!!!!

Oh Bugger - another hour on the stage !!!

For those of you tracking our progress this must make interesting traces.

So, now some 2 hrs behind what we would have wished we headed for Greymouth - even though the cars went to Westport (so we would only have to get out of the gate at 6 - not rather earlier as we will no doubt have to after tomorrow night.).

BUT some 111 km from our destination there was a resounding bang from the nether regions of Humphrey, and yes - we had a blowout on the inner dual of the left hand tyre !!

We limped to Greymouth and are hopefull it can be fixed tomorrow morning.

The behaviour of some of the crew leaves lots to be desired, the mess they have in the bus is incredible but it looks like we shall 'get there'.

Thanks again to David for holding the fort back home - it is good to know he is coping so well.

Tomorrow (Mon) we block marshall 3 more stages,(and hopefully get a new tyre too) then over the hill to Bob's place.

More from me then!

Hi again, A better day today - well sort of.

Three stages to ,marshall today.

Out the gate by 6, dropped 1st two marshalls, at various points on SS13, then more in SS14 and SS16 - all with the bus with a shredded tyre.

We then went back into Greymouth, had the shredded tyre replaced, and guess what the inner on the other side was also flat - and needed to be replaced!!

Expensive, but necessary.

James drove from then on!, collecting the people we had dropped earlier, then took us over Arthur's Pass, (and more to the point Porters Pass), arriving at Bob's ON TIME.

Fish and chips for tea. Then a Nga or two for Connie, Lisa and myself.

We are all out of the gate at 6 in the morning.

hi all, WOW What a day !!

Two stages today, the 1st of the day (Bossu Rd), and the last of the day out the back of Geraldine.

Bossu Rd, I remember from years ago - it has not improved .

I am trying to get some photos to send, but suffice to say - out of the gate (Bob's) at 6 a.m., 2nd ( or perhaps 3rd gear) all the way up - eyes GLUED to the road.

Scary is a mild word for taking a 7 tonne bus up there!!

Anyway, mission achieved- those of you tracking us must have found it really interesting.

We then moved (post haste) to the back of Geraldine - where we needed 9 marshals.

As previously explained, we have to drive each stage, dropping people off at the nominated points, complete with chair, umbrella, drink, chips etc.

Then after the road is opened and keeping a sharp lookout for wayward boy racers driving BMWs, we drive backwards (well not really, but in the oposite direction) collecting them again.

Unfortunately on this last stage of the day Brent managed to have a substantial 'off' and,

as a result the stage had to be abandoned - always very disappointing for those competitors already finished. Humphrey continues to 'work really hard'

Do remember to check for up to date information. Since leaving Tairua on Thursday night we have travelled 2195 km.

Well - what can I say !!!

Here we are at Lake Waihola (just south of Dunedin!

This morning we had to lend 3 marshals to another tream, they were out the gate just after 7.(am)

The other 11 of us were away before 8.

All was going swimmingly, we were well on time to be where we had to be at the appointed time when lo and behold, we got another flat tyre !!

Not on a gravel rally stage, but on a nice piece of straight tarseal road !!

The team got the spare wheel off, got the jack out and the large wheel brace etc - Note there was, of course no cell ph coverage on any network, oh bugger !

The problem showed itself when we simply couldn't get even one of the wheel nuts loose - and no it wasn't a left hand thread problem !.

. We managed to flag down a car, got a message to Carl the Rally Manager, who arranged to shuttle these 11 marshalls to their posts, while we attempted to deal with the problem!!

People came from far and wide to help, but all to no avail, even when we had all the tools available in a couple of 40 tonne rigs.

It still wouldn't shift. We used a pipe extension and simply bent it. I jumped on the bar, but even my 100kg couldn't shift it.

One helper got an enourmous socket set, with a power bar and a 1 metre long extension - still no use !!

We had already tried squirting CRC on the threads to no avail.when one of those helpers there went and got some "PB Penetrating Oil' - guaranteed to shift anything !

Yeah Right!!!!! Still no joy !!

But wait there is more- reading the can (when all else fails read intructions) it said to wait 5 mins _ seems an age)

but lo and behold, one at a time the nuts did undo, with long pipe extensions applied.

This meant that we could 'simply' change the tyre,(which we did) and

proceeded quietly to the start of the stage - wait for the road to be opened the go and collect everyone (well 10 of them) as I had had to stay with the bus (obviously).

Waimate for lunch, tyre unable to be repaired or replaced.

Off to Oamaru, main tyre shop had none of our tyre size in stock, sent us to another who fortunately did.

We then drove here, arriving just after 6, tomorrow we are 'out the gate' about 9.

Invercargill tomorrow night.I might get the team down to Bluff, just so they can say they have been there!

,We do have some photos

Here we go again. Today we were due to have 7 marshalls in the stage,

and because it was the 1st stage after lunch, it meant we didn't have to be 'out of the gate' until 9.30. a,m.

Oh rapture what bliss !!

Yeah Right - at about 9 p.m.Carl rang again to say that we also had to do a morning stage - this meant we had to be out of the gate by 8 a.m. after all !!

Anyway this we did, arriving at the appointed place at the appointed time.

Dropped 4 marshals in the first stage, then the second 7 in the next stage,

after lunch collecting them all and heading for Invercargill -

well actually particularly for those who have never been here before, down to Bluff and the southernmost point on the south island - if you get a chance to see the photos taken please do.

We then managed to get Humphrey all the way up to the lookout.

. Tomorrow we are due 'out of the gate' at 9.30, but wait there is more !!!

We have just learned that we also have to do a second stage , but at least our out of the gate time is no earlier and it also allowed us an effective 'night off' in Invercargill

This meant that the 'boys' had their night out and Connie, Lisa and Steve Luscome, (who used to work with me at SBT in Chch and who will now work for me over the Christmas break in Tairua,) and his partner, and I had our own 'adults night out'.

Eventually Steve drove us all home in Humphrey and we are still looking for an out of the gate time of 9.30.

We have only been away from home a week (and only a month since Rally of The North,) but it sure seems a lot longer !!

We are now up to nearly 3000k since leaving home.

I'll regale you all with the 'saga of the tyres' in due course.

So Fri, we were out of the gate at 9.30, heading for Pyramid, somewhere out the back of Gore

Once more, Carl needed some of our crew to man another stage, so we dropped (James driving again),

9 of us, the rest with Carl on to SS43, Connie and I then went all the way back to Gore, for fuel and food for the troops.

Then back to drive SS42 (I drove - of course), collected the team, then through SS43 again.collecting the rest.

We then headed for Forest Range Station)which really deserves a complete 'edition' to itself), arriving just a bit later than hoped.

Lovely meal, lovely beds, lovely tour of the station etc.

It is hard to believe that I have been associated with this magic place for some 30 years, Lisa for 25 !!

Anyway we are out of he gate this morning by 8. Meeting Carl at the start of a SS ,then on to Highland Park this afternoon, finishing in Queenstown Sat evening.

Well, the rally itself is now over ! And what an experience it has been.

Not the least managing and controlling a dozen or so teenagers, a mixture of boys and girls, thanks to both Lisa and Connie for helping in this undertaking.

But 'wait there's more!' We are little more than halfway through the exercise.

Having now done some 3500 km in the week since leaving home we are now faced with another 1300 or so to get back home - yes I know I have a charter to do on Wednesday. too!!

Anyway back to the story - Friday night we stayed at Forest Range Station, (thanks ever so much Russell and Jeanette),

out of the gate before 8 on Sat morning, down to the Thompson George Special Stage, whereaupon, the troops

(except Kaelon who was, for some reason, still sleeping despite being prodded), were shifted into a 4 wheel drive hiace to be dropped through the stage then eventually brought bsck after it had finished.

We then headed to HighlandvMotorsport Park at Cromwell, a venue that just has to be seen to be believed.

Another absolutely marvellous facility but which apparently has such onerous rescource consents restrictions placed upon it that it can only be used once a month.

What absolute nonsense.

We then headed for Queenstown, where the boys (and girls) had the night to themseves (well at least until 10.30)

wheras I had forgone drinking anything myself so that I could drive them back to Forest Range,

arriving not too far after midnight.

Another good sleep, not only for the adults, but for the crew too, out the gate at 8 heading for Christchurch and Bob's place again.

More news tomorrow !

Yes I know, the Rally is over, but we still have a long way to go.

Out of the gate at Forest Range at 8 a.m., up through the high country, stopped at Tekapo for photos,

at the Church etc, loo stop at Fairlie then on to Chch Airport to drop Devon and Christian so they can can catch a plane to Auck so they can sit exams tomorrow (Monday).

The rest of us then dropped Lisa off then headed for Bob's place (again),

what the neighbours think of the bus with a dozen or more teenagers arriving at an old aged pensioner's newly rebuilt house can only be imagined.

We sort of went our separate ways for the afternoon, meeting up with our friend Brian who joined us for our meal at Bob's tonight.

I will confess to having managed a few Nagahere Golds !!!!

Tomorrow is another out the gate time of 7.30, whereupon we proceed (quietly?) to Picton, cross over on the ferry and then head home driving through the night arriving in Tairua before daybreak Tues morning.

Thanks for following our adventures, and a special thanks to those who took the trouble to follow our GPS tracker

which showed where we were every 10 secs throughout the journey

I shall no doubt do a summary of the event in the next few days, but right now I am 'rather tired' and am off to bed.


So, we are all 'back home'.

Left Bob's with an out of the gate time of 7.15, (James driving), getting to Picton at 12.15.

Paid and checked in, then enjoyed a reasonably leisurely cruise on the Arahura.

Off late afternoon into the Wellington 5 p.m. traffic, (say no more),

James then drove until his 5 1/2 hrs were up then I took over for my 5 or so.

Dropped several of the boys as we proceeded home , then Connie at Duck Creek.

Zac is already away to the first day of his new job,

James is heading for Hamilton again for his next interview with the army recruitment people,

thus leaving Rimu, Tara and I to do something about restoring Humphrey to a state fit to carry passengers - this will be a mission and a half,

as I have a charter in it tomorrow (Wed).

Now I thought a few words about just what we have been doing.

For a couple of years SBTTSTTT (SBT Tairua Stage Timing Team) have been doing rally stage finishes, quite technical, reasonably difficult and certainly a task that requires the utmost accuracy in all things.

Silver Fern had enough timing teams on offer but we were offered 'Block Marshalling', a task almost universally known as 'glorified spectating'

This is, actually a most important job though.

Legally, it is a safety and security function - being there to stop ANY unauthorised vehicle getting on to the road whilst it is actually legally closed.

A block marshall is required at each and every intersection

The task is sometimes easy sometimes not quite so easy - ask Lisa !!

.In reality though it is also a public relations function. Block Marshalls become 'the face of the organisers', interacting with the general public

at these vantage points and usually striking up significant rapport with spectators.

In practical terms it means that the mother ship (Humphrey on this occasion) has to be driven through each stage, dropping a marshal at each intersection (complete if possible with chair, umbrella, drink and snacks)

some 2 hours before the first car is due.

Then on the run through the stage say an hour after the last car, they are once more picked up , and on at least one occasion then carted off to do another stage later on the day.

Is it any wonder we are regarded as masochists!

Who else would sit on the side of a dusty (or muddy) back country road for 3 hours or so, then when having a beer at the end of the day - say yep that was fun!

(And then do the same thing again the next day !!)

- All this for no pay, just the honour and glory of being part of such an exciting event.

Well done to the crew which this time was

Warwick (of course) - Wazza



Tara J


Tara T









Yep, we had tyre problems.

If you have read my earlier missives, you will note that we ended up

with three new tyres,(this really shot our budget) strangely enough,

not on the rally stages as one might expect but on good flat, level tarseal roads.

I guess there may have been some weakening of the 'equipment' during the stages though.

BUT our investigations showed us that most rally cars service crew carried about 20 tyres for each car - 4 brand new, and another 16 in various stages of wear.

So I guess it was inevitable that, as so much of our time was spent driving the various rally stages that our Light Truck tyres might decide to call it a day at some point

I thought the following blow by blow description might be of interest.

6th Nov

Collected the troops and drove throught the night to cross over to Piction on the 8.45 a.m.Ferry

Friday 7th

Caught up with George, then stay the night with Lorraine - thanks Lorraine. Tents all over her back yard, a nice room for Connie the rest of us bunking down on the floor or whatever.

Sat 8th Start of the rally proper.

We stayed at Maitai Valley Motor camp in Nelson

Sunday 9th

We marshalled BIGBUSH Drive in the Golden Doens Forest near Glenhope- A VERY rough forestry road, which (with detour) we did three times

some marshalls had to wait a VERY long time.

That night we had our first blowout which contributed to our being somewhat late arriving at Greymouth holiday park.

Monday 10th

Out of the gate at 6 a.m. Dropped Marshalls at three stages, had tyre(s) replaced

then back to collect the marshals, then 'over the hill' to stay with Bob. Just returned to his newly rebuilt home the day before and yep he ended up with 14 of us there

I hate to think just what the neighbours thought was going on!

Tues 11th Nov

Out of the gate again at 6 a.m. Bossu Rd on Banks Peninsula - WOW. But wait there's more.

Once collected from there we then had the last stage of the day to do too - out the back of Geraldine.

That night at Timaru Holiday park.

Connie,Lisa and I had a 'self contained unit' the rest had their tents and the bus to sleep in.

Wed 12th Nov

This was our next tyre mission - well actually frozen on wheel nuts -

but the Rally Manager ferried the troops to their points then once mobile again we collected them once the stage was finished.

That night we stayed at Lake Waihola Motor Camp just south of Dunedin - Connie had a cabin, Lisa and I had bunks, the rest tents, the bus and the camp lounge.

Thurs 13th Nov

Out of the gate at 8 (as it turned out it could have been later), block marshalled on the Pomehaka Stage

(well those that Carl hadn't pinched to help out elsewhere did) then on to Invercargill that night.

A visit to Bluff, including the lookout, caught up with a good friend Steve for a meal,stayed at Invercargill Holiday park - which actually was the dearest camp we stayed at.

Friday 14th Nov

Out of the gate at a much more respectable 9 a.m. - well would have been if it wasn't that Carl once more needed some of our team to man another stage!!

So once more we dropped people at the stage near Otama, then rushed back to Gore to get food and sustenence for the troops, collected them and headed for Forest Range.

I have waxed lyrical about this magic place for nearly 30 years, Russell and Jeanette did not disappoint.

I am sure the troops will carry lifelong memories.

Connie, Lisa and I had separate rooms in the house itself. The team bunked down in what is known as the 'cook shop'.

Sat 15th Nov

The final actual rally day - yeah right!

We HAD been allocated the Philips Rd stage but as this only needed 2 block marshals it was decided to shift us to Thompson Gorge which needed 13 !!.

However it seems that the gradient, width and surface of this road was likely to be too much for Humphrey so the team were ferried in, in a 4 wheel drive Hiace.

Once collected we then headed to Highland Motorsport Park (see my writeup for that day),

the rally finished in Queenstown, the team had the Sat evening off in Queenstown then at 10.30 I drove them all back to Forest Range.

Same accommodation arrangements as the night before.

Sun16th Nov

Out of the gate before 8, drove back to Christchurch, put two of the team on a plane bound for Auckland, (where they were pickup up by Dave and taken to Thames) as they had exams to sit on Monday.

We then stayed the night with Bob again, caught up with Brian (the birthday boy) and slept the sleep of the innocent!

Monday 17th

Out the gate before 7.30, James drove back to Piction, arriving at checkout almost axactly at the appointed time,

over on the ferry, then drove through the night getting here just after 3.


I am sure that even if they don't appreciate it right now - looking back on the experience in years to come I think everyone will remember it with fond memories.