Winner of the St Mary’s Trophy race at the Goodwood Revival, multiple class winner at Rally GB, Brabham and McLaren Formula One team insider, BBC Television’s Formula One pit lane commentator and more, Tony Jardine has an impressively diverse motor sport CV. He has also been a rally driver for over 40 years, competing in 26 WRC RAC rallies. But there is one rally in which he has long held an ambition to compete. That ambition was satisfied in November, when he and New Zealander Warwick Martin scored a top ten finish on the marathon but magnificent 3000km Historic Silver Fern Rally of New Zealand, as Jardine not only fulfilled his long term goal of competing, but also of finishing the epic event.
The notoriously tough Silver Fern Rally of New Zealand crossed 3000kms of beautiful South Island with 900kms of special stages over mountain passes, hills, forest tracks and fast gravel countryside roads, to finally finish back in Christchurch after seven hard days and 43 highly competitive stages.
By winning this cult rally in their Ford Escort BDA, James Ford and Neil Shanks from the UK denied Kiwi Jeff Judd the home win he, and co-driver Stephane Prevot, craved. The local 2.0 litre Escort was thwarted by a costly puncture that threw them off the road.
In a major test of endurance for crews and rally cars, the Jardine/Martin NET-HERO team had risen to seventh place by Leg Four, with the Bryce Biggs run crew continually welding a broken exhaust manifold until a new system was fitted at the Dunedin halt to keep the car in contention.
With two special stages left of Leg Five, the Historic class, 1985, 1600cc Twin Cam Toyota Corolla dramatically slewed sideways to a halt, jammed in gear, after parts of a failed bearing dropped into the transmission savaging the flywheel on the appropriately named 12km Cannibal Bay Road stage. Four stages were missed, and penalties taken, but a new gearbox was found in Invercargill 300 miles away in the deep south – next stop Antarctica! By 9.30 next morning it was fitted and the team raced to re-join.
Jardine commented, “It was touch and go at times whether we would get back in, I was definitely feeling anxious – but Bryce Biggs and crew kept us going. I have long held the ambition of driving in the Silver Fern Rally and finally, despite the ‘heart stopping’ moments of car changes, broken manifolds and gearboxes, my dream of finishing the event came true – and in the top ten!
Out front, in the BDA Escort battle for the win between New Zealander Jeff Judd and his ex-WRC co-driver, Belgian Stephane Prevot, against Englishman James Ford and Scotsman Neil Shanks, Judd had the edge until a puncture put him off the road and he got stuck for over eight minutes. Ford and Shanks then held their nerve, managing their lead to the end.
For the full story, see our January/February 2023 issue
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