Judd victorious in Queenstown

Jeff Judd of Christchurch has won the week long epay Silver Fern marathon rally for historic cars, which finished in Queenstown late this afternoon.

With co-driver Mark Smith, Judd led home Paraparaumu's Shane Murland by two minutes 34 seconds after 1060 kms of high speed special stages since the start in Christchurch last Sunday.

The pair, both driving Escort RS1800s battled right to the last stage, with Murland attempting to pressure Judd into a mistake, but not making any inroads into the leader's advantage.

Murland had led the event from the Christchurch start, but slid off the road late on Wednesday in the Berwick Forest south of Dunedin, surrendering the lead to Judd.

Murland lost a final chance to pressure Judd, when organisers cancelled the last stage down Duffers Saddle, the highest public road in New Zealand, in the Nevis Valley near Lake Whakatipu. With large drops off unprotected corners, the stage was considered too dangerous after the narrow track had become very slippery with the heavy rain that drivers had to contend with today

Australian Geoff Portman claimed third in his Holden Commodore, the only one of the top seeds, not using a Ford Escort. The former double champion's bigger car was no match for the more nimble Escorts in the twisty stages and the Fords were just as quick on the faster stages.

In the Challenge event for more highly modified cars, the final stage saw the second and third placed cars change positions. Australian Brad Goldsbrough (Datsun 1600) had a slow time up the Duffers Saddle while Alexandra's Andrew Hawkeswood in a Mazda RX7 was over four minutes faster, taking over the runner-up position in the class by 73 seconds.

Goldsbrough had led the class earlier in the week, but gave up the lead to Christchurch's Deane Buist in yet another Escort on the faster stages in Central Otago and Southland. Hawkeswood came into his own over the final two days with stages nearer his Alexandra home suiting the high geared RX7.

Buist finished, over five minutes ahead of Hawkeswood. Forty one of the 55 starters were classified as finishers in the event, which was three times as long as a modern day Word Rally Championship event.

-source: silverfernrally.co.nz