1974 and '78 New Zealand National Rally Champion, Blair Robson's entry in the week long Silver Fern Marathon Rally has become a family affair with the announcement that his son Patrick will now co-drive for him.
Robson's previous co-driver Chris Porter has stood aside to let Patrick "have a go" as co-driver. Patrick told organisers "Chris felt that it would be a great thing for me to experience this with dad (as he's not getting any younger) and it was an opportunity I couldn't really pass up."
"Long days of continuous rallying is what dad was brought up on, I hope we can be a successful team, but can you could imagine the ribbing I'll give dad all rally long if he dents the car we have just spent a year helping him build."
Porter who had been Robson's co-driver for many of his early rallying years as part of the Masport Escort Team, will still be on the event "keeping an eye on things" and helping out with the servicing of the car.
Seeded 7th for the Silver Fern Rally, recognising his national championship winning status, Robson's most recent events have been the social tarmac based Targa Rallies in his what he calls his "retirement years". This will be the first time father and son have competed together on gravel stages.
Speaking from the Pukekohe Race Track where he was testing his new car today, Robson said "Actually it scared the heck out of me, it's a neat car, but we probably won't know how it will handle on the gravel until we get to the start of the event. It's just as well the organisers have a shakedown test stage where we can try it out on the Friday."
The car Robson refers to is a brand newly built Group 4 spec MKII Ford Escort RS, fitted with a 1700cc steel block BDA engine. "We've had a bit of an extra delay after the body was dropped on its roof during the building stage, but it wouldn't be rallying without drama's like that" a circumspect Robson said.
"Liftrucks, Resene Paints and my panel beater Peter Jordan have been great, and we've even been given a battery by Century. People are still really helpful in this sport, and we are looking forward to 'reliving the days of old' ideals that this event is promoting."
In another little piece of history from the Masport Escort days, the car has been re-registered HP780, with the 780 part being the numbers used on most of the Masport team cars of the 1970's and 80's. The original HP780 was used by Robson back in 1976.
The NZ Silver Fern Rally will start from the Picton waterfront, at midday on Saturday October 7th, with overnight stops in Greymouth, Queenstown, Dunedin and Christchurch before returning via Nelson to the finish in Blenheim.
Event organisers would like to acknowledge the assistance of sponsors, Scenic Circle Hotels, Budget Rentals, Team Talk Mobile, Variety and Kea Campers New Zealand.
Full details of the event, are available from :- www.silverfernrally.co.nz