Thursday, 29 July 2010
New Zealand's varied climate and terrain makes it an excellent place for rallying. Deborah married into a New Zealand rallying family and she too was infected by rally fever. A year later she was co-driving for her husband Jamie, and a year after that they switched seats after a couple of trial runs proved that Deborah was a capable driver too.
For a few years the pair gained experience on the club rally scene. In 1998, it was time for a step up and Deborah took to driving a Group A Nissan Pulsar GTI-R, as driven by Tommi Makinen in the WRC. She and Jamie were a promising 42nd on their first Rally New Zealand, and things were going well until a dramatic accident near the end of the season. The Nissan was a write-off and Deborah and Jamie were lucky to survive the multiple airborne roll. The car was replaced with a Group N Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VI, and Deborah has campaigned in various incarnations of that vehicle ever since.
She returned to New Zealand's WRC round in 1999 with Catherine Dobbie and finished 33rd. By now she was competing in the NZ championships and scoring points. 2000 brought a Rally NZ retirement with Jamie back in the co-driver's seat, but the reunited pair finished the following year, in 45th. 2001 was probably Deborah's best year so far. She recorded a World Championship finish and also became New Zealand Group N Rally Champion outright, after an excellent string of results in her domestic championship.
Still in the ageing Evo VI, she defended her crown in 2002 but lost it. She also retired from Rally NZ but was a strong twelfth in the Rotorua Rally, a round of the Asia-Pacific Championship. She was fifth in Group N against an international field.
Deborah sat out most of 2003 while searching for more sponsorship. Although it was difficult, she managed to secure a deal for 2004 with Mitsubishi New Zealand.
In a brand-new Evo VIII named Tommi, after Tommi Makinen,, Deborah returned to the stages for the 2004 season. Back at the Rotorua, they were thirteenth, and twelfth at the Otago Rally in Dunedin. In between, Deborah and Jamie both entered the Race To The Sky hillclimb. Deborah came seventeenth overall, and third rally car, in this classic event.
One of her biggest tests of the year came at the third round of the NZ championships. The weather for the Southland Rally was atrocious, with mountain snow and rain causing havoc. In the freezing conditions, she took advantage of the troubles of others to record her first stage win. The leader was held up by stranded smaller cars and Deborah used her better road position to achieve a good time. She was fifteenth overall and fifth in Group N. It was still wet and cold for the Hawkes Bay rally, but there were fewer problems and she came thirteenth. One of their best finishes was at Nelson, where she was eleventh, and sixth in Group N, in good weather. That took her up to tenth overall in the championship. A small loss of ground in the Waikato event dropped her to eleventh overall in the championship but she kept their Group N position.
Deborah did not compete at all for much of 2005. Tommi was sold in March and, wanting to try something new, Deborah bought a Kawasaki ZX6R motorcycle with the proceeds. Later in the season she found herself missing the stages. The bike was sold and she came back to rallying, but as a navigator rather than a driver. She sat alongside Robert Murray.
In 2006, Deborah continued to navigate for Robert Murray. Their car was a fearsome 1986 Group B Mazda RX7, formerly driven by Neil Allport. The classic bug had truly bitten; she then acquired an ex-Ross Dunkerton EX Mitsubishi Lancer. The intention was to compete in some more classic rallies, both as a navigator and a driver. The Lancer has been in action on the historic stages (and some more modern ones) of New Zealand since 2007. Deborah’s co-drivers have included Nicola Burley, Robbie McKenzie and Heather Johnston. She now describes herself as competing for fun rather than titles.
In 2014, she drove in the Canterbury and Otago Rallies, finishing 21st and 27th respectively, in the Lancer. She was thirteenth in the 2015 Otago Rally, but did not finish the Rally of Canterbury. Heather Johnston was her co-driver.
This arrangement continued for 2016. Deborah was tenth in the Mainland New Zealand Series, in the EX Lancer. Her best overall result was 20th, in the Spring Rally. Using the same car, she did a few New Zealand rallies in 2017.
She had a new car in 2018: a Toyota Starlet. Her best finish was a class win and 31st overall in the Lawrence Rally. The EX Lancer was out again in 2019 and netted its owner three finishes from five rallies. The best of these was 24th and sixth in class on the Rankleburn Rally.
(Thanks to Deborah herself for her contribution.)
(Image source unknown)