We all climbed in the helicopters. Mine was helicopter 2, a Squirrel and I scored a window seat. Lifting off from Queenstown, we let helicopter 1, a larger Eurocopter model disappear into the distance before heading over Queenstown and towards Deer Park. As we came around Deer Park our pilot hugged the side of the hill closely, rising over the top of the ridge to reveal a blue WRX.
This would have been a fantastic shot has someone not parked a red Corolla next to it. Never mind. Onwards down the side of Lake Wakatipu to Kingston where we passed over the Kingston Flyer train, and landed in a field where there were 11 assorted Imprezas (base model R, R Sport and WRX). After a short talk, and a photo op, we were paired up and away we went on a voyage of discovery through Southland.
My first steed was a black WRX and I shared the car with Chris Rickards, Subaru’s NZ GM. The idea was to follow the planned route that was written in the booklet. It gave us instructions of which road to turn down at a certain number of kilometres. Following three other cars with Brian Cowan at the head of the pack, we made brisk pace along the flowing roads. Until Chris pointed out that we probably should have turned off several kilometres ago. I wildly flashed my lights at the car in front, then we all turned around and I lead the cars back down the correct road.
But, Chris and I were buried in conversation and missed the second turn off. Fortunately the other guys didn’t and we did a quick u-turn and caught up with them. Then came the gravel stage, and that’s where the WRX really did shine. A 100kph it was rock solid, and with traction control turned off there’s enough grunt to have some fun.
Just over a couple of hours later (and with 30km on the clock that we shouldn’t have done) we pulled into Colac Bay for lunch at the Pavilion.
The second leg was in the 2-litre R Sport manual, which I shared with Dave Moore first, then Brian Cowan after a brief change. Eleven Imprezas piled into a sleepy service station in Tuatapere, giving the owners a bumper $450 in fuel sales.
On we went past stunning scenery, occasionally swapping drivers. I got the best leg, though: the final blast along the side of Lake Wakatipu. A beautifully windy road; I only wished I was in the WRX and not the naturally aspirated R Sport.
Overall, the WRX is a fantastic car, and I’ll have a write-up about it shortly!