Record-breaking rally navigator, 98, narrowly escapes earthquake

Reporter:

Stephen Delahunty

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A record-breaking mother and her son have narrowly escaped two earthquakes during a classic rally event.

Dorothy Caldwell, 98, from Maidenhead, is the Guinness World Record holder for the world’s oldest active rally navigator, and is currently competing in the Haka Classic, in New Zealand.

It is a 5,354km race around the the North and South Islands of the country.

In the driver's seat is her son Alastair, 73, who managed the McLaren F1 Racing Team through one of its most successful periods in the 1970s.

Describing their narrow escape from the 7.8-magnitude earthquake, which struck near Christchurch in the early hours of Monday, November 14, he said: "We're very lucky, just three days ago we were staying near the epicentre."

A second earthquake struck the country earlier this week, with a magnitude of 5.6.

Alastair and Dorothy are taking part in a 1963 Rolls Royce Silver Cloud III, the same car they used in the TransAm rally from New York to Alaska four years ago where Dorothy won the 'Spirit of the Rally' award.

The duo spend six or seven hours behind the wheel every day.

"The race is going very well, we've got over 200 years of experience between us, including the car," joked Alastair. "And my mother is coping just fine."

When the Advertiser spoke to Alastair last week, the pair were up to fifth in the race, but have since slipped down to 15th.

Alastair honed his rally skills during his childhood in New Zealand, evading the police after illegal street races and skipping school to work on cars.

"We used to street race quite a lot, but we were always well gone by the time the police arrived as we could here the sirens for miles around," he said.

He added although the dirt roads suit his driving style, the car does slide around a lot.

"Driving on open roads can be dangerous anyway, but the scenery is beautiful," he added.

The 26-day event began on October 30 and finishes in Christchurch on Friday, where Alastair said he plans to stay on with his mother to celebrate her 99th birthday in January.

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