2014 Newmont Boddington Gold Rally review

Since mid way through last year, the whole fraternity had been drip fed information about a new event scheduled to enter the championship in 2014. Much hype surrounded the Newmont Boddington Gold Rally that ran on the June long weekend and for good reason. The event used stages made famous by Rally Australia where any internet search was mostly likely to show the jumps and water splash.
The tree plantation near Boddington, once owned by Bunnings hadn’t seen rally cars since 2006. A mammoth effort by several key people within the Light Car Club and support from Newmont and the town saw the event become a reality.

Two Super Special stages on Saturday afternoon and 8 stages on Sunday would give teams 135km competitive and 6 runs down the jumps and through the water splash.
26 state cars and 20 Clubman entered. The numbers may have been higher if not for the high attrition rate at Donnelly just 3 weeks earlier.

Rob Webber/Toni Feaver led the field onto the ball bearing gravel on Saturday afternoon.
The stage was just six kilometres long and with two passes for each team, there was plenty to keep the spectators amused.
Dylan King/Lee Tierney were running as car three in their green and white WRX. Being title contenders they knew they needed to jump out of the blocks on what was likely to be a fast event. The pair took the jumps in fine fashion however the water caught them out well and truly. Just on the exit of the splash, the pair caught a small bank and gently rolled their Subaru onto its roof. With the quick help of officials the car was righted and finished the stage, however it was not a good start.
The second run for the team was just a matter of getting the car through so that repairs could be made with the intention of continuing the next day. Despite the efforts of many to sort the dented WRX Saturday evening, an upheld protest regarding Parc Ferme spelt the end of King/Tierney’s rally after just 12km.

Light rains overnight saw Sunday dawn overcast and noticeably warmer than Saturday. Crews booked in for a service before heading out to contest the 29km Newmont stage (SS3). The stage was like a “tasting platter” which mixed tight and twisty with fast and open then to finish off a run down the jumps and water splash.

SS4 was up next and really tested teams with its 11.60km of narrow roads where the tight twisty nature made every corner and tree look like the last (and the next)..
A quick glance at results during the mid morning service showed that the rally had turned into a Mitsubishi versus Subaru fight with two teams almost in a league of their own.

The next two stages Boddington (SS5) and Gold (SS6) completed the first loop of stages and a midday re-group was followed by a street parade through the Boddington town site. During the re-group, attention turned to the WRX of Matt Snaddon/Blake Thompson. Following the car was a trail of blue smoke that indicated terminal engine problems. The pair would not continue on from the midpoint service.

With well swept lines and some familiarity with the roads, the repeat runs over the stages were faster than the first. Many teams improved on SS7 by 20 seconds or more and kept up the momentum into SS8 in the late afternoon.

As competitors lined up for the last two stages, light rain started to fall. It wasn’t enough to make the surface muddy, however the cloud cover did make it dark in the forest early and some were finishing the last stage very close to complete darkness.

Brothers Craig and Scott Puzey pulled their Black Subaru Legacy RS into tenth place, 42 seconds down on ninth placed Geoff Leatt-Hayter/Paul Helm (Escort MKII). Low gear ratios and a lack of turbo left the Escort at a horsepower disadvantage, however it didn’t stop them trying. It was a creditable drive, being the only non turbo car to finish inside the top ten and second placed two wheel drive.

John O’Dowd/Ben Searcy had a troubled day in their Spec C WRX which required a gearbox change mid event. The pair went on to finish eighth and collect more points toward the championship. Peter Bennison/Warren Phillip-Clarke drove very well on this event, bringing their classic shape WRX to seventh.

Breaking up the four wheel drive cars, Sean Keating/Caleb Ash (Nissan Silvia) kept the hammer down all day, finishing sixth outright and first two wheel drive. Brothers Mark and Steve Davies admitted to having “the mother of all overshoots” on SS5 when a misheard call saw their WRX flying over a crest and landing at the barrier mesh instead of taking a 90° right. The time lost couldn’t have had too much effect as the pair finished the rally unscathed and in fifth place.

Webber/Feaver brought their Evo 9 to fourth place, setting competitive times even being gravel sweeper at the front of the field. Brad Markovic/Glenn Macneal had a clean and trouble free run in their current shape WRX sedan, finishing third. The new pairing building their speed and showing glimpses of a force to be reckoned with.

At the top end of the field it was effectively a two horse race. Nic Box/Todd Payne in a Lancer Evo 9 locked head to head with Leigh Hynes/Stuart Percival in a WRX. Going into the last stages, Box/Payne held the lead by a handful of seconds. In SS9 Hynes/Percival lunged, taking 13 seconds. SS10 was the fastest of the rally, with most of the stage seeing cars flat out in top gear. Despite the approach of dusk, the average speed of the top 3 cars for the 9km test was over 134km/h! In the end Box/Payne finished second to Hynes/Percival by 8 seconds.

At the midpoint in the outright state season, Hynes/Percival (80 points) lead King/Tierney (74 points) with O’Dowd/Searcy (72 points) nipping at their heels in third spot. Within the 2WD ranks, there is one more rally to run before reaching the midpoint. The next event is the Experts Cup Rally in late June.

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