2017 Darling 200 Rally – We won!

The event

The Darling 200 rounded out the 2017 WA rally season. Based out of Jarrahdale we had six special stages and nearly 90km of competition to look forward to. Traditionally a 2WD only rally, 20 teams lined up for a warm and dusty event.

Even by 9:00am the mercury was creeping up. The forecast tipped 36° for the day with the chance of a storm. It looked like the weather bureau may have been right. The conditions were going to make for an uncomfortable event. The heat would sap energy from both man and machine.

Our Line Up

We had a two car team for the Darling 200. Lance Stringer/Jace Van Saarloos were out in their Nissan Silvia S13 as car six. Ben Perard/Chris Parish were car seven in their Ford Fiesta. Both their road positions were good.  It meant the first few cars would sweep some of the loose gravel away on the stages.

Remembering the fallen

After a minute’s silence for remembrance day (The end of WW1 on the 11th day of the 11th month @ 11:00am) it was on with the rally. Car one started stage one and soon was off the road stuck on a stump. The characteristically loose Jarrahdale surface was as tricky as ever. Lance and Jace found out how slippery it was when they had a huge moment only a few hundred metres in. Luckily the Silvia only suffered a small bump to the right rear.

Leg 1

As Ben and Chris started stage one, the first car had managed to get off the stump. It hadn’t got too far when the Fiesta arrived and the blinding trail of thick dust forced car seven to slow down. Over a minute was lost to the rally leaders.

At the first service in mid afternoon, everyone was having trouble coming to grips with the slippery conditions. The heat was playing its part too. Tyre wear was heavy from the constant battle for grip and the temperature. Some cloud cover took the edge off the sun’s bite and a few drops of rain fell. For a while it appeared the Darling might go from dusty to muddy.

Leg 2

During the second group of stages Ben and Chris did well. They won SS4 by over 12 seconds clawing back a huge chunk of time. The stage win catapulted them into third. The placing was also helped by the retirement of Garth McGuire/Nathan Quartermaine (Hyundai Lantra). The pair had put the car off the road and damaged the right suspension.

Broken third leg

On the final group of stages our team would suffer a loss. SS5 Was a repeat of SS1 and SS3. The 28km stage was now rough and rutted. A hard knock to the left front caused some suspension damage. Another couple of kilometres later another hard knock damaged the right suspension.  With the car handling badly, the decision was made to withdraw rather than risk a major accident.

Top Ten

So after some hot and dusty rallying, the results were in.

Peter Barnes/Justin Rickfen (Honda Civic) finished in eighth place. Terry Hughes/Monique Smith slid off the road in their Daihatsu Applause and nudged a tree. They managed to continue on, finishing seventh and first rookies. Anthony Chudleigh/Tammy Adams were sixth. They had a narrow escape at one point taking the right side mirror off their left hand drive Ford Fiesta ST.

Fast Five

Steve Vass/Ashley Burton blew an exhaust gasket in their Datsun 1600. The car may have sounded like a lawn mower however it still went well enough to deliver fifth place. Graeme and Cathy Miles drove well and took their Mitsubishi Lancer to fourth.

Andrew Percival/Jim Pearce had shot at the Clubman cup title if the planets lined up right. They kept it neat and finished the rally in third place in their Honda Civic. They’d done enough to secure second in Clubman for the year and were happy with their results. Brock Nicoli/Daniel Adams came to the Darling leading the Clubman Cup. Any mishap that caused retirement would have let Percival/Pearce through the gate. One can only wonder what they were thinking when straight out of service on the way to SS5 the pair had to stop and change a tyre. Luckily nothing else went wrong and the pair drove to second place. The podium finish brought with it the 2017 Clubman Cup title.

Taste of Victory

Lance and Jace have had an up and down 2017 season. Rolling the car at the Forest Rally and then blowing the gearbox at Boddington were not highlights. This however was all forgotten at the Darling 200. The pair won every stage except SS3. They kept it neat and quick, winning the rally by 45 or so seconds. It was their first win, two years after they started rallying at the very same event.

As an interesting aside, amongst our team we’d won every stage of the rally. That in itself is a rare achievement.

We now have a few months to prepare for the 2018 season. After some well deserved R&R over the festive season we’ll be back into preparing cars ready for next year.

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