2019 Darling 200 Rally – Just Perfect!

Ben Searcy/Jimmy Marquet spectacular scenery on the 2019 Darling 200 rally

The 2019 Darling 200 rally was the first time in over ten years that we weren’t servicing, competing or organising an event. Instead we helped out as a road closure officials, maintaining the safety of the rally.

Rally at a glance

Normally running in November when it’s very hot, the 2019 Darling 200 was in September. The 25 degree day was much better with less heat, dust and flies than normal. State entrants would race over 100km competitive and six special stages. Clubman ran over the shorter 50km competitive and three stages. There was one service for state and unfortunately no service for Clubman.

The roads were a mix of gravel and sand. There were some narrow sections that were tight and also some twisty parts on some stages. The 2019 Darling 200 was going to prove challenging particularly as competitors weren’t able to write pace notes. Instead they used an organizer supplied road-book.

Our 2019 Darling 200 team

Coming into the 2019 Darling 200 rally it looked like we’d have three or four cars. In the end we only had one. It was Lance and Chris in the Nissan Silvia. The guys were out to consolidate their Clubman Masters series lead.

Leg 1

For the second time this year a two-wheel drive car started as car one. This time it was Raz and Iona Vlad  in their Ford Fiesta ST. They would play gravel sweeper on the first group of stages. Some like Ben Searcy/Jimmy Marquet took a tentative approach in their Lancer Evo. Others like Glenn Alcorn/Shaun McMacken we’re going balls out sideways in their Escort.

Mid-Point

At the halfway point the results were interesting. John Macara/Ross Burton (Evo) were showing a few scars from the Forest. John’s extensive experience put him in good stead. He was actually leading the 2019 Darling 200. Steve Oxley/Michael Wood were second in their WRX and third place was Barry McGuinness/Steve Wade in their new WRX.

Macara/Burton leading the rally until the damaged the radiator on this bank and retired in SS4.

Doing quite well earlier on was Craig Rando/Matt Scafidi in their WRX. Unfortunately toward the end of SS3 they got the car stuck on a tricky corner. They dropped a considerable amount of time getting it out. That particular corner would catch out quite a few during the day.

Youth vs Experience

The youngest competitor in the event Kelly Thomas co driven by dad Dave also struggled. Perhaps the combination of Road book and some tight twisty stages on the 2019 Darling 200 was the cause? Kelly is still gaining experience in her first season. After running in 13th position for most of the rally she moved up to 12th by the mid-point.

Hanging the tail out!

 In the two-wheel drive standings Alcorn/McMacken were leading the charge. The blue MK2 RS2000 was in seventh position. Vlad/Vlad were in 2nd place and husband and wife Alex and Lisa White were third in their Nissan Silvia.

Craig Rando was not the only one having trouble. In SS2 Terry Hughes and Monique Smith put their Daihatsu Charade off the road. It seemed a broken ball joint caused them to retire.

Clubman

2019 Clubman Masters champions, Lance Stringer/Chris Parish take a commanding lead on the 2019 Darling 200 Rally.

2019 Jedi Masters

Clubman had finished their rally after three stages. Lance and Chris took a resounding win in the Masters at the 2019 Darling 200 rally. They won by a shade over three minutes and 14 seconds. The win has given them the Clubman Masters Series for the year.

Anthony Chudleigh/Tim Wright changed from state to Clubman Cup for this rally. They took their left hand drive Ford Fiesta ST to the win. Second placed Steve Vass/Ash Burton charged hard in their Datsun 1600 however couldn’t quite reel in the Fiesta. Dermy O’Donovan/Jon Charlesson had a great drive on the 2019 Darling 200 Rally. They took their Mitsubishi Mirage to third place in Clubman Cup.

The Tide Turns

 After SS4 John Macara and co-driver Ross Burton had mechanical and electrical problems. That caused retirement and the loss of the leaders. If they hadn’t holed the radiator, they may well have taken the 2019 Darling 200 rally win.

Podium Places

McGuinness/Wade finished third. It was a neat and tidy drive in the newly built and almost completely standard WRX. Peter Major/Kim Screaigh were on their first gravel event. At the 2019 Darling 200 rally they finished second outright in their Evo 7.

Peter Major/Kim Screaigh on two wheels in the Evo on SS1 of the 2019 Darling 200 rally.

Macara’s retirement elevated Steve Oxley and Michael Wood to first place. It was their first win for the year and helped their points tally in the overall 2019 Rally WA Championship.

2WD Honours

Glen Alcorn and Shaun McMacken retained their mid-point lead and took first 2WD in their escort. They also finished a strong 6th outright. Gravel sweeping and developing a misfire hampered Vlad/Vlad who finished 2nd 2WD on the 2019 Darling 200 rally. Father and Daughter Greg and Deanne Flood moved up to 3rd in their Mitsubishi Lancer.

Alcorn/McMacken hanging the tail out in their Mk2 Escort RS2000

Valuable Experience

Kelly and Dave Thomas managed to improve their position by the last stage of the 2019 Darling 200 Rally. They moved up to 11th in their WRX. It was valuable experience especially as an earlier puncture had caused an overshoot and lost time.

Rally of the Year?

The 2019 Darling 200 rally was, in our opinion, the best rally of the year so far. The roads retained a lot more moisture holding them together well. The cars didn’t dig up the surface and the gravel wasn’t so loose. The weather too was a lot more pleasant. In some years the event has had temps of over 40 degrees during November.

The road book or “blind” aspect of the event was probably the biggest bonus. For competitors there was no recce, which meant no early morning and no separate recce vehicle. Just get in the car and race. The rally started at 11:00am and was all done by 4:30pm. For officials it also drastically reduced the amount of time needed to set up and pack up the event.

Experts Cup rally October

The final round of this year’s State Championship is in October. The Experts Cup rally will again run in the coal mining town of Collie around Wellington Dam.

Photos- Gemma Lucas – Drift Images & Blake Rattenbury Photography

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