2023 Experts Cup Rally – Deciding 3 championships

In this post we event into the final round of the year, the 2023 Experts Cup Rally. Specifically this was the sixth round of the State Rally Championship. It’s hard to believe how swiftly time has passed, with all these events flying by. This time around, our destination was the coal mining town of Collie. The Experts would also be the determining factor for the State Rally Championship, the Two-Wheel Drive Championship, and the Clubman Series.

Dry, dusty and slippery roads

Let’s delve into the conditions of the event. Unlike the wet and muddy scenarios of the past few years, this time, the circumstances were dry, dusty, and very loose. The surface was powdery, posing a challenge for some competitors who struggled to cope. We’ll delve deeper into this aspect shortly.

Repeat stages

Initially, the event boasted high entry numbers, reaching the top forties. However, before the rally commenced, there were a few withdrawals, bringing the count down to the low forties. State competitors were scheduled to run two stages, repeated three times. This totalled approximately 105 competitive kilometers for the 2023 Experts Cup Rally. Meanwhile, the Clubman series would tackle four stages, covering just under 70 competitive kilometers throughout the day.

Drama right out of the blocks

The drama unfolded right from the beginning during the opening group of two stages. Unfortunately, Declan Madigan and Steve Kelly experienced a setback in Stage One, encountering a blown engine in their STI hatch. Cam Puzey and Ben Madlener faced a similar fate in their Legacy RS when the engine let go merely 500 meters into Stage Two. Keith Hamilton and Dave Humphry had trouble with their WR too. They suffered from a misfire that forced their retirement. Jo McIlroy and Chris Parish hit a tree in Stage Two, damaging the radiator and ending their rally prematurely.

Championship hopes over

The challenges continued for outright Championship contenders Craig Rando and Scott Beckwith. The rapid duo went off the road and got stuck in Stage Two, losing 17 minutes. Although they managed to finish the 2023 Experts Cup rally, their Championship hopes were extinguished.

Fortunately, the first service interval didn’t witness much drama for our team. It primarily involved routine maintenance. Glenn and Max in the VR4 struggled with the slippery conditions. Hugh and Karen found the conditions slippery but enjoyed being back in the car after missing a couple of rallies.

On the side of it

Newcomers Shane and Dermot faced a bit of drama. They neatly put their WRX on its side temporarily. Luckily they recovered quickly, sustaining only superficial panel damage. They lost only about 10 seconds, however they also garnered a flat tyre that had to stop and change.

The subsequent group of stages ran more smoothly for most of the field, with some exceptions. Mike Gigney and Amelia “Meebs”-Jordan encountered trouble with their Lancer. Due to an electrical gremlin in Stage Four, the alternator failed and they were out at the spectator point.

Clubman Cup

Transitioning to the Clubman Cup- designed as an entry level into Championship rallying, the series had been fiercely contested all year. The third position at the Experts Cup went to Sam Moody and Dave Christian in their Impreza. They had been a chance at the series title if they could have won the 2023 Experts Cup rally. With a gearbox drama, the pair continued to the finish gaining plenty of experience on their first season.

Lachie White and Kai Rassmason claimed the top podium spot in their Daihatsu Charade. Earlier in the 2023 Experts Cup rally they had been given a penalty. They protested and the stewards deemed the competitors correct so the penalty was overturned.

Outstanding Clubman winners

 The outstanding performance at the 2023 Experts Cup rally and indeed the entire season, came from Jack Ryan and Luke Dunkley. On their very first year of rallying, they led the Clubman series since the Forest Rally in May. Going into the Experts they had to finish 4th or higher after a great result at the 2023 Safari Rally. In the end they finished second and sealed the 2023 Clubman Series, rookie driver and rookie co-driver!

With four stages completed, it was time for the final service before tackling the remaining two stages. As the first cars were expected to finish around 6:30pm (just around sunset), the dark forest necessitated fitting lights for cars further back in the field. Additionally, Shane and Dermot received a tire swap after picking up their second puncture of the day.

State 2WD decider

In the two-wheel-drive category, the returning Brent Dunlop with Riley Griffiths in their well-used Hyundai Lantra navigated a not-so-graceful corner on the Wellington Dam stages. They had suspension trouble that dropped them a lot of time.

 The competition was close throughout the day, with teams swapping seconds and trading places. At the end of the Rally, Todd Payne and Jeremy Edwards (Nissan Silvia) secured third place. Alex and Lisa White claimed second place (Nissan Silvia) and the Two-Wheel Drive championship for the year. Dave Smith and Roger Pederson emerged victorious in their Ford Fiesta ST, taking their second win for 2023.

Winning in our team

Within our team, Glen and Max had a better second half of the rally in the VR4, finishing a solid 14th. The pair also wrapped up the C4 category for 2023. Another duo in our team taking a championship win on their debut season.

 Hugh and Karen enjoyed a trouble-free run, finishing 20th. Shane and Dermot, despite their earlier mishaps, finished their second event. Shane took the rookie driver award at the 2023 Experts Cup rally and secured 23rd place.

Outright 2023 Experts Cup rally

Moving on to the outright State Championship, the top 10 finishers included Dale Faulkner and Rachel Ferrante in 10th place, Shane Smith and Wayne Richardson in ninth, and Ben Perard and Dean Farrelly in eighth. Tim Hiles and Morgan Ward charged hard to finish seventh, followed by Gary Whittle and Ryan Doe in sixth. John O’Dowd and Toni Feaver secured fifth place, while Pete Rullo and Jimmy Marquette took fourth in their Hyundai I20 Rally 2.

Podium places

Dylan King and Lee Tierney claimed a podium spot in third with their Evo 9.The battle for the top positions intensified, with Alex Rullo/Ben Searcy securing second place in their Hyundai I20 Rally 2. The ultimate winners of the Experts Cup and the championship for the year were Daniel “Speedy” Gonzalez and his co-driver Daymon Nicoli in the Skoda Fabia R5.

And thus, the 2023 rally season concluded with thrilling performances, unexpected challenges, and well-deserved victories. We’re waiting on the 2024 Calendar to be released so watch this space for the latest updates.

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