2023 Forest Rally – Dusty & controversial!

Frank O'Shea spectacular jump on the 2023 Forest Rally

Let’s get going with all the action and drama from the largest rally of the year. Round two of both of both the state and national Rally Championship. The 2023 Forest Rally attracted some 66 entries. A strong contingent of eastern states competitors mixed it up the locals. Several teams bolstered the ARC by entering in the national component of the event as well.

The Machinery

Amongst the normal production cars that we see at rallies was also a dozen or so; R5/Rally 2/AP4 cars. There was some impressive machinery at the 2023 Forest Rally with the price tag to match. Amongst us mere mortals running in State and Clubman we had a four car team.

Hugh and Karen were in their WRX, Glen and Max brought out the Galant VR4 and we had two Clubman both in Imprezas. Tiana and Sammy the only all-girl team in Clubman with Jack and Luke rounding out the quartet.

Opening night that we couldn’t see!

 As with the Forest every year we’d been planning for months and preparing for weeks. It all culminated with Friday night and the opening super special stages of the 2023 Forest Rally on the Bunbury Speedway. A combination of the autocross track coupled to the speedway circuit to make a 1.5km stage.

Car zero spun and stalled ahead of competitors on the opening run. It was a sign of things to come. It was going to be one slippery and very, very dusty night. For stage one of the 2023 Forest Rally the cars were running on a 30 second gap. By the time the third car had started the stage, visibility was reduced to almost zero.  At times during it was hard to tell what car was out there let alone who was driving.

To be fair, we were experiencing some unusual weather for May. In the last couple of years the Forest Rally has been wet. The 2023 Forest Rally was sunny and lovely. The dry conditions and a lack of breeze added to the problem.

Trouble a brewing

 Amongst it all some competitors were having trouble of a mechanical nature. Cam Puzey/Chris Ryan in their legacy RS had continuing Gremlins from the 2023 Winvale Stages rally. This time around the fuel pump was giving drama and intermittently cutting out. Others were struggling with the conditions. Amongst them Glen and Max nearly spun the VR4 on the flying finish of stage one.

The rest of our team got through the stage okay with Tiana and Sammy showing how it’s done. Jack and Luke were rapid too. After stage one, we decided to head down to the holding area and eat some pizza. In the meantime the organizers decided to increase the gap to one minute between cars. The new running schedule dropped a stage to keep within the time limits so we were down to three stages for the night.

Heat 1 – Rally proper

 After a 100km trip back to Nannup on Friday night, Saturday morning dawned bright and clear. Teams set up their service areas and prepared for the day. 114 kilometres of stages lay ahead on the first full day of the 2023 Forest Rally.

Road conditions

 Whilst there had been some rain in the weeks leading up to the 2023 Forest Rally, there wasn’t any on the weekend and the roads were mostly dry with a few wet puddles here and there. The rocks though were starting to come through early making some sections rough.

Retiring too early

Our team may have been finding a few rough patches however it was nothing in comparison to Paul and Ben Madlener. They’d heavily rolled their Daihatsu Charade and unfortunately they were then out of the rally. They weren’t the only ones out early. Mike Gigney & Amelia Jordan had trouble with the oil pressure in their Mitsubishi Lancer. Unfortunately their car was on the trailer for the weekend. Also joining them was Geoff Leatt-Hayter and Paul Helm. They were running in Clubman Masters when the fuel pump gave up in their Ford Escort and they too were out.

Clubman leader drops 18 minutes

Clubman winners from round one; Sam Moody and Dave Christian charged hard from the get-go leading the Clubman cup on Friday night. The first stage on Saturday morning however would see the young driver put the car off the road and lose an insurmountable 18 minutes.

Jarred Sewell and Adrian Burnie went off the road near the spectator point with a broken brake pedal rod in their WRX. With the help of friends and family they’d been working almost 24/7 to get the car ready for the 2023 Forest Rally. It was a disappointing end as they couldn’t sort the car and had to retire.

Smoke, flames and retirement

 Around midday in heat one of the 2023 Forest rally everything seemed to be going pretty well in our team. There were no major dramas and we were just completing routine maintenance. The same couldn’t be said for some of the other teams. Jack Flanagan and Murray Hines in their WRX had what appeared to be an engine fire. It was actually the signs of an expiring engine. Up to that point the pair had managed to get themselves as high as equal third in the state championship.

 Towards the end of heat one of the 2023 Forest Rally and that’s where the drama and controversy started. The last stage of the day was delayed making the rally run later. Hugh and Karen found the same rock from earlier and this time it punctured a tire. When they found somewhere safe they stopped and changed it losing all up about 20 minutes. The delay had also caused the Clubman Cup to run late which meant they were finishing stages in darkness.

Charging too hard?

 After the earlier setback Sam Moody and Dave Christian had thrown caution to the wind. They were charging hard, very hard. They clawed back six minutes from the 18 they’d lost in the morning. On the last stage they had a huge accident rolling their Impreza heavily. They were both taken to hospital for observation and thankfully had no serious injuries.


Now on to the controversy. As per the official entry list Bruce Lake and Peter Hall were entered in Clubman Masters in their Datsun 240Z. Masters and Clubman cup are completely separate and therefore separate categories within the rally. Tiana and Sammy had got themselves a secure and well-driven second place and Jack and Luke had taken the Clubman cup win. We were delighted to have a 1-2 in the team, a fantastic result.


Things changed dramatically at the 2023 Forest Rally Clubman presentation ceremony. Despite no official protest being lodged, no consultation with Clubman cup competitors or a discussion with the stewards, a decision was made to switch Bruce and Peter from Masters to Clubman cup. The decision relegated Tiana and Sammy to third place after competition had finished! It was a bizarre twist that tarnished an otherwise great event. (The organisers and stewards refused to reverse the decision by the way).

Whilst all that was transpiring we were busy getting our state cars through their final service ready to go into Parc Ferme overnight. There was a bit of damage to Hugh & Karen’s WRX to sort out. It appeared mostly superficial at the time. With the lost time from the flat tyre, Hugh and Karen finished 31st in heat one. The VR4 though had run without skipping a beat with Glen and Max finishing heat one of the 2023 Forest Rally in 20th Place.

A Legacy of repairs

Probably the hardest working team of the 2023 Forest Rally heat one was Wrex racing team with Tim Hiles and Morgan Ward. They put their Legacy RS off the road late in the stages and did a considerable amount of frontal damage. They got the car back into Nannup and half the service Park helped them to work late into the night to get the car ready to go for heat two.

Heat two starts

 Sunday morning and the second heat of the 2023 Forest Rally. Heat two was shorter than Heat one on Saturday. There was just a little under 60km competitive kilometres across five stages, with the fifth test being a power stage.

The day dawned cool and clear and we had our work cut out for us before we even got going. As we put Hugh’s WRX into Parc Ferme the night before, we discovered it had a bent lower control arm. No major problem, only a five to ten minute job.

We had a 15-minute service before competition started Sunday so a straight forward fix. That was until we discovered we also had a bent cross member to contend with. It hampered our efforts to get the lower control arm back in. We did get it sorted, unfortunately we used an extra 10 minutes of late time which gave us a 50 second penalty to start heat two.


Sunday morning Dave Thomas and Mandy Lister were in for a wild ride. They rolled their Escort Mark II very heavily after missing a corner. Thankfully neither of them were injured in the accident however the car looked the worse for wear. They got the car back to the service park and some thought well that’s the end of their 2023 Forest rally.

 Dave and his team thought otherwise and set to work getting it sorted. They were able to fix the car enough to satisfy the scrutineers. Even though it looked a bit battered they got the Escort out and finished the 2023 Forest Rally power stage. It was definitely a lesson in tenacity!

Whilst the sound of sledge Hammers and angle grinders filled the service park from the Thomas Camp thankfully in our team things were going smoother after our frantic efforts first thing. Our servicing was back to routine.

Powering to the finish

 With the bulk of the stages done for the 2023 Forest Rally it was time to hit the power stage. There were some well-worn and dug up roads with lots of loose rocks. The drier weather had certainly changed the landscape from previous years. Hugh and Karen finished heat two in 21st place. Glenn and Max hadn’t put a wheel wrong in the VR4 all weekend and finished heat two in 16th Place. We got the whole team through the 2023 Forest rally without too much drama, but what about the rest of the field?

2WD Championship

 In state two-wheel drive at the 2023 Forest Rally Carter Smith and Niamh Nairn brought their Mark II Escort to third place. Tony Oates and last minute co-driver Riley Griffiths took their Honda Civic to second place. Husband and wife Alex and Lisa White won in their Nissan Silvia S13.


 Onto the outright placings for Heat 2 of the 2023 Forest Rally. 2022 state champion driver Ben Searcy and his Queensland co-driver Brad Jones drove their Evo 9 to 5th Place. For Dylan King and Lee Tierney it was their first outing in a Mitsubishi and it’s fair to say they had to grapple a bit with the Evo 9’s handling. It was very different from a Subaru that they were used to however they still finished in a respectable 4th place.

 Highest production car and third outright went to Craig Rando and Scott Beckwith in their WRX. The pair had a ding dong battle with Peter Rullo and Jimmy Marquette in their Hyundai I20 rally 2. In the end the gap between the two cars was just 18 seconds in favour of Pete and Jimmy.

 That left the top spot on the podium and it went to Daniel Gonzalez and Daymon Nicoli. They’d had a bit of a checkered start to the rally when they rolled their car in testing. The Skoda Fabia R5 took some light damage and they had to get it all fixed up ready to start the rally. Thankfully it all went well and they finished the 2023 Forest Rally with a win.

 That was the 2023 Forest rally done and very much dusted for another year. Round three of the state Rally Championship will see us head to the Grimwade stages rally run out of Donnybrook in early July.

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