2023 Winvale Stages Rally

The 2023 Winvale Stages Rally was round one of the 2023 WA State Rally Championship. Run on a farm in Bakers Hill the opening round was more of a Sprint than it was a rally. A total of 10 short stages made up the event.

Kilometres and Entries

The competitive distance of the 2023 Winvale Stages was supposed to be a shade over 60km for state championship and about 35km for Clubman. There was some rain in the lead up to the event in March, quite heavy actually and they had to shorten a couple of the stages down. That brought the competitive distance back.

There were about 40 entries into the rally and we had six of those in our team. Four state cars and two clubman made up our squad. Amongst the rest of the 2023 Winvale Stages field there were some new names, new cars and some faces we hadn’t seen for a while.

With the state competitors completing recce on the Saturday it was a relatively early start at nine o’clock on Sunday morning. The weather looked overcast and we thought we might get a bit of rain. The day did clear up as it progressed.

New team members

With a solid five months of off season since the Experts Cup rally last year there was no doubt some nerves. We had three new co-drivers in our team. First up Alex was co-driving for Steve in state championship. Sammi took  her first steps into competition alongside Tiana in Clubman and Luke jumped in with Jack for his first full season of rally.

The racing starts (and so do the problems!)

 Right. Let’s get on with the competition at the 2023 Winvale Stages. The first pass over the roads went well for pretty much everybody except multiple state championship winner John Macara with Tim Rattenbury alongside. Towards the end of stage 1 they managed to get their Lancer Evo bogged and it took them some 10 to 12 minutes to get it out.

As the first group of three stages progressed the problems were beginning to surface for others. Cam Pusey and Chris Ryan on their first run in their Legacy RS were having trouble. The turbo and exhaust system had got loose and they were losing boost. A little further they pretty much lost the exhaust altogether. Tim Hiles and Morgan Ward in their Legacy RS were also having a bit of trouble. Their ECU wasn’t happy and the car was cutting out intermittently.

It wasn’t just the four-wheel drive cars having problems on the 2023 Winvale Stages either. Carter Smith and Niamh Nairn in their Mark II Escort were having trouble with the throttle. It was something that would plague them for the rest of the day.

All going well for us

 The first service and all of our cars were going well. Tim and Jon led the pack in 19th Place in their WRX. Glen and Max on their first Pace noted event, their first event in a four-wheel drive and the first event in the VR4. They were in 21st place and having a ball. Steve and Alex were easing into it and they were holding 23rd in their WRX. Hugh and Karen were not far behind and they were in 25th in their WRX.

 Our Clubman competitors were doing well too. There was no major dramas and they were holding down positions well inside the top five on the 2023 Winvale Stages. The second group of stages would be a repeat of the first and the results (at least within State Championship) stayed fairly steady.

Two podium places!

By the end of the second leg and the start of the second service the Clubman rally was complete. When we checked the results we realized just how close it was. Most of the Clubman competitors had been swapping a couple of seconds back and forth.

Jack and Luke had had a slow start however they fought back through the field and they were tussling with Tiana and Sami. In the end Jack and Luke would finish third place in the Clubman behind Tiana and Sami in second by just 0.7 seconds! Sami also took the rookie co-driver award so it was a great day all round.

The Clubman win was taken by Young rookie Sam Moody with Dave Christian alongside. They pushed their Impreza very hard and they won by two and a half minutes. It was a committed drive to say the least!

 Six stages down with two passes over the roads already on the 2023 Winvale Stages. State competitors had a lengthy wait in regroup after the 2nd service. The organisers reversed the stages to go over the roads again. Three more runs before another service.

By the ninth stage and the third service more problems were starting to show. Gary Mills and John Charleson had been holding down eighth place in their AP4 Peugeot. It was a great drive considering they hadn’t rallied a four-wheel drive car let alone left hand drive. Sadly the Peugeot’s reliability struck again and they blew a rear diff. Unfortunately they were out before the end of the 2023 Winvale Stages.

Oh oh

Problems on the third leg in our team too. Glen and Max had been running very well and were progressively moving up the leader board. It was a great drive on their first outing in the Galant VR4. Unfortunately the clutch started slipping later in the 2023 Winvale Stages.  By the third service the bell housing was full of oil and therefore the clutch was gone. The gearbox was leaking too heavily to continue that meant withdrawal one stage from the finish.

After the third service there was another lengthy wait whilst parts of stages one and two were combined to make the final stage. The roads were now well rutted, dry and dusty.

 During stage nine Hugh suffered a nasty cramp in his right foot and it forced him to slow down. He and Karen would go on to finish 25th outright. The pairing of Steve and Alex worked well and they finished a respectable 21st for the day. Amongst our team that left Tim and Jon. They finished the 2023 Winvale Stages in 17th outright.

State 2WD Championship

In state two-wheel drive on the 2023 Winvale Stages it would be Scott Bennett and Gavin Turner that would take third place. They’d moved up from the Clubman Cup land in their Lancer they did very well. Tony Oates and Adam Bramford were new to state championship and took their (new to them) Honda Civic to second place. Leading the two-wheel drive pack were father and daughter Alex and Jade White.

Special mentions

 Before we get on to the outright results there’s a couple of special mentions. At Forest rally last year Dale Faulkner and Rachel Ferrante had a huge crash in their WRX. They spent almost a year rebuilding it and with a measured drive they finished a respectable 12th. Another notable mention is young Thomas Loughton with Michael Lloyd in their Lancer Evo 10. It was their first gravel rally and they finished in eighth place.

Outright at the 2023 Winvale Stages

 Onto the outright positions and it was a swag of R5 cars that would hold the podium. Third place would go to Alex Rullo and Ben Searcy in their brand new Hyundai i20 rally 2. Second place would go to Pete Rullo and Jimmy Marquette in their brand new Hyundai i20 rally 2. That left the top spot of the 2023 Winvale Stages rally. It went to (Speedy) Daniel Gonzalez and Damon Nicoli in their Skoda Fabia R5.

Four our team it was a great start to the season. Podiums for both Tiana/Sami and Jack/ Luke with second and third in Clubman. Also Sami won rookie co-driver so another great result there too.

The next round (and the biggest event of the year) is up next. The Forest Rally will be our first trip southwest for 3 days of rallying around Bunbury & Nannup.

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