Experts Cup Rally 2016

On the first weekend in July we took the trek to the coal mining town of Collie, approx 200km southwest of Perth for the Experts Cup rally. The rally uses stages very close to the irrigation only Wellington Dam which is fed by the Collie River. Those same areas are also used by the Forestry Products Commission (FPC) for plantations of timber, particularly pine trees. For 2016 a conflict for areas developed when the FPC had to step up their logging operations reducing the availability of roads for the Experts Cup.

In previous years, the event has used three or four stages run twice. This year the event made do with two stages that were run three times to bring a total of 85 competitive km. Each pair of stages was punctuated with a service.

The entry field of 34 cars, was slightly less than the Boddington Rally a month before. Perhaps the very packed first half of the season had strained competitors, particularly if cars had suffered damage or mechanical failure in a previous event.

With the compact nature of the event, state championship competitors found plenty of time to write their pace notes before the midday start.  Brad Markovic/Glenn Macneall led the field as car one in their WRX STi hatch. It had been a very up and down season for the pair after a fire on the first day of the Quit Forest Rally destroyed their previous WRX. On the Experts they did well and finished in second place.

After the first group of stages Dylan King/Abbey Hayes (Spec C WRX) led the Experts Cup, it was a position they would maintain from start ramp to chequered flag. Not to be denied a chance, John Macara/Caleb Ash (Lancer Evo 7) threw their hat in the ring early as did John O’Dowd/Ben Searcy and Doug Tostevin/Tammy Adams, both in Spec C WRX’s. By the time competitors reached the second service at 2/3 distance, the top five were all having a crack and trading times.  After the second service, state teams prepared to pass over the gravel roads once more, this time adding sunset and the dark into the equation.

The Clubman Cup entrants tackled the same roads, however completed four of the stages and did not have full pace notes to assist. The battle amongst the two wheel drive rally cars was no less fierce and only one car retired from the fray. It was to be Tim & Bernadette Bayer in their Hyundai Excel. Simply it was a case of Bernadette succumbing to motion sickness rather than mechanical failure or an off road excursion.

Tenth in the Clubman was taken by Mark Huitenga/Jonathan Morland-Barrett in their classic rear wheel drive Mitsubishi Galant. Jon Nannen/Robert Holmes brought their Hyundai Excel to ninth place behind Brock Nicoli/Daniel Adams who wereExperts_Cup_Rally_2016_Courtis_Corolla eighth in their Hyundai Lantra. Having trouble with their Honda Civic jumping out of gear, Andrew Percival/Jim Pearce finished further back than usual in seventh place. Steve Vass/Ryan Doe bagged sixth place in their Datsun 1600 with Lance Stringer/Jace van Saarloos taking their Nissan Silvia to a fine fifth and Lance also won Clubman Rookie driver. Husband and wife Andrew and Catie MacDonald finished in fourth place in their Toyota Sprinter, however were not eligible for points. The car has been modified and now falls outside designated categories allowed in WA. Taking third was the husband and wife duo of Carl & Tracey Rattenbury in their Mark 1 Ford Escort. Dene Courtis/Robert King chucked their front wheel drive Corolla around on the stages and finished in second place, moving into the lead in the Clubman Cup points. Mitchell and Stuart Clarke drove very well and took the Clubman win in their Datsun 1600.

During the day the sun had been out and at times it was warm and pleasant. As the afternoon progressed and the sun lowered in the sky, the temperature began to drop rapidly. The last two stages were cold however visibility was still clear. Teams did need additional lights to navigate the forest at speed. Somewhat surprisingly, all the state cars finished the rally, making a quiet day for the recovery crew. David Farnworth/Nick Clements (Toyota Corolla) drove well to tenth place behind Cody Reynolds/Anthony Staltari who were ninth in their front wheel drive Subaru Impreza. John Ludlam/Michael Wood drove their Experts_Cup_Rally_2016_Escort_RS1600Mazda rotary powered Datsun 1600 (Dazda) to eighth, (however were ineligible for points) with Raz Vlad/Damon Nicoli (Ford Fiesta ST) taking seventh and also first two wheel drive. Mick Steele/Tracey Dewhurst (Spec C WRX) took sixth place, adding to their championship points tally. The top five worked out as follows: Tostevin/Adams fifth, Macara/Ash fourth, O’Dowd/Searcy third, Markovic/Macneall second and King/Hayes won the rally by a margin of 55 seconds. Incidentally, John Macara has had a long streak of bad luck with mechanical failures in recent memory. The Experts Cup was the first rally he’d finished for two or three seasons, a milestone in itself.

There is now a two month gap to the next rally, which will be the Kirup stages held in September. It is hoped the spring date will bring some drier conditions to what has been a very wet and muddy event for the last couple of years.

With two rounds remaining in the outright state championship and three rounds remaining in the Clubman Cup, the respective series are still wide open. During the break, many teams (including ours) will be focussing on developments in all aspects to be ready for the warmer months ahead.

Karl Drummond

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