Forest Rally 2019 – Done and Dusted

The Forest Rally 2019 was a dry and dusty affair. With a lack of rain in the area the normally compact roads were very loose. It would set the stage for an interesting weekend of action and drama.

Round 1 of Everything

This year round one of all the rally championships was the Make Smoking History Forest Rally 2019. 220km over 2.5 days of competition faced competitors. To add a little extra to the challenge it had been an eight month break since the end of last season.

Fires bring change

Over the last 19 years the Forest has used a tarmac super special stage in Busselton coupled with gravel stages in Nannup. Whilst normal fare is for similar roads from year to year, bush fires leading up to the event forced a change. The organisers had to rearrange some of the stages and compact the rally slightly.

For Forest Rally 2019 one particular stage used the same start and finish points however changed route during the weekend. It did cause some confusion during recce. Several teams discovered that they had to drive 2-3km without pace notes come race day.

Heat 1 Forest Rally 2019

Forest Rally 2019 heat 1 kicked off Friday night on the tarmac. Most teams kept it neat on the opening stage. Getting overzealous in front of the crowds is a great way to end your rally before you’ve started! Some of the rear wheel drive cars like Mike Joss/Megan Logue (Nissan Silvia S15) hung the tail out in places on the way round.

Mike Joss and Megan Logue in their Silvia S15 during heat 1.

In Nannup on Saturday morning the serious stuff began. The cars were quickly prepped for the gravel at the first service and sent off to race the clock. It would be two stages – service format for most of the day.

Dry and Slippy

During heat 1 the major comments were around the slippy conditions and the dust. The Forest Rally 2019 organisers opted to increase the gap between cars to three minutes to let the dust clear. The roads however would remain loose for the whole weekend.

Rally Action Team

In our team Ben and Jon were troubled late in the day with what they thought was a misfire. On the last service we found broken wiring to the speed sensor on the gearbox. The fault was putting the engine management into launch control and limiting the RPM. Some repairs under the bonnet soon had the problem sorted.

Mark Keltie and Graham Mogg tackle a hairpin during heat 2 of the Forest.

Mark and Graham had no issues to report. The Celica GT4 was humming along and the guys were having fun. It was good to see things running smoothly as just before the rally we discovered a collapsed bearing in the suspension. It was a bit of a mad rush to perform last minute repairs only a day before the event.

Jedi Masters

Still amongst our team, Lance had a stand in co-driver in the form of Ross Burton for Forest Rally 2019. The pair competed in Clubman Masters and quickly got into the groove. On the last few stages the Silvia developed a misfire that worsened under boost. With no service allowed at that point Lance had to drive around the issue. The pair did well and took third place.

Lance and Ross were 3rd Clubman Masters Forest Rally 2019 in thier Nissan Silvia S13

Clubman Cup

Whilst we’re on the subject of the Clubman Cup a big shout out to Tim Bayer and Garry McCagh. Over eight stages and 100km of the Clubman, the guys blitzed at Forest Rally 2019. In their Hyundai Excel the guys won by 20 seconds.

Rounding out Heat 1

The changes in route and stages actually saw heat 1 finish earlier than normal. The final service of the day started mid afternoon. It was nice to get back into Busselton in the daylight rather than the dark. Whilst the convoy of service crews headed back “down the hill”, the competitors lined up on the tarmac for the start of heat 2.

Heat 2

Heat 2 of Forest Rally 2019 was back on the Busselton foreshore. In contrast to the night before the stage was only run in one direction and teams completed four laps simultaneously. Again everyone kept their lines smooth and on track.

The Day of Flats

Sunday became known as the day of flats. More so than other years tyre problems created headaches amongst several teams. The dry roads were loose allowing rocks and other items to come to the surface. It didn’t seem to matter what brand of tyre you were on, it was the luck of the draw.

Ben and Jon with a flat on the front right of their Spec C WRX. Heat 2 Forest Rally 2019.

Ben and Jon suffered two punctures in one stage. They changed one tyre and with only one spare were forced to drive on the other flat. Credit to Zestino Tyres, even though the car had done 12km of liaison the tyre did not disintegrate and stayed on the rim! We replaced the pair at the next service.

The end is in sight

With our cars all running fine, we packed up after the last service and headed up to the finish to wait. With only two stages to go it looked like we’d have them both complete the event.  Something that we didn’t achieve at last year’s Forest Rally!


Ben and Jon suffered another puncture on the penultimate group of tests. They charged hard on the last stage and ran wide on one infamous corner. The Spec C slipped off the road and rolled heavily. Unfortunately it was a long way to the bottom of the valley. The car landed on its wheels and both were able to get out and walk away. The safety gear did its job and Ben and Jon were thankfully unharmed.

They weren’t the only ones to roll in heat 2 of Forest Rally 2019. Mike and Megan turned their Silvia over on the last stage with the car stuck in a ditch. Terry Hughes and Monique Smith had also rolled their Daihatsu Charade earlier in the day.

Getting to the finish

Mark and Graham finished Forest Rally 2019 in a solid 18th place and without drama. One place in front was young Kelly Thomas. Kelly had passed her road drivers license just a week before the rally! For her and Dad Dave they achieved their goal of finishing the rally.

Kelly Thomas with Dad Dave alongside on their way to 17th place at the Forest Rally 2019.

Honourable mentions

The luck of the Irish

There were some other notable performances at Forest Rally 2019. Glenn Alcorn spent many months building his Mk2 Escort RS2000 for the season opener. He and co-driver Shaun McMaken brought their Group 4 inspired machine to a fine third in 2wd on Glenn’s first event as a driver.

Glenn Alcorn and Shaun McMaken 3rd in 2WD on Glenn's first rally as a driver.

Barry McGuinness and Stephen Wade did a great job in their WRX. It was Barry’s first Forest and at the start of the event, he commented that he was “Shitting himself”. The pair obviously found their groove as they finished heat 1 in fifth place and heat 2 in tenth.

Bitter Sweet

For Hugh Harmer and Karen Russell the Forest Rally 2019 ended with a slight sting in the tail. The pair had been having a ball all weekend in their V8 commodore. On the liaison to the last stage ominous noises came from under the car. The tail shaft or differential warned of imminent failure. The pair were forced to retire with just one stage to go.

Hugh Harmer and Karen Russell had fun all weekend in their V8 Commodore at the Forest. Unfortunately a mechanical failure stopped them before the last stage.

The next event on the RallyWA 2019 calendar is the Karri Rally in May.

Photos: Blake Rattenbury and Drift Images

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