2016 Carringtons Safari Rally deciding the state championship

Weather and format

In stark contrast to 2015 when the weather was hot and dry, this year’s Carrington’s Safari Rally started out with rain and strong winds. Using similar roads to last year, the event comprised of three forest stages and a short spectator stage totalling 59km. The service park and HQ were based in the quiet outer suburb of Chidlow with the spectator stage running alongside the service park.

To make the rally more compact the new organising team made the first leg a group of four stages. With one stage over 30km long, a supplementary refuel was allowed for those who needed an extra splash of “juice”.

The start

As the 12:30PM start rolled around, ARC competitors Scott Pedder/Glenn MacNeal led the field away in their Peugeot 208 Maxi. The pair were an invitational entry in the Safari using the event as shakedown. All of the 37 strong field got through the short and tight roads of SS1 however there were some “oohs & aahs” from the crowd with a few trees narrowly keeping their bark intact.

Carnage begins

carringtons_safari_rally_bda_escortThe forest stages followed and then the carnage began. Slippery and technical roads with close trees caught out more than a few. Shane Harmer/Nic Anyan bumped a tree with the left front of their Commodore, Brad & Richard Nowell broke a suspension arm in their WRX and Mark and Damon Keltie found a bank with their Celica GT4. Rohan Keltie with Nigella Gaylard alongside were having their first foray with 4WD and pace notes. About four kilometres into SS2 their WRX took a heavy shunt amidships on the left side. The damage and a resultant flat tyre forced them to limp back to service. The beautiful BDA powered MK I Escort of Ed Griffiths/Murray Hynes didn’t escape the trees either. They knocked off a rear wheel arch along the way. Andrew Percival/Jim Pearce had been struggling on the last few events with niggling transmission issues. In SS2 second gear failed and not long after the clutch gave out forcing the pair to sit out the rest of the event.

Clubman top Ten

The state cars came in for their shortened and only service whilst the Clubman cars finished the rally. Perhaps the carringtons_safari_rally_fiestaunluckiest crew was Kiel Douglas/Ashley Burton. The pair set the fastest times on every stage and would have won Clubman by over a minute. At the end of SS4 the gearbox in their V8 powered Commodore gave up the ghost and they coasted to the end of the stage. Without drive to get the car back to the final control under its own power, the pair were out of the rally. Lance Stringer/Jace Van saar Loos found the conditions tricky on the Safari. Between glancing a tree and putting the car off the road a couple of times, their Nissan Silvia turbo looked worse for wear. Luckily they made the finish inside the time limit and took ninth place. Benjamin Perard was on his very first gravel event. Easing into the stages, he and co-driver Paul Helm took their Ford Fiesta to a fine eighth place. Brock Nicoli/Dan Adams finished seventh in their Hyundai Lantra behind Chris Bowley/Garth McGuire who took sixth in their Ford Fiesta ST.

Clubman top 5

Jake Foster/Archa Oxley made the top five in their Hyundai Excel, taking Clubman rookie driver and co-driver as well. Dene Courtis/Robert King finished in fourth place after a flat tyre slowed their progress.

Clubman podium

Carl & Tracey Rattenbury brought their MK I Escort home in third place behind the almost stealth pair of Graeme and Cathy Miles in second. The Miles debuted their new Mitsubishi Lancer at the Safari and it sounded like the standard well muffled exhaust was still fitted. Mitchel and Stuart Clarke hadn’t put a wheel wrong all day in their Datsun 1600. The pair grabbed top spot by just over 19 seconds.

Second leg

After service the state cars went out for the 2nd led of four stages. With some fast work by their team, Nowell/Nowell and Keltie/Gaylard were out in the forest again with the rest of the field. More teams would have trouble with the conditions as the Safari progressed. Ehud “Ed”  Powitzer/Zachary Saratlija nudged the scenery in their Suzuki Vitara. The damage didn’t seem too bad at the time, however in the next stage the front suspension gave way forcing retirement.

State championship top ten

By the time the state cars finished the rally, there were plenty of battle scars with a story to tell. Husband and wife Alex and Lisa White brought their Nissan Silvia turbo into tenth place. Ahead of them in a front wheel drive Subaru Impreza were Cody Reynolds/Anthony Staltari in ninth. John O’Dowd/Ben Searcy have had a troubled season and the Safari was no reprieve. Their Spec C WRX bent a rear suspension arm which led to a driveshaft failure. The duo had to take it easy through SS6 dropping time, however managed to finish in eighth place. Father and son Mike and Jack Civil returned to the gravel in their Evo 9. They gained penalties on SS2 early in the day. They kept up the pace for the rest of the event and finished seventh. Raz Vlad/Daymon Nicoli were the highest placed two wheel drive car. Sixth place in their Ford Fiesta gave them the 2wd championship with one round remaining.

Top 5

carringtons_safari_rally_steeleMick Steele/Chris Parish had some trouble during the day too. An altercation with a tree on the driver’s door was superficial however more was to come. On SS6 their engine cut out without warning and it took 2 minutes to get it re-started. Just as they were ready to take off again, O’Dowd/Searcy passed them limping with the driveshaft issue. In the dust it then took a few kilometres for Steele/Parish to get in front. By rally’s end the pair were fifth. Craig Puzey/Jo McIlroy were going hard in their Subaru Legacy RS until a gearbox problem interjected. Losing a gear made things tricky however with others behind them also having troubles, they finished the rally in fourth.

Podium places

Steve Oxley/Michael Wood had a solid second half of the season. In their current shape WRX hatch, they took a well driven third place. And so it came down to the final two. As it turned out both teams were tussling for the outright state championship. Doug Tostevin/Tammy Adams took their Spec C WRX to second place in both the championship and the rally. Out front by just under a minute Dylan King/Abbey Hayes won the 2016 Carrington’s Safari Rally and the championship in their Spec C WRX.

The Championship

During the year more than four different teams had been in the championship hunt and the last round was the decider. On many occasions this event has caused an upset and it meant that everyone had to prepare and then drive as quickly as they dared without risking a retirement.

With the outright championship sorted, the last rally of the year will be left to decide the Clubman Cup and the state two wheel drive classes. The Darling 200 will run in Jarrahdale in mid November.

Karl Drummond