The final club sprint for the year proved to be a big challenge for both the organisers and the competitors, with drama aplenty making for a long but fun day in the Ashley Forest. It was however a long piece of road so naturally the event was going to take a bit longer to complete than normal. Things were going well until the timing computer crashed just before driver’s briefing and a hasty disk copy of the entered data to the spare machine saved the day. It transpired that the rules for marshals on bent sprints have changed recently and the requirement to have a marshal every 1km on the course necessitated a whip around for people and some quick changes in plans and radio allocations to cover the course. Time was ticking on as the marshals were put in place, a radio test conducted and the all clear given by the Steward. The practise run revealed some newly gravelled road that was quite slippery in un-swept spots but only had one slightly rough patch leading into the first hairpin at the river. The rest of the road was in great condition, and there were many enthusiastic conversations in the service park about the mix of roads presenting drivers with lots of fun opportunities. Unfortunately the practise had some holdups and the first run didn’t get underway until after everyone had lunch (which was a chance for Rocky Hudson to get around the service area and show off his kid’s new HRT race suit, very swish. Better watch it Rocky, you’re heading for some pretty expensive hobbies to pay for there!). Casualties from the practice run were Royce Watson who had blown the turbocharger in the DX Corolla, and Andrew Sim who trailered the car after discovering a spark plug had stripped it’s thread in the FX-GT’s cylinder head. Kevin Knowles didn’t take the practise run suffering trouble with his car. Emma Gilmour took the practise slowly while making pace notes, a move that looked to be very fruitful after the run 1 times came out. Off the road in the practise run was Tony Morrison who was sharing John Weir’s car. A tightening uphill corner with a ditch and bank on the outside that just seemed to suck cars in due to speed carried from the short straight prior, caught the Accord and it took some time to extract it.
The first competition run through the 9km course went well for most. John Giltrap had a re-run due to catching Shane Thornley in the Starlet who was ahead on the road and more of a gap should have been left, and a couple of minor agricultural moments by a few drivers were all that really caught attention. Don Mathias set a great time and a clean pair of heels in the small car class, with Dave Fletcher, Grant Goile and Bruce France looking to fight for the other placings. The next engine size up saw Luke Thelning take a slim lead from Tony Morrison with Grant Restall driving well to sit in third. The big 2WDs were having a great scrap and putting on a great show too. Ross Teesdale was flying in the supercharged Sprinter to sit in top spot in the class, followed by a hair’s breadth by Trevor Crowe, and Groove McCallum had the Eccy dancing on the way down the hill near the finish to occupy third. Steve Carr was happy in fourth in the class with the performance of his rebuilt RX7 proving to be very good. The car required an air duct to the brake master cylinder to keep it cool but other than that no niggly first-time-out problems were had. Carr had his eyes set on climbing up the scorecards as he had not fully opened up the Mazda. The 4WD cars dominated the timesheet for the first run with John Silcock making his intentions obvious from the get-go topping the charts, Les Summerfield, Deane Buist and Emma Gilmour were less than half a second apart in the following places. Gilmour’s double entry saw her impressing in her second pass through run 1, unofficially taking the lead of the event with a time fastest by 5 seconds. Grant Fisher DNF’ed in run 1 and withdrew from the event due to a gearbox that was left with only two forward gears. It looked like the day was chugging along nicely. It was about halfway through run 2 when things started to go a bit awry.
John Silcock continued where he started with a 10 second improvement from run 1, with Emma Gilmour cranking the Evo3 up into second place closely followed by Deane Buist. Sean Gray was making up for lost time by improving 20 seconds from his first crack at the road. The gearbox in Trevor Crowe’s Skoda V8 lost 3rd gear and the car was packed up and taken home before run 2. Emma Gilmour chose not to start run 2 for her first entry or run 3 for her 2nd entry as her tyres were wearing badly and she wanted to save them for the last run. Grant Restall was sucked into ‘that’ ditch (or did he jump?) that claimed Tony Morrison in the practise. His car was blocking the road and following drivers had to stop, three or four cars were forced to return to the start for a re-run. Don Mathias took a spin at high speed at the top intersection of Paringa Road in run 2, which saw Dave Fletcher top the timesheets in the small car class for the first time with a good drive, beating Mathias’s first run time by 3 seconds. Andy Reid and Grant Goile were locked in a battle for third in class separated by less than a second. The placings in the mid-sized car class changed with Hayden Spatcher slotting into third in the class, while the top two remained Thelning and Morrison. The big 2WDs were now in close contest, Teesdale a bit clear of McCallum with Carr improving nearly 20 seconds to be nipping at the heels of the Nissan powered Escort. The road surface in some parts was very abrasive. There were shagged tyres being removed from cars more often than the rabbits were running away from rally cars on the course (word has it that a couple of drivers actually swerved to try to hit the fleeing animals, pity the poor person who has to clean the car after the event). During run 2 a large log appeared on the road just after the top intersection, and it was causing concern amongst the drivers so it was removed by the marshals on that intersection.
Run 3 was brought to a halt while Stewart Bufton’s Starlet was located and was driven out. A promising 13 second improvement between runs 1 and 2 would not be continued for the senior Bufton entry. Andrew Bufton also didn’t finish the last run after posting a ten second improvement between his first and second runs. Geoff Bone improved a massive 23 seconds between first and second passes however dropped off the pace in run 3. It was reported that his very slow air compressor may have in fact put very slow air in his tyres and he wasn’t able to crack the top three in his class. Geoff Hughes who was sharing Chris Hughes’s Lancer pulled out of run 3 with a misfire. Other competitors having a better day out were Chris Hughes improving nearly 20 seconds throughout the day, and Paul Stanley matched that improvement in his newly acquired Escort MkII. When questioned about the roof vent installed in the car looking remarkably like a sunroof Paul quipped that he thought it best they installed an escape hatch! This was not to be needed as the Escort remained undamaged through it’s first event, which is good to see, other first timers have not been so adept at keeping cars on their wheels. Barry Deuart retired the Datsun before run 3 due to a loss of oil pressure. John Giltrap hit a bank after posting a very competitive 2nd run time and the car was trailered before run 3 commenced as the damage had caused a bent strut to rub on the front wheel. John Weir’s last run was cut short when all his wheel nuts came off and the wheel flew into the scrub. He took two nuts off another wheel and reattached it and drove out.
Much congratulations go to John Silcock who left his bad luck at the gate (the Canterbury Rally proved he doesn’t hide it in his beehives) and came through with a scorcher in the last run to take the event win, five seconds clear of Les Summerfield in second. Summerfield was getting a double shot of adrenalin (1300’s do generate some of that you know!) for the day by also running in the Starlet he built which is owned by Shane Thornley. Deane Buist made some tweaks to the Evo, removing the front sway bar which he reckoned improved things a bit, and came home in third overall a second or so behind Summerfield. Don Mathias had a great run in his last pass through the course, setting the 10th fastest time overall for the day and winning the small car class. Dave Fletcher put the rear end of the Corolla into ‘that’ ditch near the first marshal point and the car was handling very strangely all the way through the rest of his last run, ruining all chance he had of hanging onto his lead in the class, finishing in second spot. Turning into service it became obvious why, the main span of the left leaf spring was broken and the rear was hanging on by the skin of it’s u-bolts. Bruce France thought he broke something in his suspension near the end of run two and didn’t notice, so he continued and broke an axle in run 3. Andy Reid brought the Corolla he shares with Fletcher home in third in the class pipping Grant Goile by just over a second in a thrilling fight for the remaining spot on the class podium. Luke Thelning lopped another 6 seconds off his previous best to comfortably win the 1301-1600cc class from Tony Morrison, Morrison not starting run 3 . Grant Restall came back from his off in the second run to claim 3rd in the class. Ten seconds separated the top 3 in the big 2WD class with Ross Teesdale capping a great day for him with a 5 second gap back to Groove McCallum followed a further 5 seconds back by Steve Carr.
Leigh Marston’s first outing in his very well presented new WRX STi was a learning exercise, and like many others he “torched” a new set of tyres over the course of the day. The RDL crew were very happy as the car had only been around the block at 11.30pm Saturday night, and the only problem was a continual cutting out of the engine at full power, which they think is related to over-boost because of running the standard computer with a restrictor. This will be sorted out by getting a new Link computer. Leigh commented that the car is great to drive and shows huge potential for a planned assault on the group N national championship. Ben Pankhurst didn’t quite get into the swing of things after his spin in run 2 put him off his game although the smile on his face meant at least he enjoyed some of his day. His fan club at the start line were also having a good day enjoying the sunshine. Graham Wilson’s return to the hot seat for this event saw him shave more than 20 seconds off his time over the three runs in the orange Starlet. Shane Thornley was having fun in his newly finished Starlet which has real potential given the amount of kick it had going off the start line. Geoff Combe with Nicole France riding shotgun took his 1500cc Starlet to within a second of third place in the 1301-1600cc class. Brent Sibley in the Escort completed all three runs with good improvement between runs 1 and 2 but not quite as big a leap between runs 2 and 3. After a long day in the foothills the results stood as follows:
Overall and 4WD 1600cc+:
John Silcock (EVO6) 6m35.18s – 1,
Les Summerfield (Subaru WRX) 6m40.89s – 2,
Deane Buist (EVO4) 6m42.32s – 3.
Ross Teesdale (Sprinter) 7m10.93s- 1,
Robert McCallum (Escort) 7m15.49s – 2,
Steve Carr (RX7) 7m20.44s – 3.
Luke Thelning (Toyota Corolla) 7m18.19s – 1,
Tony Morrison (Honda Accord) 7m25.27s – 2,
Grant Restall (Toyota Corolla) 7m30.54s – 3.
Don Mathias (Toyota Starlet) 7m20.05s – 1.
David Fletcher (Toyota Corolla) 7m32.08s – 2.
Andy Reid (Toyota Corolla) 7m38.62s – 3.
Due to the late hour that the event ran until, most of the placegetters had left the Southbrook Hotel before the organisers had packed up the event and made it back to the hotel. So, the prizegiving was abandoned. Thanks go to Steward Barry Higham, scrutineers Royce Watson and John Weir, documentation help from Nicole France, forest liason officer Paul Stanley, organisers and Clerks of the Course Leigh Marston and Simone Trezise, Les Summerfield for help with organising, Andrea Summerfield for help with finish line marshalling, recovery and arrowing crew and hockey stick operator Derek Simpson, marshal Glenn Simpson, Tony Witheridge for operating the timing and Deane Buist for his help while Tony took a ride, and Dave Fletcher for towing the dunny with the club van and arrowing to the event. Thanks also to Barry Deuart for his help with the Tait radios and repeater. The marshals endured some trying conditions in the wind up the top, not to mention the length of time the event took to complete so a huge thanks to the volunteers who did that vital job.