The 2009 Trussme Nat Cap Rally was conducted last weekend, on Saturday, November 21. Being the final round of the NSW State Rally Championship and the PCD Engineering ACT Rally Series meant that it was the last opportunity for competing crews to bank any final points in their respective championships.
With several days of extreme, hot weather leading up to last weekend, together with catastrophic fire warnings in many neighbouring NSW areas, it was looking increasingly unlikely the organisers would receive the necessary clearance to access the forestry roads on Saturday morning for the rally. For the competitors themselves, the event was beginning to look like it would become a human marathon to avoid heat exhaustion and to just get to the end.

To the organisers’ credit, this difficult decision was delayed as long as possible in order to receive the all important Bureau of Meteorology weather report for Saturday so that a final decision could be made early on Friday evening. Fortunately some light rain began to fall in some regional areas around Canberra and the heat finally began to die down. The Rally was On!

The special stage rally consisted of a course of nine competitive stages with a total distance of 161km and a total rally distance of 303km. Car 1 of Barrett/Batten was due to lead the field away at 11.30am from the Weston Club and head towards SS1, Castrol Corner just off the Tuggeranong Parkway. At 12.7 km long it was a quick blat to get the crews into it with a single spectator point at a 'TVHR' 11.95km into the stage.

Car 4 of Stilling/Harding parked their Subaru Legacy on the apex of this corner after having an engine meltdown – rally over. Shellshear got through with a near 'moment' going hard over a crest at a crossroads which was not as straight as it looked on the approach. No other moments were experienced as he booked a third fastest time of 8:17 seconds behind Sessions (8:05) and Barrett (8:14).

The crews then transported to the east of Canberra to Kowen Road for the beginning of SS2 Old Kowen Road at 14.11km. The roads were dry and dusty and the organisers elected to start the crews at 3 minute intervals – greatly appreciated! This was a good stage with some humps midway, lots of turns at T intersections and cross roads to keep everyone on their toes. The stage ended with a jump over a bridge, a couple of tight turns into the finish control right next to the central service park. Sessions blew everyone away with a 9:49 followed by Barrett, Neale, Long, Eastman and Shellshear.

After a 20 minute service, it was a short transport back onto the main road and further east to Millpost Road and SS3, which was 22.42km long. There were no complaints with this stage with lots of work for the co-drivers to do especially at 12.8km in when the !!! caution humps appeared.  One of these was immediately after a crest, which could annihilate your suspension for any driver who did not back off sufficiently.  Sessions took the stage win, followed by Barrett, Neale, Shellshear and Long. 

The next stage, SS4, was less than one km away and was another 22.4km long. By this time the day had clouded over and the temperature had cooled slightly, although flies were present in plague proportions. This was a sensational stage with several fast stretches of road, both in the open country and in the forest. Several kangaroos were keen to follow the action of some crews, bouncing away along the roads next to their cars – phew, that was close!

After this stage, the crews transported back to Kowen for service 2 and a repeat run of SS2, SS3 and SS4 (as stages 5, 6 and 7 of the rally). All crews were faster through these stages the second time round although Neale split his intercooler after an excursion off road and his rally was now over.

After SS7 and a short regroup, the rally transported back to the western edge of Canberra to Uriarra Road for SS8 at 13.1 km long. This stage was a little “goat tracky” in places with some long grass making it sometimes hard to see the road. At 3.39km, Shellshear took a deviation into the long grass after missing the goat track exit from the main track and lost valuable seconds to Amos. By this time, the daylight was dropping along with the slight breeze and the dust was now hanging in the still air. A ten minute dust gap would not have helped. Again Sessions dominated taking the stage win from Barrett, Amos and Long.

The last stage off Coppins Crossing Road, SS9 Greenhills, was 21.9km long with the same TVHR spectator point at Castrol Corner. The stage was good fun, but the dust was diabolical just hanging in the air around every braking point along the route. By this time everyone wanted to bring their cars home without dropping any places. It was then back to the Weston Club for a well earned dinner and a couple of beers.

Final Nat Cap outright placings

1st Place: Sessions / Harriot
2nd Place: Barrett / Batten
3rd Place: Long / Topliff
4th Place: Shellshear / Fletcher
5th Place: Amos / Gillis

Although the day was a little warm at times, Nat Cap 09 was a great rally to end the year on. Well done to the organisers for making it happen and thanks to all of the officials who braved the conditions so that the competitors could enjoy the roads. Thanks to Total Traction Services of Belconnen for supplying bottled water for the crews at the end of every finish control of the rally – this made a huge difference to the crews staying hydrated and safe during the day.
As the final round of the 2009 NSW State Championship, the Nat Cap rally became the deciding round for the final state placings. Matt Amos and Nigel Shellshear ended the year with an equal first place in the Drivers series. Paul Fletcher was first placed Co-driver, closely followed by Zoey Gillis in second place.

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