The 2010 Victorian Rally Championship concluded at Saturday’s Rally Victoria.  Hosted by the Cerberus Car Club at Lardner Park in the Baw Baw Shire on Friday 12th and Saturday 13th November, crews enjoyed the amenities of a well laid out service park and function centre, and slick organisation by event officials.

Hot and humid conditions tested ARC crews on Friday, then overnight storms and rain changed conditions for the VRC field once they joined the competition on Saturday morning.

Thick fog and rain blanketed the stages as crews battled for the minor VRC outright placings after Nathan Reeves and Scott Spedding had already taken first place at the recent Akademos Rally.  Reeves had elected not to contest the round, leaving points available to other championship contenders to battle out the remaining places.

Jesse Robison and Adam Wright in their RS&SP Racing Suspension Subaru STI would battle it out with Warren Lee and David Lethlean in the JDL Enterprises Evo IX for second outright in the Championship, with Robison needing to win both heats to ensure a 1 point margin over Lee.

Contesting the Outright 2WD Championship were Alan Friend and Scott Spedding in a Nissan Silvia RS, with Brian Semmens and Dan Parry in their Bendigo Brake and Clutch Nissan 200SX RV S12.  Friend had changed co-drivers for the event with regular co-driver, Robin Smalley, unavailable as he filled the role of the event’s Road Director.  Semmens would have to win both VRC heats to take the title from Friend, who only required one heat win.

The Hyundai Excel Series running within the VRC would be fought out between the young Steve Mackenzie and Jason Hague, as well as Tony and Nikki Moore in their Bendigo Tyre Centre entry, whom were separated by a mere 3 points going into the round.  Peter Morrison and Susan Wasson and the father and daughter pairing of Danny and Rikki-Lee Hudswell were also in with a chance of a series placing.  An outside threat to the outright Excel trophy was ex-ARC 2WD dynamo Leigh Garrioch and Jenna Kelley.

The first stage to challenge competitors was the 19km Tarago.  Hard packed logging roads offered better than expected grip in the greasy foggy conditions.  Crews struggled to see through corners with fog reducing visibility, and requiring maximum concentration and faith in their notes to push hard and battle for stage victory.

Jesse Robison took the early event lead after SS1 by 18.5 seconds over Lee, who had several spins in the tricky conditions, and the surprisingly quick Friend in his 2WD was only a further 8 seconds back.  Future championship contenders Ross and Scott Allan started to show pace in their ageing Delplant sponsored Subaru Legacy RS, finishing the stage in fourth, just 1 second behind Friend.  

Semmens had dropped 9 seconds to Friend and would need to push hard to make up the lost time.  Garrioch, showing his hand in the Excel class, won the stage by 25 seconds over Mackenzie.

Visibility was further reduced on SS2 with cloud covering the tighter corners.  Friend suffered a spin early in the stage which would effect his overall stage time, allowing Semmens to claw back some of the deficit and beat Friend by 2 seconds on the stage, reducing the margin to 7 seconds.  It looked like the tight battle fought out between the two all year would continue at Rally Victoria.

Robison was driving with commitment in SS2 when a drive shaft failure resulted in the crew being stranded off road and unable to continue in the stage.  A disappointed Robison and Wright would need to wait for recovery to assist them back to the road so they could rejoin at the start of Heat 2.

With this knowledge Lee had to only finish the Heat to secure 2nd Outright in the 2010 Championship.  Third place outright would now be decided between Semmens and Friend’s result in the Heat.  Both crews, acutely aware of the mounting pressure, were keen to push hard in the tricky conditions, but knew a small mistake could cost them the both the 2WD and third outright in the Championship.

Wayne Stuart and Lucas Zisstag in their Lucas Automotive WRX STI would finish the Stage in second with Derrick Reynolds and Ray Baker in the Lake Mountain Ski Hire Evo V also starting to show some speed.  

Meanwhile, in the Excel Series Mackenzie was pushing to make up time on Garrioch and had an off road excursion, putting an end to his event.  The saving grace being that Mackenzie could not be beaten for the first outright trophy in the Excel Series, a sensational performance during his first year in the sport.  Tony and Niki Moore now moved up to second place.

A short 15 minute service in the small logging town of Powelltown gave crews the opportunity to fit fresh tyres and refuel prior to tackling the remaining 3 stages of the Heat.  

SS7, Fitzpatrick, would be a 9.9km blast in immensely foggy and slippery conditions and would test the crews’ commitments to their notes, with visibility extremely limited.

Warren Lee showed the way taking the stage win, with Friend finishing an impressive 14 seconds back and Matt Swan and Paul Franklin in the Melb Uni Car Club STI just a further 2 seconds behind.  Semmens dropped 10 seconds to Friend in the tricky conditions, and he would now have to drive at his limit to close the gap on the remaining 2 stages.

The brother pairing of Dane and Nathan Berry were also starting to impress in their first season of the VRC in their Yarra Valley 4WD EVO IV, taking 5th outright on the stage.  They will be a crew to watch in the 2011 season.

Garrioch had continued to increase his lead in the Excels with the Moore duo over 1 minute back, with Daniel and Matthew Anderson moving into third in the class.

SS8, New Turkey, the longest stage of the event at 23km would see Lee take another stage victory, with Reynolds stopping the clock 34 seconds further back in 2nd, and Friend a further 3 seconds back.  Semmens and Parry had pushed hard in the stage and only dropped 3 seconds to Friend and Spedding, ensuring that the 2WD championship would be decided on the last stage of the Heat.  One mistake by either Friend or Semmes would potentially cost either one the 2WD Championship for 2010.

Swan had suffered a mechanical failure during the stage, resulting in their car impacting heavily with a bank and would bring their Rally Victoria to an abrupt end.  Both crew members were okay, the car not so lucky.  Garrioch was also unlucky with his charging Excel suffering a mechanical failure while sitting at 13th outright in the VRC and leading the Excel class, a problem that would end his heat.  Their retirement would promote Moore to 1st, with Anderson and Hudswell now rounding out the top 3 in the Excel Series.

With a margin of 19 seconds heading into Bennies, the last 19km stage of the Heat, it was just a 1 second per km buffer between Friend and Semmens.  Semmens would have to give it his all to close the margin and Friend make no mistakes or risk handing the 2WD trophy to Semmens.

Both Lee and Friend backed off to ensure they made no mistakes and held their lead with the Berry brothers taking a career first stage win over Reynolds, with Semmens in 3rd on the Stage.  The effort by Semmens would not be enough and Friend was to win the heat by 6 seconds, and be crowned the 2010 2WD Victorian Champion along with his usual co-driver Robin Smalley.

Warren Lee and David Lethlean would win the Heat outright and secure 2nd outright in the Championship behind Nathan Reeves and Scott Spedding (not contesting the event), while the 2WD he at win would give Friend and Smalley a double bonus of 3rd outright in the 2010 Championship.

Moore would take maximum points amongst the Excels heading into Heat 2 ahead of Anderson and Husdwell.

Crews returned to Lardner Park for the mid-event Service and were advised upon booking into regroup that the re-run of the stages for Heat 2 had been cancelled due to road damage concerns.  Just the 1.60km super special stage would be conducted, which under the VRC rules could not constitute a Heat.  

The crews were later to find out that this stage would not count in the event results, a lucky reprieve for Friend who clipped a post on the stage, loosing time which would have handed 3rd outright in the event to Brian Semmens had the result been included.

Rally Victoria Outright top 5 Results:

Lee/Lethlean    Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX    01:01:21.1
Reynolds/Baker    Mitsubishi Lancer Evo V    01:02:48.9    +1:27.8
Friend/Spedding    Nissan Silvia RS    01:02:58.3    +1:37.2
Semmens/Parry    Nissan 200 SX RV S12    01:03:04.6    +1:43.5
Berry/Berry    Mitsubishi Lancer EVO IV    01:03:39.4    +2:18.4

2010 Victorian Rally Championship Results

1st Nathan Reeves / Scott Spedding    2005 Subaru WRX Sti Spec C
2nd Warren Lee / David Lethlean         2006 Mitsubishi Evo IX
3rd Jesse Robison / Adam Wright        1999 Subaru Impreza WRX

2WD Championship
1st Alan Friend / Robin Smalley           Nissan Silvia RS
2nd Brian Semmens / Dan Parry         Nissan 200 SX RV S12
3rd Tony Moore / Nikki Moore              Hyundai Excel

Stucky Tyre Clubman Award
Tony Moore                Hyundai Excel

2010 Hyundai Excel Rally Series Results
1st Steven Mackenzie (Driver)
1st Nikki Moore (Co-Driver)
2nd Tony Moore (Driver)
2nd Sue Wasson (Co-Driver)
3rd Danny / Rikki-Lee Hudswell

The Victorian Rally Championship would like to thank all participating rounds in the 2010 Championship: the East Gippsland Stages, Bega Valley Rally, George Derrick Memorial, Akademos and Rally Victoria for their ongoing support of the Championship.  Also, a huge thank you to the hundreds and hundreds of volunteers who make the Championship possible.  

We look forward to the 2011 Championship and hope to see as many as possible at the 2010 Victorian Rally Presentation Dinner to be held in February.  Please contact David Lambie to secure your tickets for a great night of recognition for all classes and competitors in the championship.

Photos by Peter Whitten

View more Rally Victoria photos HERE.


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