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“To finish first, you first have to finish” – this weekend we competed in Rally Victoria and we only needed to get 4th in the 2WD class to secure our first 2WD Australian Rally Championship win. We did better than that, by finishing 4th on the first day and 1st on the second day.

It was a tough rally, many competitors retiring due to off road excursions or mechanical problems. We managed to avoid both, thanks to our fantastic service team and a cautious drive. It was the slowest we drove all year, but the plan was to finish the event at all costs, so we didn’t take any risks. We decided to carry a lot of spares with us in the car, and this made it almost 50kg heavier (and slower) than usual.

This marks the end of an extraordinary year for us. In April, on the first day of the Western Australian Forest Rally, we did not even dream about taking the 2WD trophy off Eli Evans and Glen Weston. By the end of Heat 2 we were leading the championship.

Rally Queensland was a tough challenge for both of us – Eli’s Honda Civic was quick, but did not last until the end of either day; we entered our first international event, but also had our biggest crash of the year. However we still managed to finish both legs despite a smashed car and a few broken ribs. I remember watching Karamjit Singh drive in the PWRC competition about 10 years ago, and it was extremely rewarding to be able to race against him in a similar 2WD car and match his times.

The fast and very grippy roads of South Australia did not suit our Ford Fiesta, and we were outpaced by the more powerful cars. When our rear wheel bearings failed as well, all we could do was limp to the end and hope to score some points.

The WRC round in Coffs Harbour was the main reason we bought the Fiesta last year, we decided to keep it in Group N and enter the international competition. We enjoyed the race against the other Ford Fiesta of Adrian Coppin and proved that in a similar car and with no championship pressure we are the quickest. We were also close enough to Harry Hunt’s Citroen DS3 to win some stages when he did not have a clean run.

This is our success story, but it would not have been possible without the help that we received from many people throughout the year (in no particular order):

- my wife, Ioana, who encouraged me to buy the Fiesta and compete in the ARC

- Bob, Stephen, Martin, Sam, Jarod, Dylan, Belinda, Wavey, Curly, Brock, Calaye, Shelley and everybody else who helped in the service park

- Andres Quijano at ANQ Solutions who designed and maintained our web page

- Stephen Heatherman and his family who helped us get to Rally Queensland (and also get our wounded car back)

- Geographe Ford, Pacific Ford, Mike Blewitt Ford and David Nutter Ford who let us use their workshops and supplied spare parts

- Kevin Sleep, Brad Stacey in Perth and the Absolute Panel and Paint Coffs Harbour team of Mick and Tammy who made our car look good again after our off road excursions

- Lisa and Alex who shared their previous ARC experience with us

- John Carney, who’s help was invaluable to our success at Rally Victoria, and Simon Brown from Japwreck who stored our spare parts

- Fellow competitors John Bruinsma, Tom Wilde, Charlie Drake and Simon Knowles who transported our tyres and spare parts across the country or lent us their service crew when needed

- Daniel and Ben from Healthy Life Fitness in Hillarys who looked after my physical training

- Alin Daju who helped us with refueling in South Australia

- XS Energy who supplied energy drinks for our team

- Nigel and Stefan at Motorsportphotography.net and Chantall who took great photos of us throughout the year

And last, but not least, we would like to thank all rally officials who make the events possible and who went beyond their duty to help us during the first year in the ARC.

Raz – driver and Daymon – navigator, 2011 2WD Australian Rally Champions

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