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The new format of Mountain Motorsports’ annual Lake Mountain Sprint has been hailed an overwhelming success by competitors, officials and the organisers, after a fantastic weekend of tarmac rally in and around the Victorian township of Marysville on May 25-26.

Usually a tricky and technical 10km hillclimb, the Lake Mountain Sprint was changed this year to a multi-stage event, as are all the rallies in this year’s Australian Tarmac Championship series, and utilised both directions of the Lake Mountain summit road, the fast sweeping tarmac from Marysville to the base and the summit of the Alpine resort, and the dramatic tight twists and wide open throttle corners climbing toward the Reefton Spur.

Round two of the national four-round AASA Championship began early on Saturday, where clear skies had clouded overnight producing a slick wet surface. The Competition and Touring fields erred on the side of caution for the first few runs, with crews reporting no black ice or frost, but very slippery sections and changing grip levels.

Previous LMS winners Jeff and Catherine Denmeade (Mitsubishi Evo VIII) fired out of the starters box and built a quick lead, while the next three places were more closely fought between 2012 ATC winners Clinton Arentz and Pete Burrey in an Evo X, Vladimir Berak and Michael Luff in a Subaru WRX, and anther husband/wife combination in Daniel Lemish and Samantha Stevens; the pair swapping seats in their Evo VI for this event.

Television personality Glenn Ridge and his son Oliver also swapped seats, with Ridge handing over the wheel of his Mazda RX-7 for the first time to his P-plate son, and admitting he was not the best codriver to learn with – keeping breakfast down, but saying that not many notes were actually coming out.

The tricky conditions caught out one team partway through day one, with a Subaru WRX STI nudging a bank and losing a wheel. Both competitors were unharmed, and the field praised the RallySafe units that MMS runs in all events for alerting the cars to the hazard around a blind bend.
Conditions cleared later in the afternoon, and Berak began to pull away from the battling Arentz and Lemish, only for the former to suffer a gearbox failure.

Arentz was forced to return to service, and TMR Australia set about replacing the gearbox – which was done in a matter of hours.

The next day saw a drying road for the first stage, but the dark skies and dense overgrowth promised a slippery introduction to the new sections of roads up to the infamous Reefton Spur. A major moment for Tim O’Connor and Gareth Sutcliffe (Subaru WRX STI) pleased the spectators at the Lake Mountain junction, though he valiantly kept the boot in and made it back to the road without collecting too much of the scenery or damaging his immaculate car.

At the end of the two days and 16 stages, the Denmeades had claimed an easy victory in their 2004 Evo, winning all but one stage of the event. Berak took second place, with Lemish third and halting Denmeade’s winning streak with a day two stage win. Fourth outright and the first Classic car was Keith Morling and son Alex in a Ford Escort, while fifth outright went to Glyn Crimp and Frank Brookhouse in a Ford Focus RS.

The ATC Leaderboard is now tied at the top, with Berak/Luff and Lemish/Stevens on equal points (1312pts), with the Denmeades third (1100pts), Arentz/Burrey fourth (1056pts), and O’Connor/Sutcliffe tied for fifth with Keith and Alex Morling (659pts).

The Australian Tarmac Championship, which is largely based around the alpine regions of north-east Victoria, now takes a break for the winter months and returns to the same region for the Great Tarmac Rally on October 26 – 27, with the fourth and final round, the Snowy River Sprint, on November 23 – 24.

Mountain Motorsports wishes to thank all the competitors, the tireless work of the RaceSolutions volunteers, medical officers and officials, RallySafe Status Awareness Systems, Elevation 423 for hosting the social evenings and finishing ceremony, and the people of Marysville and the Marysville Tourist Committee and Murrindindi Shire for allowing this fabulous event to flourish.
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