Bago 150 concludes Excel Rally Series
- 30th November 2009, 12:25pm
Series stalwart Andrei Artomonov and navigator Gleb Bonch had made the trip up from Sydney, and were looking to consolidate on a solid third place in the RaceBrakes Sydney Excel Series for 2009. Making a welcome return to the series having missed several rounds this year was David White and Paul Bailey, hoping to get back the confidence lost after crashing last outing.
Joint series leader Fro Horobin and navigator Kirrilee Gentleman needed to finish on the top of the Excel ladder at this event. Anything less would hand the drivers trophy to David Roberts, who was accruing full points for officiating at this event. But just to make Fro nervous, Matt Cullen had returned from his pre-Bateman's Bay mechanical dramas, keen for an Excel victory.
The event kicked off in the late afternoon, with temperatures in the low 30's, and competitors sweltering in the heat. But Bago isn't for the weak, starting with the 24.2km Bullsground stage. And from the start, the field was tight, with Horobin only edging Cullen by 4 seconds over the distance, and White a further 11 seconds back easing himself back into the groove. Stage 2 was the 25.83km McIvers, and Horobin found his stride in this stage, taking 30 seconds off Cullen, with White again third Excel.
Middle Brother was the final stage before the only service break in the event, and Matt and Ben Cullen took the Excel stage win. Horobin/Gentleman fell behind on this stage, having bent a rim on the previous stage and worried about a deflating right rear tyre. They dropped 9 seconds to the Cullen brothers, but managed to stay in front of White/Bailey, but only by 4 seconds.
Service was a welcome relief as all beavered away to ensure that they were ready for the impending darkness around Kendall. As the sunlight diminished, so did the breeze, and all were aware that dust would play a part in the night stages ahead.
The second running of Bullsground provided a similar result to the first, with Horobin/Gentleman gaining another 5 seconds on Cullen/Cullen. But in Stage 5 (McIvers 2), Matt and Ben Cullen pulled 7 seconds back on Horobin, with Fro complaining of terrible dust toward the end of the stage.
With only 23 seconds separating Cullen and Horobin heading into the final stage, Horobin and Gentleman knew that they had to push hard through the dust to secure an Excel victory and the title. Pushing hard in the dust in the final kilometres of the stage, they went off road on a left-hander deep in the dust. Despite the off, they had done enough earlier in the stage to gain a 9 second advantage on the stage over Matt and Ben Cullen, and secure the RaceBrakes Sydney Excel victory at the Bago 150.
The official point scores will be confirmed in the coming days, but with the results from a great Bago 150 Rally, the series ladder looks like this:
RaceBrakes Sydney 2009 NSW Excel Rally Series
=1st - Dave Roberts/Fro Horobin - 102 points
3rd - Andrei Artomonov - 79 points
1st - Kirrilee Gentleman -
2nd - Ben Cullen -
3rd - Gleb Bonch
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