Bathurst Rally lives up to its reputation
- 27th May 2009, 12:12pm
Bitterly cold and wet weather greeted the crews in the Sunny Corner State Forest north of Bathurst. With last years event winner and current series champion Brad Goldsbrough absent as he was competing in the Rally of Otago in New Zealand the prize was up for grabs for many drivers and theoretically and historically any one of the 48 starters could have taken out the event, as it would take a consistent and measured drive to come out on top after nearly 240km's over 13 Stages over 2 days.
The field were lead out from the start at the car park of the long time event sponsor Bathurst RSL by local driver Gareth Morgan-Thomas who was among a number of drivers being touted as a favourite for the win. But it was clear from the start of the first stage that it was going to be a tough day of competition when the weather set in, with rain, freezing cold winds and fog rolling in over the first 2 stages making it quite slippery and difficult for some of the drivers further down the field.
One such team to hit problems on the opening stage were Gerard Gotch & Kate Murphy in their Subaru WRX. Just over 7km's into the first stage the car slid wide on a fast right hander, tipping over the edge of the road and rolling into a tree. Luckily with the help of the recovery crews they were able to get the car back onto the road, and after being checked out at the service park to ensure the vehicle was still safe to continue, they were able to make it to the 2nd Stage albeit without any side windows. The pair completed every stage after that to finish in a very commendable 28th outright earning them the Ray Giffin Encouragement Award which is an award that AMSAG present to a team that show great tenacity despite being faced with adversity throughout each event.
At the lunchtime meal break it was proving to be a hard fought battle at the top of the field in both the Classic and Modern categories.
At the head of the Classic category was Chris & Olivia Schofield from Jayke Skeffington/Mark Patroni in 2nd with Jim Middleton/Michelle Thomson a V6 Commodore close behind in 3rd with Jack Wightman/Jim Gleeson well within striking distance only 46 seconds behind in 4th. Schofield was always going to be hard to beat in his own backyard, but Skeffington was throwing everything he had into catching him, showing the same display of speed that was evident in the first round this year. The Datsun 1600 of Bill Brown/Trent Murphy struck troubles rolling gently off the road, although not causing much damage it effectively put them out of contention due to the time taken to get back on to the road.
In the Open Category brothers Michael & Chris Long, from Sydney in their Subaru Legacy were proving that the potential this team has shown in the past years is starting to come to the fore and they should be considered a threat to take out the title this year. After showing consistent speed and determined driving, "Longy" was ahead of Leigh Gotch and Roger Pederson by over 2 minutes, a further 2 minutes behind in 3rd were Gareth Morgan-Thomas & Matt Ruggles who had Carlos Casmiri/Tommi Flegl nipping at their heals in their Mitsubishi Evo4 only 26 seconds behind in 4th.
At the end of the first day of competition it was Chris Schofield in the lead of the Classics by just under 5 minutes from Jack Wightman who had made a storming run in the afternoon stages to jump ahead of both Jim Middleton and Jayke Skeffington who ended the day in 3rd & 4th respectively, with Richard Troupe/Russell Hannah in their Mazda RX2 overcoming mechanical issues as well as a few bent rims to finish the day in 5th. The surprise drive of the day was Bryan Price/Patrick Doolan who finished the day in 6th after starting as car 38, they would start the 2nd day just under 3 minutes behind Troupe/Hannah only 30 seconds behind Price was Mark Bramble/Michael Bannon bringing their Mitsubishi Galant home in 8th place.
The Modern Category was being dominated by the Long brothers with a lead of just under 4 minutes at the end of the 9 stages of day 1, lying in 2nd was Morgan-Thomas who had overcome a number of overshoots and mechanical issues to stay ahead of Carlos Casmiri in 3rd with the thundering V8 Skyline of Mick King/Brett Maytom in a very credible 4th place, only just over a minute behind though was the magnificent sounding BMW of Mark Callinan/Matt Wilson in 5th. Gerald Schofield brought his Mitsubishi Evo 6 home in 5th after losing his navigator due to sickness and having to draft in another navigator to take his place at one of the service breaks.
There was a complete reversal in conditions from the first day, with bright sunshine breaking through to dry up the stages and open the event right up for any one of the top 10 in each of the Classic and Modern fields to make up valuable time, with only minutes separating the top 5 in each category, a flat tyre, mechanical issue or off road excursion could cost a place or even the win.
In the Classic Category Chris Schofield stormed out of the blocks on the first stage which was 35km's long setting a very competitive time, which was even 10 seconds faster then that of Michael Long in the Modern Category. Bill Brown made a comeback setting second fastest time only 1 second faster then Jayke Skeffington. Another driver to make a charge on the first stage was Mark Bramble in the Galant who set 4th fastest stage time after catching Price in the Stanza with 3km's left in the stage and passing both Richard Troupe with a flat tyre and Jack Wightman with engine trouble moving them up to 5th overall.
With only 2 stages remaining Chris & Olivia Schofield managed to hold off the rest of the Classic field to take a fantastic home event win 6 1/2 minutes clear of Jayke Skeffington in 2nd place. Jim Middleton & Michelle Thomson brought home their Holden Commodore in 3rd place a further 58 seconds behind with Mark Bramble & Michael Bannon 4 1/2 minutes behind in 4th place. Bryan Price & Patrick Doolan finished a very credible 5th in their Datsun Stanza.
The Modern Category would end up being dominated by Michael & Chris Long, the brothers ended up finishing the event just over 5 minutes ahead of Gareth Morgan-Thomas & Matt Ruggles with Carlos Casmiri & Tommi Flegl coming home in 3rd place after a very competitive and consistent drive. Mark Callinan & Matt Wilson ended up in 4th after a committed run through the second days 3 stages, Mick King & Brett Maytom brought their V8 Skyline home in 5th holding off Gerald Schofield in the Evo6 coming in 6th by 18 seconds.
A huge thanks needs to go to all of the officials for dealing with some atrocious conditions over the weekend. Thanks also to Event Director and Club President Dave Atchison for putting on another great Rally of Bathurst. And finally a big thankyou to all of the event sponsors including Bathurst RSL and Hi-tech Mufflers, and our Series sponsor Pipe King.
To see photos taken at the event by Geoff Benson and Mitch Brown please go to the Photo Gallery on our website:- AMSAG Photo Gallery - www.amsag.com.au
Also to listen to some interviews with the drivers at the post event lunch please go to the Audio Files section of the website:- Driver Interviews - www.amsag.com.au
For competitors interested in upcoming AMSAG events as part of the 2009 Pipe King Rally Series, the next event will be the Cowra Services Club Rally on 12th & 13th September.
You can also fin d more information about the club at the website AMSAG website
1. Schofield/Schofield Datsun 1600
2. Skeffington/Patroni Datsun 1600
3. Middleton/Thomson Holden Commodore
A. Flint/Dowsett Datsun 120Y
B. Hilton/Parker Datsun Stanza
C. Price/Doolan Datsun Stanza
D. Bramble/Bannon Mitsubishi Galant
1. Long/Long Subaru Legacy
2. Morgan-Thomas/Ruggles Subaru WRX
3. Casmiri/Flegl Mits. Lancer Evo4
OT4 Schofield/White Mitsubishi Evo6
O2R Callinan/Wilson BMW
1. Caruana/McMinn Holden Commodore
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