This weekend’s Bathurst Rally is shaping up to be one of the most hotly contested NSW rallies in a long time.
It’s Round 5 of the MTA NSW Rally Championship and because the series is conducted over 6 rounds and 12 heats, teams can afford to drop their two worst heat results because only the best 10 heat results count.
There are 26 quality entries for this Rally, but the outright NSW championship is a battle between four very fast Mitsubishi Lancer EVO’s, with what could be considered the fastest four drivers outside the ARC.
JJ Hatton in an EVO 9 leads the championship on 259 points and has finished the most heats out of all the drivers. He is affectionately known as “the mad Irishman” because of his flamboyant driving style, but he has had to reign that in this season and focus on consistency and finishing well, and with great results.
However, whilst Hatton leads the championship with co-driver Nathan Long in the opposite seat,
on corrected results so far (best 6 out of 8 heats), he actually sits back down in fourth. But because he has finished well in 7 of the 8 heats so far contested, he is the only driver who can afford a bad heat result at the Bathurst Rally without it affecting his chances of winning the championship.
The corrected points will be what is interesting to the outside observer, and what the teams will all be focussed on at Bathurst with just five points separating the four EVO teams. The other three Lancer EVO’s in the hunt for the championship win have all had two heats where they scored zero points, so none of them can afford to have a bad heat result at Bathurst.
Queenslander Glenn Brinkman has been doing both the Queensland and NSW rally championships. But with Bathurst on the same weekend as a Qld Championship round, Brinkman and co-driver is Harvey Smith have had to choose a championship and the choice is NSW!
Brinkman didn’t do the second round of the NSW championship, so he needs to do Bathurst and do well if he wants to win the series. He has won the last two rounds, which puts him into the lead on corrected points.
Tim Wilkins is the youngest of the four drivers vying for a spot on the podium and he won the first round of the MTA NSW Championship which was held in a forestry area close by in the Oberon and Jenolan district. This rally should be good for him as the roads are very similar as well as him loving this style of blind rally event. He is likely to be on the pace and is giving the NSW championship a big effort after upgrading from a 2WD car last year. He’ll be joined by regular co-driver Jim Gleeson.
Tom Clarke won round 2, but didn’t go to round 4 as he was holidaying in Europe. That means he must finish well at Bathurst if he wants to win the championship. He and Hatton share servicing and pit areas and there is a lot of banter between the two drivers both at the event and in the lead up.
Clarke and Co-driver Ryan Preston have been very quick all year and have usually been faster than Hatton and Wilkins, but struggled to keep up with Brinkman at the Border Ranges Rally.
Thomas Dermody is in a Ford Escort and is Leading the 2WD NSW Championship and also leading the East Coast Classic Rally Series (ECCRS), held in conjunction with the MTA NSW Championship. Dermody has a significant lead in the ECCRS and just has to finish this round well and he will be unbeatable. He is very fast in the 2WD Ford and has been finishing in the top 5 at most events, often setting faster stage times than the 4WD’s around him with co-driver Eoin Moynihan.
The Bathurst Rally will be held in the Sunny Corner Forests on the 22ndSeptember 2018 and is organised by the Nissan Datsun Drivers Club – NDDC.
For more details on the rally, head over to Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/rallynsw/Or the Rally NSW Website:http://www.rallynsw.com.au/Video updates will be posted throughout the event and in the days after the rally:http://www.rallynsw.com.au/videos/
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