Bathurst RSL Rally preview
- 14th May 2009, 9:53am
The Bathurst RSL Rally of Bathurst, the second round of the 2009 Pipe King Rally Series, will take place this weekend, May 16 and 17, in the Sunny Corner State Forest, just north of Bathurst.
The roads around Sunny Corner have a reputation of being tough on both man and machine with both rough sections, which can be car breaking, as well as fast flowing roads to test the nerves of the crews. These roads can vary in the stage several times to really test the driver's skill at knowing when to push for a good stage time and when to back off to preserve the car. With 230 km of competitive stages, this event will challenge even the best of drivers.
One of the great features of the Bathurst RSL Rally of Bathurst is the centralised service park with it's own spectator point, giving service crews the opportunity to see their cars in action, as well as the fact the event organisers have made good use of the forests with a compact layout allowing for three spectator points on Saturday and two spectator points on Sunday. With each of the Saturday stages being run twice, an avid spectator could see most of the field up to five times over the weekend.
You can throw the form guide out for this event as the current series champion and winner of last year's Rally of Bathurst, Brad Goldsbrough, will be absent from this event. After a dominating drive in testing conditions in Round 1, Brad will be heading over to the land of the long white cloud, competing in the Rally of Otago in New Zealand in his giant killing Datsun 1600 on the same weekend.
Another regular AMSAG competitor, Jeff David, will also be heading over in his immaculately presented Porsche to take on the best there is in classic rallying at the moment. This leaves the door wide open for a number of drivers to knock 'Goldy' off the top of the current championship ladder.
The favourite contenders for this year's outright event win would have to be the local drivers Gareth Morgan-Thomas in a Subaru WRX, and Chris Schofield in a Datsun 1600. With Chris living in Sunny Corner, the rally is in his backyard and he will be looking to go one better then his second place last year. However, as always, there will a large mass of fast drivers ready to take up the challenge.
The Classic category at Bathurst consists of a number of competitors looking to capitalise on the absence of Goldsbrough. As well as Chris Schofield, Bill Brown in his immaculately prepared Datsun 1600 and young Newcastle driver, Mark Bramble, in a Mitsubishi Galant, will be looking to continue their strong run from Round 1, with Bramble looking like a dark horse for outright contention in the Classic category after some teething problems plagued the Galant last season.
Another outright contender is Jack Wightman with Jim Gleeson sitting beside him in the Datsun 260Z. Jack has made a remarkable return to rallying with very competitive results in the Southern Mountains Rally before mechanical failure caused some delays. Jack was also sitting well inside the top 10 at the Jenolan Rally before he decided to withdraw due to poor visibility in the horrendous fog.
Jayke Skeffington will make a return after a very impressive debut at the Rally of Jenolan. He will also look to make it to the finish after bad luck struck him out on the last stage of the night at Rally of Jenolan
The Open Series will once again be an interesting battle between the modern 2WD and 4WD vehicles, with Gareth Morgan-Thomas and Matt Ruggles starting as favourite in their Subaru WRX. The local knowledge should serve as a large benefit as they try to hold back the tough field of Modern Class vehicles.
With Leigh Gotch and his father, Gerard, running their Subaru WRX's, Michael Long in his Subaru Legacy, Gerald Schofield and John Joyner in their Mitsubishi Evo's, as well as Mark Callinan in the beautiful BMW, Morgan-Thomas will have plenty of challengers.
Although this is not a round of the new Rookie Series introduced by AMSAG this year, there is still a strong contingent of Rookie Series drivers, with Jayke Skeffington, Jarrod Gotch, Anthony Campbell, Tim Joass and Robert Alexander all showing up looking to gain valuable experience which will help make the Rookie Series all the more tougher at the next event of the series, the Rally of Oberon, later this year.
Spectator information is available via the AMSAG website www.amsag.com.au.
Competitors interested in upcoming AMSAG events as part of the 2009 Pipe King Rally Series can also find information about the club at the website.
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