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Lakes Entrance, in south-eastern Victoria, plays host to the oldest motor sport event on the Australian calendar, the Alpine Rally, on November 24 & 25. The Alpine is an event steeped in history, and to be an Alpine Rally winner carries with it a significant part of that history.

Wayne Bell is also significant in the history of the sport. He is one of Australia’s most prominent rally stars from the past, and is the latest to join the list of champions registered to compete in this premier, gravel rally for classic cars.  Bell will drive the same Fiat 131 Abarth Rallye that he used in the Bega Valley Rally earlier in the year.

In the 80’s Bell drove a Fiat 131 for the team run by Sydney Fiat specialist, Ross Smith, but the car he drove then was very standard compared to the car he will use this time. He was a team mate to Greg Carr, who used an ex works Fiat 131 Abarth, but the car Wayne had to drive was no match for the Abarth.

“It would have been good to be on equal terms, I wish Ross had given me something like this all those years ago,” was how Wayne remembered the period.  

“I am not sure how we will fare, the Alpine has always been hard to win, but I will say that we will definitely be trying. We’ll give it a go alright, but I do know some old mates from the past like Geoff Portman and David Officer will be very hard to beat, especially in the Victorian forests. Recently I witnessed first hand how quick some of the younger guys like Darryn Snooks and Jeff David are in these cars,” Bell added.

Ross remembers those earlier Alpines as well, especially that Greg Carr was able to lead every Alpine he competed in with the Fiat Abarth, but was never able to convert that to victory.

“The same happened in 2005 with Shawn Urquhart driving the car in the last Alpine – he had a sizable lead on the second last stage of Saturday night, after leader Brian Semmens punctured on the long 60 kilometre stage, but then they fell off the road. I think we and the Fiat are long overdue for an Alpine victory.”

The 2007 Alpine has more than 420km of day and night stages in the Great Dividing Range, and like rallies of old, no reconnaissance or pace notes are permitted. It is expected that there will be 110 crews taking part, meaning that at least 2500 people will converge on the Lakes Entrance region.

Hopefully it will help in some small way the economies of that area which suffered so much during the bushfires and floods earlier this year.

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