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The Bega Valley Motors Rally was run under blue skies and mild weather on the Queen’s Birthday weekend around the NSW south coast town of Bega, and saw the traditional interstate challenge between NSW and Victorian competitors. The final result changed the NSW Rally Championship standings after the two rounds run so far, with the current leader exiting the rally on the first stage.

The battle at the front of the field was to be between the Croker brothers, Gavin and Kelvin, in their Mitsubishi Lancer Evo III’s, and Michael Boaden and Helen Cheers in the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VII. Justin Dowel and Matt Lee from Victoria, the current leaders of the Victorian championship, were also represented in their Evo VIII, while Mike Fawcett and Simon Ellis entered their Subaru Impreza WRX.

However the Croker challenge faded quickly, with Kelvin and co-driver Dale Moscatt free to do other things when their engine let go on Stage 1. Gavin and Eric Croker retired after stage four after an adventurous night rebuilding the Mitsubishi’s engine after a head gasket failure at scrutineering on Saturday night but they were out when the pair hit a white marker post and then a tree with the rear of the car. Both crew members were fine, however the third Croker competing, Clinton, had a turbo failure after a strong top ten run.

But no-one was going to catch the winners, Boaden and Cheers. Their day wasn't all their own way however, with the pair clearing a large stump from one stage with the doors on Helen's side of the Lancer and then having a scare with an oncoming car on the final stage. Their stage times did not suffer though, and they now lead the NSW Championship again.

With the Crokers out, the other running was taken up by Brian van Eck, who had Jim Gleeson alongside him this time out. The pair had a steady run all day, and despite an engine misfire and a exhaust manifold problem, the Lancer Evo III ended the event second outright. Behind him came the red Evo VIII of Victoria’s Justin Dowel, making up for a DNF on the first round of his state championship, with a full points haul at Bega. Thirteen seconds was all that separated him from van Eck and Gleeson.

Fourth, after what he described as a steady run, were Mike Fawcett and Simon Ellis. The rare sight of an Impreza in the top ten was followed by another, that of brother and sister crew of Victorians Jesse and Sam Robison, the Impreza replacing the Legacy they have run for some time. Their result gave them third place in the Victorian round.

Another new car, the orange and blue Lancer Evo VI of Batemans Bay driver Brad Fitzgerald and Mike Hughes, filled sixth  place. Queenslanders Glenn Brinkman and Steven Richardson had a good run until they ran short of fuel about 10km from the end of the final stage, and had to back off. The pair fell from a probable fifth or sixth place to finish seventh in their Lancer Evo IX.

On an equal time was the Datsun 1600 of Claude Murray and Lizzy Ferme. Seventh outright for the always-sideways Murray saw him win class P3, and score yet another top ten finish in a NSW state round. Trevor Stilling had a good day with Col Trinder, their black Lancer Evo V ended the event ninth and first ACT crew home, a fair result considering the fact that the car was a race car, not a rally car until the end of last year.

Tenth were Steve Slade and Con Constantine from Wauchope who  finished tenth in Steve’s Lancer Evo IV. The winner of Group N was Darren Blair and Amy Stevens in an Impreza WRX, ending up a long way ahead of their Group N opposition.

Other notable finishers included the second placed ACT crew home, Karl Willett and Nick Vardos, in 17th outright, while first in class P4 and 21st outright was the Nissan 200SX of Victorians Brian Semmens and David Leoncini. They finished one place in front of the first Hyundai Excel home, that of Paul Batten and Craig Jones who took a lot of time from their direct competition, Glenn Farrant and Anna Ritson, but the Hyundai award was for the short event (to the end of stage 7). Batten won class P2 and finished 22nd outright.

23rd outright and therefore second P2 was the Charade de Tomaso of Victorians Bill Sullivan and Jenna Kelley. Farrant and Ritson were third P2 and 25th outright with Michael Long and Aaron Topliff taking class P1 and 32nd outright in their Datsun 1200.

Winners of the Classic section of the event were  Victorians Darryn Snooks and Matt de Vaus in a Datsun Stanza, from the luckless Richard Galley and Barrie Burr in their Datsun 260Z, who had an electrical drama early on that made Snooks’ job a lot easier. Third, and rising in the popularity stakes, was the Porsche 911T of Jeff David and John Doble, the sound of the car raising interest everywhere it went.

Other notable retirements included Brett and Scott Middleton (no oil in engine), Richard Leitis and Robert Mules (head gasket) and Peter Leicht and Brett Sutherland (gearbox).

The next event in the NSW State Rally Championship will be the ecoPoint Murramarang Bay Stages, to be held in the Batemans Bay area on July 20, whilst the next Victorian Championship series event is the George Derrick on July 21.

Photos: Neil Blackbourn

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