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Round 7 of the East Coast Classic Rally Series (ECCRS) on October 19, in conjunction with the final round of the MTA NSW State Rally Championship, will be the Kosciuszko Automotive Monaro Stages Rally. There is already a good number of classic cars entered, but the more interesting part of the entry list are the new contenders taking on the penultimate round of the series. Heading the list of new Classic hopefuls is Stuart Bowes and Jon Thomson in a Mercedes Benz 450 SLC. This is their first attempt at an ECCRS event, but they're no strangers to classic rallying. "I've seen a couple of video clips online and have been talking with other competitors. Many of the roads have a similar feel to the Rally of the Heartland around Burra here in South Australia and the V8 Merc is well suited to them. "Wide open terrain is where the Merc can really stretch it's legs. We were lucky enough to win the Rally of the Heartland outright this year, having finished on the podium previously. So we're crossing our fingers for a clean run on the Monaro Stages in a couple of weeks," Bowes said. "It's going to be tough as I'm sure a lot of the competitors have local knowledge of the roads having driven on them for some years, however it's all totally new for us and that's part of the challenge. "The area around Cooma, Bombala and Nimitabel is just perfect for rallying and it's fabulous to think that even in these tough times for the local farmers they're willing to let us come to town and use their roads. "I can't thank them enough for the privilege and the effort the organisers and officials are putting in for our benefit." Another new team taking on their first ECCRS event is the pairing of Trevor Stilling and Colin Trinder in a Datsun Stanza. Stilling has been competing in classic events regularly for the past few years and he will be another one to watch. Leading the Series is Tom Dermody and Eoin Moynihan in a Ford Escort RS1800. They lead by a slender margin of just eight points over Robert and Wesley Gorst in a Datsun 1600. Dermody hasn't had a great year in the Escort succumbing to problems at the last two rounds. "We're in the process of putting a new engine in the car this weekend to get ready for the Monaro Stages Rally. At the last round, the Hinterland Rally in Imbil, we were hoping to finish the rally in a good position to try and secure the Series, but on the second stage the engine let go and we were out," said a disappointed Dermody.

Tom Dermody is always good to watch in his Escort RS1800.

"We were at the KCF short course Rallysprint three weeks previous to that and we went head on into a tree on the second stage and as a result we had to put a new front on the car before the Hinterland Rally. "And at round five in Bonalbo, we lost the rear wheel off the car on the second stage. So at the Monaro Stages Rally we hope to finish and keep our championship hopes aliveÖ And hopefully make it past stage two." Dermody and Moynihan also missed the Batemans Bay Round of the ECCRS, which means their lead in Series could easily change after the Monaro Stages. There is a total of 16 heats in the series, but only the best eight heat points count towards the final score. That gives Nathan Quinn and Ray Winwood-Smith in the Mazda RX2 every chance of taking the lead away from the Escort team. Quinn and Winwood-Smith finished the Hinterland Rally, the previous round of the series, in second outright scoring enough points to put them into fourth outright in the Series. The RX2 driver is no stranger to a fight, being a former winner of the Australian Rally Championship. "We weren't planning on doing Monaro till after Imbil," Quinn said. His result at the Hinterland Rally has now put him in a position where he could potentially win the ECCRS. "We'll use the Monaro Stages Rally as a final shakedown of the car before the Alpine Rally. It'll also see the last of the changes to be completed on the car. The Cooma event has plenty of competitors we can measure our changes against. "Most reliably Tom Dermody, and some of the consistent 4WD competitors in the State Series on a per kilometre analysis. Due to limited outings we've had and a few poor results in the classic Series, we need to get a better points haul to win the ECCRS at Alpine." Robert and Wesly Gorst are also entered in their Datsun 1600, and whilst they sit second on the series leader board, they'll suffer once their best eight heats are calculated. They've already finished 10 of the 12 heats, consistency rewarding them with their current position. But to stay in the series contention, they'll need to finish higher up the order and take advantage of dropping their worst round points. Peter Dimmock and Russell Hannah are third in the Series going into the Kosciuszko Automotive Monaro Stages, having consistently finished the events they have entered. Another consistent drive for them could also see them maintain their position in the series. Other ECCRS teams entered include Chris Stilling/Rae Waterhouse in a Datsun Stanza, Ron and Steve McKinnon in an LA Lancer, Mark Pickering and David Boddy in Datsun 240Z, Tony Jordan and Mick Tuckey in a Triumph Stag and Darkie Barr-Smith and Jono Forrest in a Datsun 200B. The Kosciuszko Automotive Monaro Stages Rally is based out of Cooma, NSW and is on the 19th of October. Entries for this event are still open: http://www.rallynsw.com.au/events/2019-monaro-stages/ The organisers are still accepting volunteers for officials' positions, so if you want to enter or official, head over to the Facebook Page for more info: https://www.facebook.com/monarostages/
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