Cars falter in tough Classic Outback Trial
- 23rd June 2016, 11:01pm
The penultimate day of the 2016 Classic Outback Trial (COT) on Thursday, saw crews take on the longest special stage in a rally event in Australia since the Horse Shoe stage during the 1975 Southern Cross Rally.
A decision had been made overnight to reinstate times from the previously cancelled Orange Creek (SS21), with a way point recording splits at the 27.27km marker prior to the sand bog which caught out so many.
Due to the adverse weather conditions leading into the event, two stages were dropped from the running on day five, leaving competitors to battle it out across three special stages, beginning with the incredible 121km Hayes Highway stage.
The Hayes Highway stage was incredible in every sense of the word. It was as long if not longer than most state championship rounds, it was a real drivers’ road with a series of crests, jumps and cambered corners, and at one point RallySafe showed all classic competitors on stage simultaneously.
At the end of completing the monster stage, crews were coming into the rendezvous with a grin from ear to ear and many couldn't find enough superlatives to describe how epic the experience was!
With the readjusted results from Orange Creek (SS21) Neil Cuthbert and Sue Evans (Datsun 200B) started the day with a slim chance of contesting for the Classic win, but needed a few things to go their way, but it was not to be, when they stopped on stage with drive line issues.
The day also ended prematurely for the Celica of Ian Reddiex/Mike Mitchell and the little Lada of Dan Murphy/Simon Pilepich when the engine expired.
Classic rally leaders Andrew and David Travis (Gazelle) experienced a differential issue but still finished second fastest to a hard-charging Andy Crane/Dave Anderson in the Peugeot 504.
There were many notable performances on the Hayes Highway stage, with former Australian Rally Champions, David and Kate Officer, finishing third in their trusty little Chrysler Galant, Volvo crew Penny Swan/Tony Robinson taking fifth and Joel Wald/Tracey Dewhurst finishing sixth after a testing debut that includef a roll on day two in their first COT adventure.
The following two stages saw Crane and local driver Phil Kerr, paired with Jenny Cole (Datsun 1600), share fastest times, as the Travis' headed into the final day with a comfortable lead of just under 20 minutes.
Cuthbert's demise lifted Crane to second with Kerr moving into third. The Officers are now in an outstanding fourth overall, with Penny Swan's Volvo rounding out the top five.
Local team HDM Motorsport experienced a tough day for their Modern competition crews with category leader Ben Kittle/Peter Williams (Commodore VR) and Chris and Blake McCormack (Magna) blowing their differentials again.
Their disasters resulted in the Subaru WRX of Peter Neal and Craig Whyburn moving into the lead with a 15 minute buffer back to Bill Monkhouse/Andrew Booker's Suzuki Vitara.
Stephen Riley/John Doble (Commodore VF Utility) extended their lead in Cross Country to just under an hour from Reg Owen and Russell Cairns in the Isuzu MU-X.
The Classic Outback Trial comes to its conclusion on day six, but not before contesting four special stages for a competitive distance of 113km, including a 67km opening stage starting in Undoolya in the east.
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