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Queenslander Ryan Smart is aiming for a strong return to rally action when he lines his Datsun 180B up against the rampant Celica of Neal Bates at next week’s International Rally of Queensland.

It’ll mark Smart’s first appearance at an ARC Round since Coffs Harbour last year when he was an invite driver in the Side-by-Side Challenge.

“It’s been a while for sure,” laughed Smart. “I’m hoping I won’t be too rusty!”


“I had that drive at Coffs last year and before that the last ARC I competed in was Rally Victoria 2011 when I ran my Corolla,” added Smart, the event where he finished runner up to title winner Justin Dowel.

Smart is hoping that the move into the Classic category will stand him in good stead for future opportunities in the ECB ARC. “It’s important to keep your name out there, and this is a good way for me to do that in a fun and reasonably cheap form of rallying.”

Bates, a four-time Australian Champion, tagged the young Queenslander as a star of the future. Impressive results through the 2010 and 2011 seasons unfortunately gave way to a lack of funding and Smart was forced onto the sidelines.

“I attended a Rally Queensland media day earlier in the year with Neal and he asked if I was going to come out and race him. I hadn’t planned to up until then but then I got to thinking and I thought ‘why not’.”

“The car (Datsun 180B) was actually given to me at the end of 2010, and I’d only ever planned it to be a fairly basic club rally car. But like a lot of these things we got a bit carried away and it’s turned into a fairly decent classic car,” explained Ryan.

“It’s no match for Bates’ rally-weapon Celica. People keep asking if I can knock Neal off, but to be honest that’s not something I’m even thinking about. I reckon with some local experience I can take a stage win or two!”

Smart will team with young navigator Tom Ryan, son of rallyschool.com.au owner Mick Ryan. “Tom is a great guy, so enthusiastic, and if all goes well I’d really like to think I can work with him again in the future.”

The 2013 International Rally of Queensland begins with a shakedown next Friday (12th July) morning before rally-action proper gets underway at the Nambour Showground later that evening.
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