The third round of the NSW State Rally Championship, the Bay Stages, was run on  Saturday on the roads around Batemans Bay, and for the second year in a row a local  crew won.

Last year Ulladulla driver Kelvin Croker stormed through the final stage  to steal the win from his brother, Gavin. However this year Kelvin was not in the event,  so Gav was hoping for a good clean run and took his first state round win in his  Lancer Evo III.

The Bay Stages Rally had 55 starters, including 13 beginners in a separate  event run in conjunction with the NSW State Championship Bay Stages. The winner of the Murramarang Meander, as the beginner's event was known, was Adam Grove and Rob Parsonage  in a Datsun 1600.

However, the third round of the NSW State Championship was the main  event.   Championship leaders Michael Boaden and Helen Cheers (Lancer Evo VII), were expected to be the main opposition for the local crew, but early on the leader of the event was  Sydney's Darren 'Dasha' Williams and Andrew Benefield in the ex-Ralliart works Lancer  Evo III.

“I'm starting to feel more comfortable with the car now, driving it harder,  and I'm less hesitant with it. It's great fun,” Williams said. He had to push hard to keep his  lead and on the 15.8km Old Ironbark stage, the lead went back to Croker.  

The next battle was between Boaden/Cheers and Williams/Benefield for second. After six  stages Boaden couldn't understand his lack of pace, however on the 32km Western  Distributor stage he took almost a minute out of Williams and that was that. Williams  was happy with third though, in a car that he has only driven twice before.

Boaden was  disappointed with the lights on his car for the long stage, but continued to take time  from Williams, who backed off for the last two stages.  

The ACT Series battle was decided on stage 6, as the leaders of that event up to  then, Mark Sessions and Martino Ellero, crashed out in their Lancer Evo III. “We came  through a left-right and didn't pick up on the tight right, and off we went - front and  rear damage, definitely a reshell. But I'm happy with two second fastest times,” mused Sessions afterwards. 

This left the ACT battle to Richard Leitis and Robert Mules in Leitis' immaculate  Lancer Evo II, and fourth place outright for the day. “We were getting hosed by Mark  and a few others, but fourth is a good result for us here,” Leitis said.  

Only 38 seconds seperated fourth from fifth, an ex-Boaden Lancer Evo VI driven by John  Stilling and Frank Brookhouse filled that placing, as well as second in the ACT series. 

Sixth, after what must simply be described as a sensational drive, was the  youngest of the three Croker brothers, Clinton.   Clinton has been driving the 'family' Datsun 180B for some time, and this event was the  first to see he and co-driver Clyde Green campaign the newly purchased ex-David Hills  Lancer Evo III.

“The first stage was the first time I drove the car on gravel,”  he revealed with a grin. It didn't show, with the equal sixth fastest  time in that 9.14km stage! A steady drive saw no real dramas unfold and sixth outright,  and first Group N car home, was a fine result. Look out Kelvin and Gav, there is now  more competition from inside your own family!  

Joint winners were found in the front of the 2WD series battle, with the Datsun 1600 of  Claude Murray and Lizzie Ferme and the Mazda RX7 turbo of John Waterhouse and Andrew  Crawford dead heating for the position. “We've had an awesome day,” enthused Claude at the  end of the final stage!'

John was pushing hard too,  knowing the result was close. “We had about three near offs in there!” he admitted at  the finish. They both won their respective classes however, with Claude taking P3,  whilst John was the first home in class P4.  

The event was also a part of the Hyundai Excel series, and the winners were Glenn Farrant  and Jason Wood. The pair finished 23rd outright, not bad for what  is essentially a standard Excel with very limited modifications.

They also picked  up the class P2 win, after seeing off the two Charade de Tomasos that had been chasing  for the whole day.  

The NSW Rally Championship, the North Shore Sporting Car Club and all the officials and  competitors would like to thank those in the Batemans Bay area, residents, local  officials and everyone involved who once again made the Bay Stages, and the first  Murramarang Meander, a success.  

Final results:
1.    G. Croker / E. Croker, Lancer Evo 3, 1h21m38s
2.    M. Boaden / H. Cheers, Lancer Evo 7, +1m01s
3.    D. Williams / A. Benefield, Lancer Evo 3, +2m30s
4.    R. Leitis / R. Mules, Lancer Evo 1, +2m48s
5.    J. Stilling / F. Brookhouse, Lancer Evo 1, +3m26s
6.    C. Croker / C. Green, Lancer Evo 3, +3m37s
7.    P. Leicht / P. Morley, Lancer Evo 3, +3m53s
8.    S. Slade / C. Constantine, Lancer Evo 4, +4m15s
9.    C. Murray / L. Ferme, Datsun 1600, +5m04s
9. J. Waterhouse / A. Crawford, Mazda RX7, +5m04s

Photos: Neil Blackbourn

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