The NSW state rally series finally kicked off on Saturday May 12 with the running of the inaugural Sydney Car Auctions Rally of Lithgow. Run by the North Shore Sporting Car Club, the event was the result of the decision to have at least two pacenoted events in 2007, and the fact that the club’s clubman event in 2006, the Shakedown Rally, was pace noted. So on a clear but chilly day, the rough and rocky roads near Oberon saw the first battle of the season between a strong field of competitors.

Kelvin Croker had a new co-driver in his Lancer Evo 3, Jamie Neale, as Dale Moscatt is competing on the ARC and NSWRC this year with Molly Taylor. The pair raced away on the first loop of four stages, the first of two stages that had been reccied in the morning. ‘We had no real dramas in the morning, but then again I hadn’t driven since Rally of Queensland last year, so it had been a while between events!’ explained Kelvin.

A three minute lead meant that the second, night time loop of four stages saw Kelvin back off, but the three-minute lead was almost not enough for the Lancer, seeded car 1, to stave off the charging Michael Boaden and Helen Cheers. The Wauchope brother and sister combination had cruised through the first loop of stages to go to the night stages fourth.

“We didn’t really do anything different – I adjusted the driving lights a little from how we have had them in the past (a little higher) but we wanted to protect the car for the trip to Bega in four weeks time,” Boaden said afterwards. However, they went from fourth to second and were less than 40 seconds behind at the finish.

Third place was hard fought between Darren Williams and Grant Geelan in the ex-Ralliart Evo III, Brian van Eck and Nigel Bland in the ex-Darren Gee Evo III, and Boaden/Cheers. Just as it looked as though van Eck had third in the bag, he ended up stranded and out of the event.

With second place in his keeping, Williams lost time steadily but despite not a known night driver, he seemed pretty happy with fourth at the end of the event. Third ended up being the property of Gavin and Eric Croker in the other Croker Motorsport yellow and red Evo III after a tough day which saw them bend three wheel rims.

Glenn Brinkman and Steve Richardson made the 11-hour trip from Brisbane for the rally, with the Evo IX that the pair had debuted in Rally Queensland recently. After seeing the roads on the morning recce, Brinkman made the decision to conserve the car, and fifth was the result. As the pair are to compete for the rest of the season in the NSWRC in the car (the next event is only a month away in Bega), the decision was probably a good one, however it will be interesting to see how Glenn’s pace compares to the NSWRC regulars.

One of those regulars was the team of Steve Slade and Con Constantine and their Evo IV Lancer. The pair had a noisy day with something broken on the exhaust which cost some power, but they still took sixth, just behind the latest version of their car.

The new model Evo IX of Brinkman was not the only one on the rally though, with the new car of David Hills running well and leading Group N for the first four stages until it retired. Hills won this event last year in his Evo VII, so his DNF was a shame.

Frank Barker had a last minute stand-in, 2005 NSWRC co-driving champion Kam Baker. Despite their similar names confusing people, Barker and Baker were clearly not that confused in the car and the Search for a Rally Star Evo VII came home in seventh. Eighth, and winning class P3, was the ‘old dunger’ (his words) of Claude Murray and Lizzy Ferme. Always entertaining, and always quick, Claude and Lizzy had a ball putting many more technologically advanced cars behind them.

Andrew Williamson had a new co-driver, Roger Pederson, in the hot seat for this event in the ex-Goldsbrough Impreza. Ninth, after what he later described as a conservative drive, was a good start to Andrew’s season, while tenth was a giant killing result for David Nightingale and Mathew James in the ex-van Eck Corolla.

Class winners included Mathew and Karen Martin in the Datsun 240K, who took 13th outright after a battle with Nathan Quinn and Bruce Tyler, who ended up out of late time after a battle with various P4 runners. Glenn Farrant and Anna Ritson had to be on their game with high profile P2 (and Excel Series) competitors, including Ed Ordynski and Iain Stewart, and they responded with the P2 win and 15th outright.

In between Farrant and Ordynski were Darren Blair and Amy Stevens, who won Group N and took 16th outright. Blair’s car was rebuilt after a huge accident at Rally Queensland and was only completed the Thursday before the rally. Then regular co-driver, Jim Gleeson, suddenly could not compete in the days leading up to the rally, so Amy Stevens stepped in at the last minute.

Five Classic cars started the rally, with the winners also coming from Queensland. Richard Galley and Barrie Burr took the win in their bright green 240Z, and memories were either made or rekindled with the return to the sport of Ian Hill and his beautiful new Escort Mk II BDA. Co-driven by Phil Bonser, the pair took second in the first run for the long-term project Escort, which sounds fantastic. And an honourable mention for the immaculate Porsche 911 of Jeff David and John Doble. What a car and what a sound!

The next event on the calendar for the NSWRC competitors is the joint Victorian round of the series on the June long weekend at Bega. Get down and see it - the shire roads may not be in use for too much longer!


NSW Rally Championship footage 

Classics and rear-wheel drive footage 

Photos by Neil Blackbourn

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