Dalton returns to have fun in Coffs Harbour
- 31st August 2014, 11:07pm
Ritchie Dalton’s name has been absent from an entry list since the season opening Round in Canberra, but the Irishman marks his return at the upcoming Coates Hire Rally Australia and he’s determined to have fun in his National 4WD entered Mitsubishi Lancer.
“Rallying has taken a bit of a back seat for me this year,” explained Dalton. “I had a baby earlier in the year. Everything else kind of becomes irrelevant when you have a family. Your hobbies and interests definitely take a back seat that’s for sure.”
Dalton had started the year with a mixed result in Canberra, failing to finish the opening Heat before claiming maximum points the following day. But Dalton admitted funds, or the lack there of, had also played a large part in his recent absence from the sport.
“I had actually planned to be in South Australia and Queensland, the money though just wasn’t there and I had no choice but to take some time off. It was disappointing at the time, but I’m excited to be back for Rally Australia.”
And prior to the start of the season Ritchie had also made a major announcement, signing a deal to have Alex Gelsomino alongside him in the co-drivers seat during the year.
“Unfortunately I had to let Alex know that the plans for the year weren’t looking good. I didn’t want to hold him back, he’s a good mate and we have stayed in touch. It’s such a shame it didn’t work out but above all he’s been able to go off and find new opportunities in the WRC and the Middle East,” Ritchie said.
Dalton will instead line up at Australia’s Round of the World Rally Championship with experienced navigator John Allen alongside. “I first worked with John at Rally Australia last year, and again at Rally Victoria, and we really clicked together right from the start.”
“He get’s me, he has a feel for my driving style, and he knows when to encourage me to push and when to get me to slow down too. He’s as steady as a rock, and that gives me a lot of confidence,” continued Ritchie.
Last year’s outing at Rally Australia also proved a mixed bag for Dalton, having run second behind John Mitchell before leap frogging into the lead on the 50km Nambucca stage.
“It felt great to grab the lead on that long stage, but then on the very next stage I ran up a bank and crushed the intercooler pipe which dropped us back to second. Then on the final day, the very last stage, the intercooler pipe blew off and we dropped to third.”
Dalton is promising that the time off between Canberra and Rally Australia has allowed him to reprepare his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo to the highest standards. “It’s a bare shell right now but no question it’ll be back in shape ready for the rally. We’ve done a lot of upgrades including a brand new 6-speed Hollinger sequential gearbox.”
The National 4WD field represents one of the strongest categories at Rally Australia, with sixteen drivers in a range of Mitsubishi’s and Subaru Impreza’s lining up. Dalton though was disappointed to see 2011 Australian Rally Champion Justin Dowel had entered only to then withdraw.
“I was so excited when I saw Justin’s name on the entry list, and then so disappointed when he announced he’d withdrawn. I was really looking forward to have a good battle with him. Maybe he’ll change his mind.”
“I just can’t wait to get out there though, I just want to have some fun, that’s all that maters to me!”
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