This year's Darling 200 Rally was a cracker!The final round of the WA Clubman Series would not only be the last rally for 2009, it would also be the decider for the championship too.

Amongst the 27 two wheel drive only cars, several had a chance of taking the rally's trophy, however four drivers needed a high finish to clinch the Clubman Cup for 2009. Kevin Sleep (Honda Civic) led Geoff Leatt-Hayter (Ford Escort MK II), Travis White (Daihatsu Charade) and Julian Wright (Datsun 1200) in the points. The Darling 200 had just six special stages run through the forests of Jarrahdale to the southwest of Perth, with a mixture of tight, twisty and open sections.

Lee McIlroy/Ash Ridden, who had run so successfully in their Spec C WRX in the State Championship this year, swapped into a red Mazda RX7 and started as car 1 on the loose gravel roads. The pair would become road sweeper for the other cars, however they set some respectable stage times during the day. Next into the forest was Kevin Sleep, this time co-driven by Ashley Burton. The pair also found that they were acting as road sweeper for the first few stages.

By the mid point service, the results were interesting and showed just how determined all the competitors were. Travis White/Ben Searcy were clinging onto a three second lead to Geoff Leatt-Hayter/Tammy Adams. Third was Kiel Douglas/Anthony Paynter in the Big V8 Commodore with Sleep/Burton fourth.

Leatt-Hayter/Adams thought they could mount a charge for the outright win, however a bent sway bar (from an altercation with a suspicious rock laying in the road) would hamper their efforts. Douglas/Paynter also found it difficult later in the afternoon when the Commodore lost third gear. It meant tackling corners much faster in fourth gear or screaming the 5L V8 on the rev limiter in second! Wright/Huggins ended their rally on SS4, putting the yellow Datsun off the road.

Whilst accidents were few and minor, some had mechanical dramas. Matt Snaddon/David Drummond (Toyota Corolla) and Will Zwart/Tanya Gay (Datsun 1600) had over-heating dramas ending their rallies early and Matt/Duncan Nicholas slipped off the road several times in their Toyota Levin, however they did make the finish.

After six special stages, everyone eagerly awaited the results. Daniel Adams/Dianna Madlener (Celica) were 10th, Jack Flanagan/David Abetz were 9th, after beaching their Nissan Sunny GTi earlier in the day and Leo Iriks/Paul Helm brought their Ford Escort to 8th. Gary Whittle/Ryan Doe had a trouble free drive and took 7th place behind Nick King/Chris Jarvinen-King in another Escort in 6th. McIlroy/Ridden brought the RX7 home in 5th and Sleep/Burton grabbed 4th by just one second. Douglas/Paynter held onto 3rd place, with Leatt-Hayter/Adams 2nd and White/Searcy in first place.
Travis White had done all he could by winning the Darling 200, however Kevin Sleep finished with enough points to ensure his Clubman title for the year. It was a great end to the season with a year of change for many, including the face of rallying in WA.

Already plans are being laid by organisers and committees for next year's rally season. Teams' thoughts now will most likely be focussing on presentation dinners and functions as the end of the year draws nearer. No doubt next year will see a change of cars and teams as plans to contest 2010 emerge.
Karl Drummond

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