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For Grant Denyer and Dale Moscatt, the Lake Mountain Sprint Tango was a chance to showcase their abilities when teamed with Protecnica Racing and Subaru Motorsport. Setting two top three stage times during what was only his sixth day of pacenoted rallying showed that Denyer’s talents as a driver aren’t limited to the track, and his future in this sport also seems assured.

Following Thursday’s reconnaissance, the big question was the weather. With 110 competitive kilometres to cover over 11 stages, weather conditions could make all the difference but not even the Protecnica team quite expected the mix of weather which eventuated, even with the former ‘Sunrise’ weatherman on board. Friday was warmer and saw the tarmac affected by the heat, while Saturday saw snow and Sunday topped off the weekend with morning rain and thick fog.

From the start of the event Grant and Dale went out strongly and surprised everyone, scoring fourth fastest on Stage one while setting a time just 0.9 of a second behind triple Australian Rally Champion, Cody Crocker. Eventual winners, Allan Simonsen and Ben Searcy, were quick to dominate in their 2006 Mitsubishi Evo-9, with Jason and John White in their Lamborghini next, just ahead of Cody Crocker and Ben Atkinson.

Thanks to the unpredictability of rallying, Stage two wasn’t to prove quite as successful for Grant and Dale. The tarmac surface was giving way due to the heat, and around the time Grant selected third gear on their first trip up to full speed, the car suddenly snapped round, spun 180 degrees and headed off into a ditch, collecting a sign post on the way through. With the resulting two punctures, the team had to wait to be recovered and lost around nine minutes when they were allocated a time of 14 minutes flat, as happened to all stage non-finishers during the event.

Many of the following crews almost came unstuck in the same place, even with Grant and Dale waving a warning. “It was a dramatic start. I think I broke the record for crashing, joked Grant, just eight seconds into a stage! But at least eight of the next 10 people through almost did the same thing, including the lucky eventual winner, Simonsen, so I don’t feel so bad. I just did it better!”

The team returned after the short midday service to earn 10th fastest on Stage three and eighth on Stage four before heading into the final full service of the day. “The Protecnica guys did a great job getting the car back together for us so we could continue this afternoon,” Moscatt commented.

“They replaced a couple of rear suspension components just to get us back out there for those last two stages and then they went back over the car again when they had more time that night. We lost a bit of time on those last two stages as we didn’t want to take any unnecessary risks with the car not quite being 100% after our little excursion, but once the guys had time to work on it again later, it was spot on again,” explained Dale.

Saturday saw a complete weather change, with snow the order of the day. On the first of four stages for the day, it was Eli Evans and Chris Murphy who were the quickest in the tricky conditions with their 2005 WRX. Denyer and Moscatt were sixth on this stage and seventh on the next before heading for the midday service. From here the duo took two fifth places over the remaining two stages for Saturday.

“This is a totally new direction in motorsport for me,” Denyer said. “I think rallying is more relaxing than other forms of motorsport but it’s also very challenging at the same time. For me it’s like every boy racer’s dream, the licence to compete flat out on a secure closed road with no speed limits. It’s fantastic!”

Sunday morning dawned for the final 30 kilometres of competition. This is where Grant and Dale truly made their mark to finish third fastest on stage in the thick fog, behind Allan Simonsen as the pair maintained their commitment.

“I was very happy with how Grant drove and with how quickly he’s got used to pace notes,” said Dale, “Even after that little incident we just focussed on sticking to our game plan“. The car was really great today in the wet. It wasn’t handling quite as well with the higher lateral loadings in the dry, as it was still a little out of shape from our off-road modifications but in the wet it worked perfectly.”

“We have proved this weekend that we can run fast and at the front of the field. It was very challenging in the fog though and I loved it, but when we got to the end of the stage I said to Grant, ‘How good was that?” At 200 plus kilometres per hour, the conditions required maximum focus for anyone. You really had to concentrate and stay completely focused. It was so difficult to see anything. I was pretty happy to get to the end of that one!”

The final stage came early in the afternoon and the pair were fifth quickest. Due to losing time after the incident on Friday, denyer and Moscatt were back in 19th overall, but by deducting the lost time of 9 minutes this would have seen them as high as fifth. While the overall results might not be as high as they would have liked, their stage times definitely took everyone by surprise.

“This has been a fantastic chance to fulfil a boyhood dream for me,” said Grant. “Today is only my sixth day of tarmac rallying. I have never done a full rally until now because I have always had shared drives in the past because of my media commitments.

“Subaru Motorsport has big ambitions and it was a great opportunity for us to get in there and showcase what we can do in one of their customer-spec cars. This car is now nearly identical to the new Subaru Motorsport Sti tarmac packages, we made a few small changes with my preferences in regards to the set up for this event and as we progressed and I understood the way the car works a little better. I think we showed not only how competitive we are but how easily this package can be to drive for outright contention,” Grant said.

“Not only has this been a great chance for myself and Dale to showcase what we can do together, it has also been a great chance for Subaru Motorsport to see how well Protecnica Racing works and hopefully this will be the start of bigger and better things for the team.”

The Lake Mountain Sprint Tango is part of the 2007 Mountain Sprint Series. The next event on the series calendar will be a second run of the Lake Mountain Sprint on May 12 & 13, followed by the final of the three events, at Mt Buller on November 3 - 5. A holiday to Thailand for four people is on offer for the series winner. For more information on the 2007 Mountain Sprint Series, check out the website at www.mountainmotorsports.com.au

For further information on this event please go to: www.lakemountainsprint.com

Final Results:-
1 Allan Simonsen / Ben Searcy – 2006 Mitsubishi Evo
2 Eli Evans / Chris Murphy – 2005 Subaru WRX
3 Jason White / John White - Lamborghini Gallardo
4 Cody Crocker / Ben Atkinson – 2006 Subaru WRX
5 Drew Jorgensen / George Jorgensen – Nissan GTR Skyline
19 Grant Denyer / Dale Moscatt – 2004 Subaru WRX

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