Victory in the 2019 Alpine Rally of East Gippsland has gone to Coffs Harbour Nathan Quinn after a remarkable finish to a closely fought event.
After two stages on the opening day, and all the final day's stages were cancelled because of bushfires, Saturday ended early when consistent rain became too much for the previously bone dry stages.
The cancellation of the final two stages of the day meant that competitors only contested eight of the proposed 15 tests.
It is possibly the first ever rally to have stages cancelled because of bushfires AND rain.
Driving his Mazda RX2, Quinn was in a ding-dong battle with Ben Barker and his BMW, with just 16 seconds separating the two before the final three stages.
Barker faltered, though, going off the road on the 37km SS11, ensuring Quinn took victory by nearly three minutes.
Ben Barker was battling for the lead before going off the road on SS10.
Carl Stewart picked up third place in his Datsun 1600. Photo: Peter Whitten
Queenslander Ryan Smart was on track to finish on the podium in his Datsun Stanza, but he too slid off the road in the muddy conditions and retired.
This meant Kade Barrett finished a brilliant second in his unusual Plymouth Fire Arrow, a further minute clear of the Datsun 1600 of Carl Stewart in third place.
Former winner Jack Monkhouse rolled his Datsun 180B out of the rally early in the day. The car ended on its side with major suspension damage.
Fourth place went to Luke Sytema's Ford Escort RS1800, with Craig Aggio's impressive Toyota Corolla KE30 rounding out the top five.
Sixth was Brendan Reeves after a troubled debut for his Datsun. Photo: Peter Whitten
Sixth place was Brendan Reeves who completed the event, although well off the pace he was perhaps expecting to set.
His new Datsun 1600 suffered several teething problems, including overheating engine oil, but shows plenty of promise for the future.
Other leading retirements included Alan Friend (Nissan Silvia) with engine problems, Tom Clarke with damaged front suspension in his Datsun 1600, Andrew Travis (Nissan Gazelle) and Clay Badenoch (Toyota Celica) with a blown engine.
Craig Aggio and his Toyota Corolla were a surprise packet. Photo: Peter Whitten
Despite a much shorter than expected Alpine Rally, organisers should be congratulated on putting on an event in very trying circumstances.
Friday's stages were held in thick dust, while Saturday's tests saw cars slipping and sliding off the road, with the ever-present trees close to the road a constant threat.
The event presentation will be held on Sunday afternoon in Lakes Entrance.
View the full Alpine Rally results here.
Hardy spectators watch Rowan Woollard push his Mazda RX7 hard in the rain. Photo: Peter Whitten
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