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The debut round of the East Coast Classic Rally Series was held in the Oberon, Jenolan and Hampton Forests on a warm, wild and windy April Saturday.
With temperatures sitting in the low 20’s, and some overnight rain, it was set to be a perfect start to the Classic Rally Series.
The Singleton Automotive Centre Caves Classic Rally would host the first event in this exciting series and we were in for a a great start, with almost half the 60-car field entered in this new classic rally initiative.
There were some interesting cars entered too, including several Toyota Celicas, the ever-popular Datsun 1600s, Datsun Stanzas, Ford Escorts, the distinctive sounding rotary powered Mazda RX2s, a Mitsubishi Starion driven by veteran rally driver Chris Judson, Toyota Corollas, Lancers and a couple of Triumphs, one a 74 model Stag, the other a V8 Powered TR7.
The Mark 2 Ford Escort II epitomises classic rallying and Michael O’Hagan would lead the field into the first stage, the 7.8km Hampton 1, in his bright yellow example.
By the end of the stage, he was regretting not having new tyres, but was happy to be sweeping the roads for his uncle, Thomas Dermody, who was in another Escort behind him.
O’Hagan would suffer engine troubles in special stage 2, Jenolan 1, which would see the Escort sidelined and the end of their rally.
Rob Inall in the Holden Commodore was throwing the V8 around the forests and was rewarded for his efforts.
After the first two stages he was in 5th in the Classic series, but he had some stiff competition from Clay Badenoch in the RA40 Celica. Badenoch took 4 seconds off him in Boggy Creek and Inall dropped back to 6th.
Inall would suffer a bent steering arm after hitting a large rock in the second pass through the Boggy Creek stage and this would be his undoing. He finished 12th outright.
Michael Valentine was sporting a new 2.6 litre twin cam engine in his Datsun 1600 and was quite happy with starting as car 16, as he was keen to see the swept lines of the cars in front.
After Valantine won the Development Rally Series in 2017 with co-driver and Daughter Erin, he was looking forward to the new challenge of a dedicated Classic series and was on a charge. After stage 2, Valantine was up into 4th and he held that position until he hit a large rock in Boggy Creek 2 smashing the sump and crushing the oil pickup. His oil pressure dropped, and he retired to prevent doing any further damage.
Ryan Smart in the Datsun Stanza was, as expected, quick from the start. He and his co-driver and sister Rebecca, were second quickest in the first two stages, but a win in the third stage, Boggy Creek 1, would elevate the pair to the top of the classic leader-board.
Consistent driving and top 3 stage times would keep them in the lead until the second pass through Boggy Creek where a flat tyre saw them lose 6 minutes. They were half way into the 27km stage, so had no choice but to stop and change it.
The lost time saw Smart drop down to 7th and that’s where he finished the event. With just under 10km to go in the final stage and exactly 6 minutes to the now leader, Andrew Travis in the Nissan Gazelle, it was clear he would have to accept defeat.
Clay Badenoch in the Toyota RA 40 was part of the push to get a classic series up and running and he started off well on Special Stage 1 finishing 4th classic, but a few engine issues would see him drop back down the order.
The car would struggle to get back to service, where they changed spark plugs and the problem was solved. Some great driving combined with the issues of those in front of him, Badenoch finished on the East Coast Classic podium in third.
Thomas Dermody in the RS1800 Escort MkII had a plan and at the end of Special Stage 1 he was feeling confident. His strategy was to be conservative and look for top 3 finish. It was a good plan and if it wasn’t conservative, it was certainly consistent.
Dermody held third all day and then finished in 2nd outright when the Datsun of Smart stopped for a flat.
But it was Andrew Travis in the Nissan Gazelle who would win the first running of the East Coast Classic Rally Series. He was just six seconds off the lead coming into Special Stage 7, Boggy Creek 2, and battling hard with Smart in the Stanza.
They both had flat tyres to deal with, but lady luck fell in the Gazelle Camp as unlike Smart, the flat tyre was less than a kilometre from the end of stage and Travis would only lose a few seconds.
There were many notable drives in this event, including an impressive performance from Brett Wright in the Toyota Sprinter to finish in 4th outright. Garry Yeomans started off conservatively in his Datsun 1600, but improved significantly as the day went on and finished in 5th.
A full set of results can be found on the North Shore Sporting Car Clubs website: http://nsscc.com.au
Round 2 of the East Coast Classic Rally Series will be on the 5th of May at the Mitta Mountain Rally in Victoria.
– John McCredie
A full review video of the event can be found here:
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