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Simon and Margot Knowles took their recently acquired ex-Pedders Lancer Evo 6 to a debut win at the 1300NEWGLASS Border Ranges Rally on April 28.

They held off a hard-charging Tony Scott/Debbie Dillon who did an amazing job in their small capacity Toyota Corolla over roads which clearly suited the bigger, more powerful cars.

Rounding out the top three were the ever-popular Dave Gaines/Nikki Doyle in their Datsun 240K GT.

The event was hosted by the Gold Coast Tweed Motorsporting Club in the capable hands of Clerk-of-Course Michelle Gatton and her team.

For the second time, the rally returned to Urbenville in northern NSW where the small local community benefited from the influx of 200 visitors for the weekend.

The week preceding the rally was wet and on the day drizzles of rain threatened for most of the day, but never eventuated. With a compact route of 76 competitive kilometres for this club rally over seven stages, the compact format allowed a late start at 2.40pm, with three stages in daylight and four in darkness.

Only three different rally stages were used with two being run twice and the other being traversed by crews three times - a simple, yet highly effective formula on roads that generally held up well.

Leading QRC contender, Steve Shepheard, led the field away at car 1, intent on testing a new engine/gearbox combination in the familiar Evo 6 under competition conditions. 43 other cars and crews started the event, with only one withdrawal, that of Glen Mitchell/Bryan Zelinski (Escort RS2000).

The first run over SS1 was slippery due to the fast shire roads not being swept of gravel, but it was a great drivers’ stage with high speeds being recorded on a couple of stretches.

After Shepheard/Tom Smith, the Knowles crew was next fastest, with Allan Clunes/Gavin Weiland third fastest in the Digga Mazda 323 GTX. Allan Griffin/Scott Evans did well in their Stanza, only to DNF on the next stage with engine failure.

A cluster of drivers were then close together including Gaines, Dave Ovenden (Mazda RX2), Rod Biggar (Datsun 180B SSS) and Shane and Adam Turner (Datsun 240K).

The second stage, over 14.5km, was the longest of the rally but also featured great road quality and fast overall speeds. While Shepheard was generally uncatchable with the car performing well, the Knowles duo were showing real speed to keep them in check.

Only one other crew – Gaines/Doyle - managed to crack the nine minute barrier for the stage but amazingly, Tony Scott pushed the tiny Corolla to incredible heights.

The rally lost the immaculate Gemini of Myles Frost/Tony Arbon in this stage when the car speared off the road and rolled a number of times, causing severe damage.

Thankfully both crew members were shaken but not stirred.

SS3, Tooloom, was the only stage which featured traditional forest roads and they were grassy, wet and slippery in places with residual moisture on the ground. Scott/Dillon outdrove Knowles to clinch second on the stage behind Shepheard, while Ovenden/Kelly pulled out a blinder and Anthony Tanzer/Lee Wilson suffered problems in their pretty Mk 1 Escort to drop 15 minutes.

Al and Erin Kelly retired the incredible Renault Alpine A110 with a reported blown head gasket.

The re-group back at the Urbenville Showgrounds was long enough for darkness to fall and allow the field to attack the final four stages in equal night conditions. Shepheard/Smith led from Knowles/Knowles, then Scott/Dillon, Gaines/Doyle and Clunes/Wieland.

With the roads better after the passage of 44 rally cars, times dropped a little in the dark, but the competition was still intense. Knowles, Scott, Gaines and Clunes still chased the GSA Lancer over the second attempt at stages one and two.

Further unfortunate retirements included Cameron Sluce/Charles MacAlister (Gemini), Gideon Street/Daniel Grisinger with no brakes in their new Peugeot 306, and Kelvin and Rodney Taylor who broke a throttle cable in their BMW 325.

Also failing to finish was race and Targa driver Tony Quinn (of VIP Petfoods fame) who parked the Mk 2 Escort of sponsor Jason Delaney.

The field returned to Urbenville once more for service before completing the final two stages of the event.

With a fairly secure lead of over a minute, the Shepheard team elected to withdraw, having satisfied themselves of the car’s performance and potential.

Simon and Margot Knowles had to keep the flying Tony Scott at bay for the re-run of the forest stage and a final blast over the opening stage.

While they actually lost 13 seconds to Scott on SS6, they bounced back on the clean, fast roads of ‘Beaury’ (SS7), to grab back five seconds and take the outright win.

The gap between cars one and two at the finish was only 49 seconds. Tony Scott/Debbie Dillon drove extremely well to take second, while Dave Gaines/Nikki Doyle brought the ‘Fat Lady’ 240K into third outright.

Fourth place was a fine reward for Allan Clunes/Gavin Wieland in their Mazda and Darren Jones/Julie Woodworth (240K) rounded out the top five after pipping Rod Biggar/Paul Young by just ten  seconds.

Class winners included P2 - Craig/Linda Newell in their ‘Pocket Rocket’ Honda Civic, who finished in 12th outright.

P3 was won by Wayne Menzies/Chris Baxter (Celica), P4 went to Biran Brosnan/Clay Weston (BMW 318i), P6 was won by Clunes/Wieland and Class M (PRC 4WD) went to Knowles and Knowles.

The event ran very smoothly and a small delay during the daylight was picked up during the re-group to bring the event back on schedule. The roads were excellent and of a very high quality which, when coupled with the fine venue at the Urbenville Showgrounds, made this an event to shout about.

Thirty-four finishers all partied happily into the early hours of the morning with camping onsite encouraged and the Bowls Club bar open with a late licence.

The change in date for 2007 to April meant that the extremely cold overnight temperatures of last year were avoided, and comfort levels rose accordingly.

Thanks go to the event sponsor 1300NEWGLASS (Jason Delaney) with assistance from Jason Ruse (Queensland Mobile Safety Certificates) and Advance Technology Concepts (Graham Kemp) for supporting such a great event.

Photos: Red Hot Shotz

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