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In a bold experiment the Queensland Rally Championship headed interstate last Saturday to offer a combined state championship round for both Queenslanders and New South Wales crews.

Still a full-points round of the City Subaru 2007 Queensland Rally Championship, the GK Denney Tyres Rally was based at Coffs Harbour, just four hours from Brisbane and the scene of many past great ARC and local events.

The opinions of Queensland crews who had run the event in past years convinced the Queensland Rally Panel that it was worth considering this paradigm shift, especially when new roads and venues are hot on the agenda. With a reputation for fantastic roads, Coff’s Harbour had a lot to offer.

While there may have been a little negativity from some circles, the interstate round attracted those who were keen to fight for the championship, and those who love the Coff’s area.

Only twelve interstate crews ended up making the trip to increase the field to a healthy 64.

Mixing the seeded fields was always going to be a bit of a challenge, but the organisers seemed to have got it pretty right.

QRC leaders Steve Shepheard and Tom Smith were at car two on the road, with Glenn Brinkman/Steve Richardson at eight, Ian Menzies/Bob McGowan at 13 and Dave Gaines/Nikki Doyle at 18.

Nathan Quinn was at car 12 and running both championships, but he had proven quick in the Queensland events and was one to be watched.

Making a popular return to rallying was Victorian Marty Beckton who has not been seen in a rally car for many years. His mount was a very tidy Evo 6.5 Lancer, and he had conscripted John McCarthy to sit in the left-hand seat.

Clerk-of-Course Tony Creer and his band of helpers put together 134 competitive kilometres of roads over ten stages – many of which used familiar favourite stages from past ARC events (for those that remembered them).

The 10am start at the Pacific Bay Resort just north of town included a short Super-Special stage around a narrow tarmac track and through a culvert under the highway, finishing on gravel. It was a good start to the day and a good way to show off to the crowds.

Shepheard/Smith had their Evo. 6 on song, but the locals from NSW were certainly quick so the crew focussed their energies on the QRC race.

As expected the main challenge came from Quinn/Parker (Evo. 5) and Brinkman/Richardson (Evo. 9).  

The roads were in fantastic condition – smooth, flowing and very fast, and for a blind rally, it was driver commitment that was going to make any difference.

Over the first set of three stages, Shepheard and Quinn came in to service at the Nana Glen Showgrounds on equal time, just six seconds in front of Beckton who was showing he’d lost little of his old skill.

Brinkman followed, then Menzies and Tonna/Greenwood (Evo. 5).

Gary Stacey/Tony Blackshaw were doing incredible times in their little Datsun Sunny, once again proving super competitive against many much more powerful cars in the field.

Ian Ogilvie/Tony Best were an early retirement in their familiar Datsun 1200 Coupe – reportedly with engine problems.

Another set of three stages followed, comprising about 40 kms of roads including the legendary ‘Sherwood Road’ over 16.30 kilometres.

Rod Biggar/Paul Young struck troubles with their 180BSSS when the engine dropped cylinders and slowed the pace.

After working under the bonnet, a phone call to Ian Young (no relation) back in Brisbane elicited some advice and a tweak under the cam cover restored full power.

At the end of this second ‘division’, Shepheard/Smith had increased their lead by a further 30 seconds.

Beckton was next and Brinkman and Quinn equalled times, showing the closeness of the competition.

Menzies, Gaines and Tonna all took advantage of the super fast roads with Menzies taking his V8 Falcon to the limit.

Alan Clunes and Gavin Wieland were a little off the pace in their Mazda 323GTR, but as usual still in touch with the field and performing well in the P6 category.

Gaines/Doyle were showing the way in the Historic class, while Richard Galley/Barrie Burr (260Z) and Craig Aggio/Therese Feldman (Celica) were pressing on regardless.

Another service and regroup followed back at Nan Glen, (where everyone was keenly looking out for Russel Crowe!) and the service/refuel set-up was very well put together.

A set of two stages was next as daylight was coming to a close, and Shepheard/Smith managed to hold off Quinn/Parker and Brinkman/Richardson.

Young Nathan Quinn was getting quicker and quicker in the Evo. 5 Lancer and becoming a real outright threat.

Beckton/McCarthy were still travelling in the top group and Menzies/McGowan were driving a quick, but consistent race in the Ford.

The final two stages beckoned in full darkness after the final regroup, and a re-run of the longest stage of the event (Plonk 2 – 23.80kms) was to change the tone of the QRC section of the event.

Quinn/Parker unfortunately suffered mechanical problems in the Lancer and Menzies/McGowan had similar woes with the usually indestructible V8 engine in the Falcon.

The long stage was also dusty and while times were generally consistent across the field (except for Car 1 on the road), no-one made any further breaks from the pack.

The last stage was a second run over ‘Sherwood Road’ as a brilliant climax to a very well put together event, with all cars transporting down the highway to a parc ferme finish at the Pacific Bay Resort.

At the end of a very competitive rally, Steve Shepheard and Tom Smith took another round win their GSA/Oztec Evo. 6, making it four wins from five events for the year.

Glenn Brinkman and Steve Richardson took the ‘Accent on Stone’ Evo. 9 to second place with Marty Beckton/John McCarthy rounding out the podium finishers.

Dave Gaines/Nikki Doyle (240K) were fourth and Steve Tonna/Lorelle Greenwood were solid in fifth.

Dave Gaines/Nikki Doyle took the Historic category win, Gary Stacey/Tony Blackshaw won the P2 class in their Datsun Sunny and Alan Clunes/Gavin Wieland won P6.

The event was very well organised and a credit to the Club and Clerk-of-Course Tony Creer.

The next and final round of the QRC will be the ‘Recovered Resources Rally’ on November 3 at Gympie.

Top Ten

1.    Steve Shepheard/Tom Smith        Evo. 6 Lancer    1h21m02s
2.    Glenn Brinkman/Steve Richardson    Evo. 9 Lancer    1:22:19
3.    Marty Beckton/John McCarthy        Evo. 6.5 Lancer    1:23:33
4.    Dave Gaines/Nikki Doyle            Datsun 240KGT    1:27:37
5.    Steve Tonna/Lorelle Greenwood        Evo. 5 Lancer    1:27:39
6.    Gary Stacey/Tony Blackshaw        Datsun Sunny    1:29:33
7.    Craig Aggio/Therese Feldman        Toyota Celica    1:32:56
8.    Mark Casper/Mark Malpas            Mazda 323        1:35:31
9.    Alan Clunes/Gavin Wieland        Mazda 323 GTR    1:38:04
10.    Rod Biggar/Paul Young            Datsun 180B SSS    5:14:00


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